Return To Work Post Maternity Leave – The Fear

I wish I were sitting here writing about my favourite zero waste products as a continuation of this post or sharing a delicious new recipe (I am VERY into black beans right now) but I am totally and utterly consumed by something else right now and I can’t get it out of my mind. I think about it all day, every day and I am really, really confused. What I’m referring to is Post Maternity Leave Fear, otherwise known as PMLF, doh. I know this is not exactly a banging acronym, but the feelings are hard hitting, trust me.

Post Jack, there was no real doubt in my mind: I’d look into childcare, rearrange my cupboard (by this I mean, put away the harem pants) and just get on with returning to work. But now with with another babe in the picture, it feels all sorts of different and disorienting.

I work for Google which is something I’m immensely proud of. I’m excited by the company and the amazing work they do every day around the world (admittedly not my specific area), my colleagues are wonderful, intelligent people who I learn from and who make me laugh every day, and we are exposed to awe-inspiring ideas and people. Having my own space beyond my children feels good and don’t get me started on the free yoga classes, smoothie making machines and such like thrown in.

And yet the reality of returning to work if you are a mum of two means double the childcare fees, double the logistics and double the likelihood of someone being sick and a parent (always me; usually the mum) having to leave work, send those dreaded apologetic emails to colleagues and rush back, all the while having to actually sideline the fact and worry that your child is unwell. I can work four days a week, but at the moment no less (at the time of writing; I am trying to change this).

Money wise, once you factor in childcare fees for two, there is little difference.

Life though, undoubtedly, becomes more complicated.

And yet, being a mama full time brings up all sorts of contradictory feelings in me. On one hand, I think it’s the most important job in the world, I hate the idea of not witnessing my children grow up first hand every single day, and on the whole, the kids and I have a lot of fun together. I am excited by the prospect of someone asking me what I do and me boldly replying “I’m a mum”. Because this is enough. This is MORE than enough.

But on the other hand, I know there is something niggling inside of me: How can I give up a job at Google? Will I get bored with motherhood? Will I spend all day scrolling Instagram?

Which brings me to *this*. What even is this? It’s become a teeny space of the internet for me to share feelings, experiences and inspiration. It helps me get stuff off my chest (see this post). It is a place to store family memories. It holds me to account. It teaches me things and it connects me with some awesome people. It’s grown steadily over the year or so since I started it and I’m now done a few projects with a few brands. Could I make it work full time? In all honesty, I think that would be the dream, for me but right now it’s not something I can fully justifiable, but if you see me doing slightly more sponsored content, please bear with me. I’m just exploring other avenues, and if it doesn’t sit right, I promise I won’t continue. I’m extremely scrupulous when it comes to running ads on my content so please don’t expect a tonne of brand names all over Mamalina but don’t be surprised if a few more do crop up.

So, I’m going to end this post with two asks: Firstly, have you had any experiences returning to work post baby number two? How did you make it work for you and what were the differences compared to returning after your first? Secondly, I’m after some advice on my blog. What sort of content would YOU like to see? Making interesting, useful and relatable content is what matters to me more than anything so please help me in this quest. I squew towards motherhood and travel – do you dig that? Do you prefer reading posts or would you like me to do more videos? Do you read my weekly newsletter?

If you have any thoughts on any of this I’d love you to share them – they would be very warmly received as you can probably tell, I’m after some direction!

Love a (befuddled) Emma xxx

P.S Flash forward nearly two years to see where I am now



  1. Nikki
    April 5, 2021 / 6:54 am

    Hi Emma.

    Just found your blog for the first time ! I’m 3 months away from returning to a really busy, stressful job (four days is the minimum flexibility + unpaid OT of course undoubtedly). We have no family childcare options and so FT daycare is our option. I feel sick contemplating all of this. Paralysed in my thoughts navigating back and fourth. So much so I’m losing days of my life. It’s no good. There has been so many changes in my year off and I will be going back to a very different management structure which I honestly believe to be toxic. I love hanging out with my son, we have the option to do this (so so fortunate) for a couple of years and/or until I figure out a suited plan for parenting because I don’t feel like what I had “assumed” to be status quo before having him ….

