How to Transition From Mat Leave Back to Work

by Dr. Michelle Peris ND | Follow on Twitter

After 6 wonderful months with my son, I made the transition from maternity leave back to practice, this is what I learned.

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At that time my spouse stayed home with C (our son) and I slowly transitioned back to work.  I wasn’t all that distressed, in fact I found the hours away from home a really nice break.

It allowed me to come home refreshed and ready to handle whatever C was going to throw my way.  I happen to love what I do and feel extremely passionate about helping people live an inspired and healthy life, so it all seemed so smooth.

I realize this is may not be the case for all moms. And it didn’t last long for me either.

When my son turned 1, dad went back to work and reality of our new life with C began.  We hired a nanny to be with our son while I was away at work.  Dad was busy working full time hours and we began juggling our schedules, planning for babysitters/ grandparents to watch C once the nanny was done her shift and spent our evenings prepping meals and lunches for the family.

“Holy S#*% how was I going to make this new life work?”

How am I going to find the balance between mom, wife, Naturopathic doctor and still have much needed me time.  When was I going to sleep? Man I am soooo tired, but I must plan for the next day… And the days roll on and on.

We love our nanny she is fabulous with our son, but the adjustment period was difficult for us.  C seemed so sad that we were leaving him with someone he didn’t quite know or trust yet.

"The first day that I tried to say good-bye to my baby was excruciating." - Dr. Michelle Peris, ND

“The first day that I tried to say good-bye to my baby was excruciating.” – Dr. Michelle Peris, ND

The Day I Had a Really Ugly Cry

The first day that I tried to say good-bye to C was excruciating.  He tried to rip through the nanny’s arms to get to me, and I couldn’t let myself comfort him. I had to be brave and let the nanny learn to soothe my baby boy.

After I left my baby I sat in my car and cried, a really ugly cry.  At the same time my spouse was feeling the same heart pains – he was at work, doing everything he could to provide for his family, but all he wanted to do was be at home playing with his son.  We knew this arrangement wasn’t going to work and that we had to do something about it.

After sharing our upset with our families we were convinced to give this an honest effort and reassess after a few months.  So we hung in there. I started planning for the week ahead and used Barney to distract my son while I snuck out of the door as to not leave him in distress.  Slowly we all found our groove, dad was having fun at work again, I was pleased with how much easier the mornings were if I had everything ready the night before and our son began to trust and get excited when our nanny arrived.  After a few short weeks we were able to say good-bye and our son in his nanny’s arms, happily waved good-bye.

Sound familiar?  I now understand the struggles of being a working parent and how difficult this transition truly is.  It wasn’t an easy transition but there were many ways that made our experience more positive and less stressful for everyone involved.

Here are my tips on an easier transition back to work:

Start Slow. If at all possible go back part-time and slowly ease the family into the new life.

Daycare or Nanny? Select a daycare, day home or nanny that fits your family’s needs best.  Most importantly select a care provider that your child feels good about.  Your child will let you know how they feel about their care provider.  Assess if they are calm and happy to see this person or do they absolutely refuse to go to them.  If they don’t speak yet be aware of their body language.

Ease your child into their new environment. Do trial dates with the new nanny or a couple drop-off shifts or play dates at the new day care or day home.  This way your child is familiar with their new environment making it less stressful for them.

Be Positive.  Only speak positively about the experience, for most of us it’s not an option to go back. First off, speaking positively usually makes us feel better about our experiences.  Plus our little ones are always listening even if they don’t understand your language they understand your intonation, so speak kindly and you will put your wee ones at ease.

Children are very aware of your energy.  Be calm and positive about the transition and they will feel safe.

Give them all the extra love, kisses and cuddles that they need.  Attachment fosters independence.

Plan, prep and prep some more. Do a weekly Sunday grocery shop and meal prep.  I make sure my son has enough food for all his daily meals, I prep most of what I can for our lunches throughout the week.  This consists of washing, cutting and containing all our fruits and veggies.  I even try to make a big quinoa salad and put it in tupperware so that I can easily grab and pack our lunches in the morning before work.

Eat Whole Foods.  It is still very possible to eat whole foods and avoid packaged goods.  You just have to prepare and plan.  Whole foods contain the nourishment we need stay healthy and energized.  Your new schedule can be very draining so be smart about what you fuel yourself with!

Go to bed early.  Ideally you should strive for a 10pm bedtime.

Forgive yourself.  There are going to be growing pains in the beginning, do not hold onto the negativity and beat yourself up.  If you have to make changes, let it go and focus on the next step and move forward.

Redefine what you are able to accomplish in a day. Accept that you may not be able to do everything that you were able to do before having a child.

Ask for help — it takes a village to raise your child.  Find your village and reach out if needed.

Remember that it is positive and healthy for your child to be interacting with other children and adults.  It helps develop their social skills and perhaps they will learn things from your care provider that you may not have been able to teach them.

Make time for yourself.  Read a little bit before bed, go for a walk or workout, try deep breathing in the shower, listen to motivational speakers in the car or to music that lifts your spirits. Something as simple as sipping a coffee in a coffee shop all by yourself allows you to savor the calm and silence, even if only for a moment.

Be Flexible.  Be open to changing your routine until you get it right.

Juggling mommyhood is an art of itself.

Juggling mommyhood is an art of itself.


Your thoughts and feelings control your reaction and often the reactions of your child.  If going back to work is inevitable then accept it.  Shift your feelings about it.

Acceptance means letting yourself truly experience your emotions without judgment.  This may mean that you break down and cry and that is okay.  When you experience the emotions rather than resisting them, they release easily.  Choose to focus on the positive and be the calming energy for your child during this time.

I know it can be difficult leaving your baby at home or with someone else, but be strong.  How you react will influence how they react.  Empower your child to deal positively to change as he mirrors your behavior.

This is a special time in your life as it defines your new day-to-day life.  Embrace it and stay focused on the positive.

I wish you a smooth and easy transition back to life, back to reality….


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About the Author
Dr. Michelle Peris ND

Dr. Michelle Peris is a Naturopathic Doctor who is passionate about helping people reach and maintain optimal health. As a clinician serving Oakville and the surrounding communities, Dr. Michelle has a special interest in women’s and pediatric health care, including perinatal care. She has a strong background and natural ability in physical medicine and extensive experience in the treatment of hormonal imbalances, digestive health concerns such as celiac disease, and atopic conditions such as allergies, asthma and eczema. Dr. Michelle provides individualized care based on holistic diagnosis including a patient’s health history, lifestyle and surrounding environment.