Going Back To Work After Baby: Expectations vs Reality


I welcomed my second child in July and took twelve weeks off from work. Our family was also lucky that for five of those weeks my husband also got to be home as we adjusted to a new family of four. After my first was born, it was quite an adjustment to full time working mom status and by the time he was one, I felt like I had failed in many aspects of my life as a mom, wife, and a nurse at my job. It took a while to get out that mindset, change my expectations, and enjoy my many roles. So when we decided to have our second child, I spent a lot of time mentally preparing myself for what life would be like and I began to set realistic expectations. I think that is why I haven’t had a meltdown yet and have been much more graceful towards myself.

Planning Expectations For the Return to Work

Towards the end of my leave, I started to practice a cleaning schedule for each day, nothing crazy just something simple like vacuum one day or clean the half bath. I wanted to set my expectations for things that I would get done once I returned to work. I planned that once the kids were in bed, I could finish cleaning, pack lunches, have clothes ready for the next day. Also, a couple times a week, once my husband got home, I set the expectation that I would plan to take a quick run or do a little workout routine. Another expectation would be that I would plan to try to have a girls’ night once a month. Great goals for this second time mom I thought to myself at the time!

The Reality of Back to Work

Well, the reality was within two days of being back at work, I  got a lovely sinus infection so any leftover energy was gone. I hadn’t been able to run in weeks. I think I may vacuumed the second week back. By that first weekend, my stage five clinger three-year-old son was realizing that mommy wasn’t home anymore on his non-preschool school days, so he showed his disapproval by pooping on his bedroom carpet and covered the evidence with his clean socks even though he was potty trained. Thanks, kid! Apparently, the dog wasn’t happy either and vomited in the front room. Yup schedule carpet cleaning ASAP went to the top of my to-do list. Luckily I did plan a long overdue girls’ weekend for that month, so that would be the only win at the time. I had to take what I could get at this point!

Also part of the reality was the kids actually went to bed on time most nights. I did rock the baby a few extra minutes even after she was asleep because she looked older and older each night. Afterwards I would go to the toddler’s room, give a hug and kiss and promise that tomorrow would be a better day.

I realized that I do enjoy my job and I’m thankful that I can do both things. Once I got back to work and visited some of my favorite patients, I was happy to be able to continue my nursing career. I know there are many benefits to being a working mom for myself and for my kids. There is always next week to try again and meet (some of) my expectations. But this time around, I have learned to set goals, but also give myself some grace if I can’t reach those goals each day and I think you should do the same!

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Nicole Fluty
Nicole was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. She graduated with her bachelors in nursing from the University of Toledo in 2009. In 2012, she moved to Columbus for a big city, single girl life, but as life would have it, started dating her husband six months later and the rest is history. She joined the motherhood club in May 2016 with the birth of son Austin and welcomed daughter Madelyn in July 2019. When not keeping up with her two kids, she works full time. On weekends, a favorite activity is getting together with friends that have multiple kids and enjoying the chaos of three year olds and babies, while attempting to watch a whole football game without tears or reminding a kid to share. Nicole’s top three ways for self-care are a quick run in her neighborhood, a glass of wine, and retail therapy. She considers brunch the best meal of the day with a mission to find the best places for french toast in Columbus.