    And YET STILL I am completely frozen with fear and confused most days now. Will I ever return to paid work? Will I be outcast from industry? Will people judge me? Will I judge myself ? How didn’t I figure any of this out before having a family? I feel so guilty in every way, I’m sleep deprived and so anxiety is just next level.

    I feel like I’m on an aeroplane ready to jump. Or be pushed ! Living in limbo. Dreaming of a more flexible career move. Terrified.

    Catching up with your blog it sounds like you went back after Sonny in the end ? Any updates on your experience or any advice ? Niki

    • Emma Ross
      June 29, 2021 / 4:46 pm

      Hi Nikki, just catching up on comments and so sorry to have somehow missed this. really hope this response finds you in a good place, and having perhaps made some decisions. it’s so so freakin’ tough isn’t it. you must remember though that decisions can always be adjusted and nothing is evert 100% fixed. i did go back after sonny but not for long at all. these days, i LOVE the flexibility of being self employed though of course it can become all -consuming… where did you get to with it all? again, apologies for the slow reply and sending lots of love xxx

  2. Rae
    July 13, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    Hey Emma! I just started reading your blog and have been following you for awhile on the Insta. Thank you for your honesty in this post, as it is something I am dealing with as well and it feels good to know I am not alone. I have a little one who is about to turn 1 year! This past year I have had the opportunity to stay home with him which I have really enjoyed but simultaneously felt some anxiety as well, regarding what I “should” also be doing for work, my career path, my own sense of self, etc. It has been a transition of self that I wasn’t really expecting, to be quite honest. This last year I also subbed very part-time at neighboring high and middle schools, and also was an assistant instructor at a nearby University. This next year I was planning to go back to full-time teaching (which really is way more than full-time) and I was experiencing major feelings of anxiety when I thought about how our lives would look. In short, my husband and I recently decided that I will continue substitute teaching and doing a supervising program for new teachers next year, which will be part time positions and allow me to only work about 3 days a week. All in all, I am relieved and feel like this will be the right decision for my family, my career, my sense of self, and allow my a little intellectual stimulation, which I am craving! That was a long-winded answer but that is where I am at!

    • emmaross
      July 13, 2017 / 9:40 pm

      These thoughts come out of nowhere don’t they?! sounds like you have listened to whatever is going on in your head and totally aced it in terms of communicating to your husband and working out what the best thing is for you and for the fam. i wish you the best of luck for it lovely xxx

  3. Welliesandlove
    April 13, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    Somehow missed this post (even though I’ve been reading silently for a while…oops!) but had to comment. I worked full time pre children but now with two boys I don’t work. Mainly it’s logistics, no grandparents on hand, husband who works away a lot and with long days etc. making both of us working full time in high pressure jobs, running a house and raising boys impossible. The odds of either of us getting to collect them from childcare at 6pm before I stopped work was low!

    Anyway, a few years into this arrangement and what I’d say is that I’m never bored and my husband and family are happy. They have food shops done, clean clothes, we adventure a lot, it’s good. It is the very best move that we’ve made as a family and in terms of those amazing parenting moments, I get them and love them. (I also get the temper and all illness duties, gloss over that bit.) The only downside is that societally I feel like I probably don’t exist anymore – being a non working parent is synonymous with tv watching and having an easy life – we don’t have a tv (and the children have no access to electronic devices) and we barely sit down (boys…!) but gosh the judgement from people don’t know and my own friends has led to a lot of gritted teeth. (I was told once I’d wasted my education and talents…which was nice!!)

    I call myself the “homechief” but it has been a battle with myself to take the shift from a pressured and successful career with colleagues, professionalism and progression to something measured in completely different terms. It’s very liberating and if you can not work, or work a lot less. My youngest attends his free nursery time and the eldest is at school so it’s allowed me to follow my interests in new directions and not compromise my time with them. I know myself much better than I ever did when working. I know my husband and I are better parents for me being the stability at home and that we have a lot more family time as at a weekend we are all free together with errands already done. Whatever you choose, it’s hard but you’ll make it right for you all, I’ve no doubt.

