How to decide what is right for you

Quick notes:

-Under most circumstances, businesses are required to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

-Many moms take only a third of the approved time.

-Returning to work adds to the household expenses.

Choosing whether or when to return to work after having a baby is often a tough decision. The following tips can help you make the right choice for you:

How much maternity leave is allowed?

The FMLA, or Family Medical Leave Act, states that both men and women are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under most circumstances. For those who work for companies with less than 50 employees, have worked at the company less than a year, or other similar circumstances, the rules may be different.

Check in with your state laws and read your company’s leave policy to know for certain.

The average leave

Many moms that qualify for the full 12 weeks often take less than a third of that. Your body needs longer to heal and your baby needs longer with his mom full-time.

Deciding when to work

Deciding when to work is a very personal decision. Some families choose to have Mom at home until the little one starts school. Others may not have that luxury. Here are some tips to help you make a decision:

Mind your emotional and physical health

Understand that childbirth means you are bringing life into this world, and it can be exhausting. When it is over, you do not just pop back into good shape. It takes time for your body to recuperate.

You have literally brought forth new life that was created and nourished in your body. Give yourself plenty of time to heal and reset.

Before you jump back to work, check in with yourself. How you are feeling? Are you still tired or sore? Does the idea of leaving your baby for work distress you?

Do not rush back to work if possible. If you are not up ready at the end of the 12 weeks, take the time you need. Also, keep in mind that this is the time to form a strong bond with your baby, and give him a more secure start in life.


A big factor in moms going back to work too quickly is the family finances, especially if the mom makes a substantial income. When bills start rolling in, so does the pressure.

Consider, though, the costs of you returning to work. For instance, someone is going to have to watch the little one. Do you make more than enough to easily pay for daycare? If not, it may be wiser to stay home for as long as you can.


For those who are not ready to return to work, or are only considering it due to finances, these tips can help:

1. If your job allows you to work remotely, talk to your boss about making the switch.
2. Start a home business. Utilize any skills you have, such as sewing, baking, marketing, or writing.
3. Cut every cost you possibly can. Use apps, such as Ibotta, to save on groceries. Shop online through Rakuten for cash back. Apps like Shopkick and Receipt Hog can help you earn gift cards or PayPal cash.

Unsplash / Vincent Delegge

Be prepared

If you decide to go back to work, it is important to know what to expect:

-It will require a period of transition that can be difficult.
-You will probably feel guilty about working instead of being with your baby.
-You may fear you are no longer valued, pushing you to prove yourself. This unnecessary pressure can stall healing.

A deeper dive- Related reading from the 101:

A mother’s guide to breastfeeding at work | Living 101

Returning to work does not have to mean giving up breastfeeding.

Your salary may be a lot less than you think- here’s the shocking truth | Living 101

Additional information on the costs of working.