If you’ve been back to work after having a baby, do you remember any of the fearful thoughts that went through your head?  And if you’re about to return to work soon after maternity leave, do any of those anxious “what if…?” thoughts plague you in the middle of the night?

I certainly terrorized myself with a litany of them, from “what if my son never takes a bottle and starves to death?”  To “what if we don’t get a spot at the daycare we like?”  To “what if he never learns to nap at daycare and his growth and learning are stunted as a result?”

12 Real Life Fears of New Professional Working Mothers

Sometimes, I find, it simply helps to know that others have the same fears as I do.  That power of “oh my gosh, me too” is so strong.

That’s why I’m sharing here today a list of fears mamas have articulated in the Mindful Return course – word for word.  During the 4-week program, we spend one day focusing on anxiety in new motherhood and getting these fears out on the table.  Then we try on a variety of strategies for addressing them.  Here are 12 of these very real (very common) fears:

What if…

  • This gassy / fussiness never stops, and I have to hold my baby around the clock?
  • I can’t handle the work schedule I’ve proposed?
  • I can’t pump enough to feed my baby?
  • We can’t make our mortgage payment while I’m on leave?
  • My baby refuses to breastfeed ever again, after I return to work?
  • My son is always this fussy and never likes cuddling?
  • The new “workaholic” partner at work thinks I’m incompetent?
  • What if I can’t handle the responsibilities of my new senior management job, now that I have a second child?
  • The doctor is wrong about being able to correct her lip tie?
  • The 3 ounces of pumped breastmilk I have in the fridge has gone bad because it’s been 5 days rather than the recommended 4, and my husband needs to use it for a feeding while I go out of the house for a meeting?
  • My 3-year old chokes on a meatball while I’m upstairs putting the baby to bed?
  • There’s really no good way to be a mom and do my job the way it’s supposed to be done?

Now, a Strategy for Addressing the Fears

Now that your blood pressure is up from reading these fears, here’s one of the excellent strategies Dr. Megan Hughes-Feltenberger advocates in the Mindful Return program to bring it down.  It’s a little game called “best, worst, most likely, and it brings both perspective and humor to any of these “what if” thoughts.

Here’s how it works: When a worry attacks you, first notice it.  Then go *extreme* in coming up with the best, worst, and most likely scenarios. (Challenge yourself to go even bigger than your anxiety is going!)

An example I like to use is that inevitable sick day.  You’re strapping your little one into the car seat, he suddenly barfs all over you, and there’s no way you’re making it to that 9am meeting you were scheduled to attend at work.

Then you panic: what if I get fired for not being at work on time?

First, ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen?  Your boss fires you immediately upon learning of your tardiness, takes all the materials from your office and throws them out the window onto the street below.  Your colleagues will hate you forever, and your family will starve before the week is out.

Next, ask yourself what’s the best that could happen?  When you tell your boss you’ll be late (or perhaps not able to come into the office today), she says, “No worries!  We love you so much that we’re giving you a $1 million bonus!  It will be in your bank account by noon!  No need to come into the office until next year.  We’ve got you covered!”

And finally, ask yourself what’s most likely to happen?  Your boss will probably say, “hope your baby feels better soon,” you’ll spend some time cleaning up yourself and the car seat, and then you’ll figure out an alternative child care arrangement.  (Perhaps you have a back-up care benefit, and you’ll call them.)  You’ll show up at the office a bit late and no one will have noticed, or you’ll work from home while baby is sick.

This game works on all of the “what if” thoughts you may have as you return to work after baby or navigate life as a working parent.  The more extreme you go, the more you’ll make yourself laugh.  And that’s the point.

Whatever you’re thinking or feeling about working motherhood, know that you’re not alone in your fears.  There’s a community of mamas out there who have the same concerns as you.  And we’ve got your back, mama.

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.  

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