New Moms May Regret Short Maternity Leaves

According to new research, mothers who take longer maternity leaves are able to manage work related and family stress when they return to the workforce better than those who return to work immediately after giving birth. Additionally, the longer a mother spends with her newborn before returning to work, the more confident she is in her decision. Bettina S. Wiese of the Department of Psychology at RWTH Aachen University in Germany recently led a study that explored how stress and the length of maternity leave affected a woman’s confidence in her decision to return to work. “Because, at present, most women return to paid work after becoming a mother, this transition must be considered as a rather normative developmental task,” said Wiese. “The return-to-work transition, however, is not completed on the day of reentry but rather comprises the time until the women feel like and are seen as fully (re)integrated organization members. The present study concerns this later phase, when women must actually deal with the first weeks of dual affordances at the workplace and at home.”

For their study, Wiese and her colleagues enlisted 149 new mothers immediately after they re-entered the workforce. Using a daily diary over a five week period, the mothers reported how they felt about their decision to return to work. The team theorized that stress and regrets would be directly related to the length of maternity leave. “In addition to personal resources (i.e., emotional stability, feeling prepared for the transition) and financial requirements needed to return to work, daily experienced family stress predicted decisional regrets,” said Wiese. “Moreover, our results suggest that leave length is related to psychological resilience in the face of day-to-day stress experiences: Late returners reported fewer regrets in general and were unaffected by daily family stress. Return-to-work regrets, in turn, were predictive of withdrawal intentions.” Wiese added, “This underlines the relevancy of the timing of the transition back to work in terms of successful development during this life phase.”

Wiese, B. S., & Ritter, J. O. (2011, November 21). Timing Matters: Length of Leave and Working Mothers’ Daily Reentry Regrets. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026211

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Molly B

    Molly B

    November 30th, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    I was able to stay home for 12 weeks after the birth of both my children, and even after that I only went back to work part time. In some ways I felt like I was missing out on things at work by taking that much time and then reducing the amount of hours that I worked too, but then I decided that the fast track career could not be for me anymore with juggling all of those mom responsibilities too. I know that I will never get the fat paychecks anymore or that my name will be first on the list as the one who will go get em and win that client, but it has made for a much better home atmosphere, and after a lot of consideration I decided that it was this that was going to be the most important thing to me.

  • lacie


    November 30th, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    couldnt agree more-staying home for sometime is really important not only for the stress factor but also to actually bond with the child.many mothers nowadays return to work early but it is something that really needs to be communicated to them-stay home for a while,its good for you and for the baby!

  • Cassandra


    November 30th, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    It is sad but there are a lot of new moms who do not feel like they can take the time off. They may technically get maternity leave, but they are not required to get paid for that leave. And if they don’t have the sick time or vacation time built up, then taking that amount of time off without getting paid is really hard for many of them. Add to that the pressure that some women feel to be at work, just to keep up with everything going on in the office and the pressure grows even more! This is supposed to be a joyous time in the life of the new parent but money and financial concerns, as well as worry about their job security while they are not there keeps many moms from feeling that.

  • Michael


    November 30th, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    Its never easy to go back to college or work after a long break. And I think that is what creates the fear in women’s minds when they have a baby. They do not want to lose touch with their work and want their presence felt in the office. Although it is not really advisable,a lot of women still go back to work soon after a baby.

    But I am sure a few quick words from the doctors will somewhat make them think and probably change their mind when it comes to going back to work soon after.

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