    As for the blog, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s fab.

    • emmaross
      April 15, 2017 / 11:56 am

      this is so lovely (except the part about the judgement – more on that later…)and super interesting to read – thanks so much rachel. i totally relate to so much that you have said regarding the stability your life choice has brought you – things just work better when you don’t work, huh?! The judgment part is awful though – i feel like i would be very sensitive to this too – but my plan (if i do stop working) is to own it and say loud and clear that im a mum and ive never worked so hard or learnt so much (truth) it’s strange though – that decision to leave the workforce. what annoys me is that people tend to think, as you say, you’ve let yourself (or society) down when i just see it as a different career path. anyway – sorry for garbled reply but thanks so much for commenting and for being here: )

  4. March 31, 2017 / 7:32 am

    Hey emma, great post, probably my favourite one. Love how you raise all the questions and are seriously starting to explore your blog as a new potential career. I went back to work after eden I have a very intense career as an executive producer at an ad agency now and I’m working 50 hours a week and traveling on top. I’m not going to sugar coat it its frigging hardcore I don’t sleep and am constantly feeling guilty… but I’m a firm believer of not falling away from the workforce as a woman for personal sanity and purpose, it wasn’t enough for me to be at home all day it made me depressed I need purpose. I do love to work from home just to have a focus and grown up conversation is so important as a mum, a woman,a human. Your job at Google is sweet as its pretty chill and you get Fridays at home, with your mum round the corner you should be ok for childcare and even if it’s a lump of your wages it’s still adds choices to your life… but on the other hand, if you can make a living off blogging… well having had 2 of my.own companies,,, I know what I would do!!! Go for it babes!!! Believe in yourself xxx

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:12 pm

      hey lovely – ah thanks so much for reading and for sharing your experience. i totally hear you re falling away from the workforce – but this is workforce in the traditional sense of an office – when im with the kids, im working hardcore and personally i dont worry about grown up conversation – i always get this in one form or another… always read the news.. stay plugged in etc but yes, i get what you are saying. there’s really no right answer.. but im super glad for you that you’ve found work in something that (i hope) you really enjoy. sending love x p.s when you say you know what you would do – what would you do?!!?

  5. Gem
    March 29, 2017 / 11:25 am

    Hey mama, I decided to stay at home after my first. Our family are 4 hours away so we would have had use childcare but paying for this plus train/tube fare to London meant I was working for free. I also commuted 1.5- 2 hours each way and my husband about an hour (if trains and tubes were running ok) so in an emergency we couldn’t get to our son quickly. Plus I enjoyed hanging out with my son a lot more than I thought I would :). I really love it, although it’s hard and I know I’m really lucky that I am able to do this. I really don’t think I’m going to regret being able to spend this time with them (my 2nd was born last May ). Also your blog is so good – you could consider building this even more and it could become a money making job ( your recipes, travel info and reviews are cool!) ? When I return to paid work I actually now have many different interests (because of staying at home) that I would look at retraining and doing something completely different. Good luck !

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:09 pm

      hey gem – ah it’s so lovely to hear your experience and im so happy it’s working out well for you. i love that you say how you enjoy hanging out with your son – so many people see it as a chore and of course it’s very hard work but they are kinda cool huh. and thanks so much for your comments re my blog – that really means a lot. which kind of content do you like to see me write most about, out of interest? have a lovely day – oh and you should TOTALLY look to retrain in something – interests change so much over time, hey – not least when you become a parent!! x

  6. Amanda
    March 29, 2017 / 2:53 am


    Firstly, your content is wonderful and I won’t mind the additional endorsements because I honestly dread researching products so I love when my trusted bloggers review things for me haha. Plus I love love love your “say no to stuff” slogan and your zero waste posts so I’m sure your endorsements will be of cool, worthwhile, earth friendly products.

