When should you return from maternity leave?

There are a variety of factors that determine if and when a woman should return to work from maternity leave, including finances, job fulfillment and parenting philosophy. Sometimes the expense of day care doesn’t justify returning to work at all, whereas some jobs take into consideration a new mother’s schedule, offering flex-time, work-at-home options, job sharing or even on-site child-care services. However, regardless of the considerations, the longer you wait to return to the workforce, the harder the mother-baby separation will be.

Legally, employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected maternity leave, securing your salary and benefits until your return. If you choose to return to work when your baby is between six and 12 weeks old, make sure your baby is familiar with the caretaker in advance so that there won’t be any problem with feeding or crying in your absence.

If you choose to return to work when your baby is six months old, be prepared for a more difficult separation. At six months, a baby can understand being separated from his mother and will often fuss until he is familiar with the caregiver as well. You can help him overcome the daily transition by taking along a favorite toy or blanket to the babysitter or day-care facility.

While waiting until a child is a year old before returning to work guarantees you’ll be present for the first milestones of his life and directly involved in his emotional and cognitive development, it will be harder for your child to part with you. It’s helpful to plan the separation gradually so that your child is co-operative and adjusts to his new surroundings and caregiver smoothly. In addition, it’s essential to find a babysitter who shares your ideals and childrearing philosophy so that your child won’t be exposed to conflicting messages.