The Emotional Challenges of Maternity Leave

new mom working home mother holding

Maternity leave can enable parents to bond with their newborns during their very first year, observe early child developments, and recover from the pregnancy process without having to worry about work stresses. Many mothers love this time – endless activities, courses, and learning can be attractive and fun. While this evidently holds many advantages for new mums, maternity leave isn’t often what some people expect.

In fact, many new parents feel less fulfilled than they thought they would be during this time. If you feel like this too, then the question is, why? Why haven’t you been able to embrace happiness to its fullest? Why, instead, do you feel anger, upset, and disappointment? Emotional trends like these are often common during maternity leave. Read on to discover this in more detail.


Loneliness is one of the most common emotions to strike people experiencing maternity leave. If you have stopped working, it may seem strange that everyone around you keeps moving on with their everyday lives, leaving the house for their job every morning. These days may seem drawn-out for some individuals, especially if friends and family members can only visit later when they have finished work. While only arriving back home in the evening, these workers can only participate in the later routine.

On the other hand, you are never able to leave for work, slowly but surely losing out on precious adult conversations. Even when evening does come along, some mothers find it challenging to obtain time for themselves and their partners. After all, the evening is stuffed with a whole new routine: dinnertime, bath time, and sleep. Loneliness can pose a risk of postpartum depression if it becomes too heavy, especially since it is tied with sadness and repetitiveness.


Questioning is another thing which many women on maternity leave suffer from. With so much time spent at home with often minimal adult conversation, new mums sometimes start to become burdened with questions – lifestyle, relationships, career choices – you name it. This time away from work may trigger you to feel useless. It might trigger you to consider what you really want out of life. It might trigger you to question whether having a baby at this current time was the best idea. Assumptions and questions can be problematic for women on maternity leave, but luckily, you have a lengthy period of time to gain a better perspective on things.

Another widespread consideration for women on maternity leave is the want to quit their job to devote themselves to their new baby. Indeed, many individuals may feel daunted about sending their little one to daycare within just one year’s time – would you really want to part from them? This may seem unbearable for some mums, which is why they often question returning – or not returning – to work.

Declining self-worth

Within a brand-new routine of becoming a stay-at-home mother and achieving daily challenges, you may start to feel housebound and fatigued. This could lead to you feeling like the sole dependency of your baby and being at the service of everyone around you. In turn, this may spiral into the decline of your self-worth. People don’t like to feel like they have a lack of purpose – it can make them feel worthless.

Furthermore, the lack of time you may feel you have to take care of yourself can also contribute to lowered self-esteem. Thus, returning back to work can be incredibly challenging when your self-esteem is gone. Socialising with adults could become even more complicated, resulting to further loneliness.

How can you tackle these emotions?

In the short term, these kinds of emotions can be nothing to worry about – perhaps even healthy. However, since motherhood is never short-term, you need to take a few efficient approaches to tackle things in the long run. Take a look below to learn more.

  1. Keep yourself informed

It’s crucial to stay well-informed about general postpartum emotions to ensure you don’t feel like your reactions or abnormal or that you are worthless. It would be best if you tried to stay open to experiencing your feelings appropriately. Doing this may make you less likely to fixate on a difficulty within your life.

  1. Figure out what you want

Figuring out what you want is particularly crucial to your recovery when contemplating your job. If you decide to work full-time, this needs to be because that’s what you want to do rather than what you think other people want you to do. Since maternity leave is a time of long reflection, you might as well take advantage of this!

  1. Choose support

It’s critical to take the support and kindness you require. You may get this backing from family members, friends, colleagues, or even a counsellor. Women who have already experienced maternity leave will be particularly open to sharing their own stories and top tips based on their experiences of challenges.

Indeed, many mothers are surprised by the support they receive when they show openness to it. Thus, trying not to isolate yourself from individuals who care about your health and well-being is best. After all, spending time with others can be incredibly healthy for your social life and mental health.

  1. Build your stamina

There are many ways you can build your stamina. Try out meditation, fitness workouts, nutritional diets, hydration, and, of course, a good night’s sleep! It’s essential to take breaks so that you can re-energise and get yourself ready for any challenge thrown at you during this challenging time. It’s not the end of the world if you hire a babysitter so that you can take a nap. Whilst you may feel like you are demanding more from others, reaching out for help is okay.

After all, regaining your energy through healthy methods like those listed above will mean that you will be less likely to draw on stress as its own energy resource. Stress can indeed be an energising motivator in the short term. However, the long-term effects of this can be concerning.

  1. Be kind to yourself

In this challenging process, you must remind yourself that everything – yes, everything – after having a baby is an adjustment. It’s okay to feel disappointed or upset about the way things are going just because they weren’t like the way things were before. Perhaps your friends are talking about something in the media that you’d not had a chance to read. Perhaps you’ve forgotten to bring all the necessary baby equipment out on a walk.

Just remember: any new change is a transition, and having a baby is a crazy adjustment. So, it’s worth taking things one step at a time and finding a new routine which works for you. After all, once you get used to this routine, it will become second nature – just like all your old routines!

  1. Prepare

As already mentioned, you have much time to reflect and prepare for things during your maternity leave. Prepare any troublesome conversations in advance – this may be with your boss or other colleagues at work. Plan out these conversations with an air of professionalism, positivity, and composure. Losing your cool could give some colleagues an excuse to undermine you in this vulnerable time, so it’s vital to approach these situations correctly.

Anyone knows that going back to work is a difficult adjustment – especially when you’re sleep-deprived and a little rusty in your work routine. So, as well as preparing any conversations you may need to approach cautiously, ensure you prepare the mundane things too – choose your clothes, pack your lunch, and pack your pump parts the night before. This ensures that you don’t have anything to worry about when that first morning back to your job finally comes!

You may find that everything is easier said than done, especially when you’re suffering from the emotional effects of maternity leave. Whether you’re struggling with unbearable questioning, striking loneliness, or a sense of uselessness, the early stages of motherhood can be as challenging – if not more challenging – than the later stages. You may not have a bothersome toddler or a moody teenager yet, but you still have your own emotional well-being to look after.

It can be hard not to be harsh with yourself or excessively worry if you lose the perfect balance, but it’s certainly worth trying. Thus, we recommend taking a few of, or all, the steps above to help you in this emotional process. Just remember: you’re not alone!

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