The Biggest Challenges New Moms Face When Returning to Work

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The transition to “working parent” can be a bumpy road for moms and dads alike. But there are some struggles that new mothers typically face that new fathers don’t experience. Understanding the challenges that are unique to working moms is crucial for companies to better support the needs of the female workforce. Here are just a few of those challenges:

1. Recovery from childbirth

Every woman will recover at a different rate and with different postpartum symptoms. For many new moms, the recovery period is a long journey that continues for many months after they’re back at work. There are over 28 physical postpartum symptoms that new mothers commonly report, including pelvic dysfunctions, headaches, heavy bleeding, fevers, and uterine infections, to name a few.

 

There are over 28 physical postpartum symptoms that new mothers commonly report, including pelvic dysfunctions, headaches, heavy bleeding, fevers, and uterine infections, to name a few.

 

2. Breastfeeding & pumping

For new moms that decide to breastfeed, pumping at work is cited as one of the biggest sources of stress when returning to their jobs. This may be due to a myriad of reasons. For example, workplace accommodations for pumping are often insufficient; office culture makes it difficult to take the necessary breaks for pumping, leading to physical discomforts like engorgement; and coworkers’ lack of understanding about a breastfeeding mom’s needs leads to an unhealthy work environment.

3. The “second shift”

In households with children under 6 where both parents work full-time, women spend 4.57 hours per day on housework and childcare, compared to 2.91 hours for men. As a result of the imbalance, mothers are 30% more likely than fathers to turn down a promotion, and more than twice as likely to quit their jobs altogether. Interestingly, in households where fathers take paternity leave and play an equal role in parenting a newborn, there tends to be a more even distribution of household and baby responsibilities after both parents are back at work.

The Bottom Line

The transition back to work after maternity leave can be difficult, but employers can help reduce new mothers’ stress in several ways. Offering flexible hours and a gradual phase-in back to work can make it easier for women to cope with postpartum symptoms. Clear lactation policies and a comfortable, private, designated lactation room can ease women’s anxiety about pumping while at work-- and breastmilk shipping services can ensure that breastfeeding moms never have to miss an important career opportunity due to inability to travel. Finally, one-on-one coaching (like the kind Maven offers) can help women feel supported and empowered as they navigate every part of this new phase of their lives, from time management to relationships with partners and colleagues.