    Secondly, I’m from the US so it’s back to work after 12 unpaid weeks (and that’s for the lucky ones who don’t have to return sooner). After my second, I returned to work briefly then quit for a variety of reasons but I’m most worried about my long term career. What about 10 or 15 years from now when my kids are about to graduate from high school?! For that reason I feel the need to get back into the game so I’m not left in the dust. I struggle with this on a daily basis. When should I go back? How many hours should I work? What kind of job should I look for? Where should my kids go to daycare? Can I even afford to work because care for 2 is so expensive? Ahhh! The US is terrible. Good luck! I enjoy being on this journey with you.

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:06 pm

      hey amanda – thanks so much for sharing your experience and hey from the US! we’re currently in Denver – whereabouts are you guys based? Ah it’s SO tough isnt it!! and i so hear you re being out of the workforce for a while – i think this is a big concern for so many of us mamas. can you do perhaps some part time work to ‘stay in the game’ as it were? i also cannot believe it’s 12 weeks in the US – that is CRAZY. compare that to somewhere like Sweden – it seems so unfair how wildly different countries’ maternity policies differ.. anyway lovely to hear you and also thank you for your cool and kind comments re my blog – that means a lot x

  7. Sharlene
    March 28, 2017 / 9:31 pm

    Hi Emma,

    I feel you on this matter. My daughter is a little younger than Sonny & even with just the 1 baby, I feel such confusion over returning to work. I have to let them know in the next few weeks what my plans are but I feel sick at the thought of making a decision because while in my heart I want to stay at home, my head says go back to work. I don’t want to miss a single thing with my baby girl. I lost my own mother & I thank god I can look back & treasure the memories of childhood with her (she was a stay at home mum) Every day is so so precious & I want my daughter to feel as secure as I did growing up. For me, returning to work goes against those feelings, but on the flip side, we always struggled money wise & I don’t want that for my daughter. Arghhhh, such decisions! Sorry I can’t offer any advice, just letting you know there’s a lot of us feeling the same right now. I really hope you find some peace of mind & gain some clarity soon x

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:04 pm

      hey sharlene – wow, thanks for sharing this story. a lot going on here and i really feel for you. i think it’s so important to follow your heart AND your head – can you find a middle ground? work part time / get some help with childcare? one thing’s for sure it sounds like your mama was an amazing mama to make you consider all these things so carefully and lovingly. best of luck and thanks so much for reading and for commenting x

  8. March 28, 2017 / 6:18 pm

    Hey Emma,
    Love your blog so much even though I’m not a mum and probably won’t be for a good 5-10 years yet! So I can’t offer any support on the going back to work thing from a personal perspective. But my mum was a GP and went back to work each time she had a new baby (I have 2 siblings) and she said she regretted it as we grew up because her happiest days were playing with us at home. I guess everyone is different though so there’s no right answer!
    And in terms of content, I think because you have built such a genuine personal brand, working with more companies wouldn’t make your blog spammy because your readers trust that you wouldn’t partner with someone unless you absolutely loved them yourself. My favourite posts are your family travel ones because I love seeing how you make adventure travel work with kids – it gives me hope that I’ll still be able to go on adventures when I one day have a family of my own!
    Best of luck with the back to work decisions <3

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:13 pm

      hey natalie -ah thanks for your lovely comment and it’s really interesting to hear that about your mama. bless her. everyone has such different experiences on this front! will be sure to keep the family travel blog posts up – thanks again for reading and for being here x x

  9. March 28, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    Great post, Emma! Such a hard dilemma! I just have the one babe at the moment and he’s now a year old. I made the decision to go self employed as an illustrator (previously just a hobby!) just before I got pregnant, as we were trying and I wanted to have flexibility once he was born. Plus we move every 2 years for hubbys work, which is a dilemma in itself when it comes to holding down a job! Downsides are no maternity pay and low earning potential, upside is I get the flexibility to be at home and only require a small amount of childcare – so we actually get to keep more of the money I earn! But I have to admit, I never found a ‘real job’ that I loved. I was always sad about that until I had my baby, now I feel quite lucky not to have to face the dilemma of wanting to commit to a fast paced career that you like, but also not wanting to miss out on child rearing, pay for so much childcare etc. Sounds like the way forward is to try and negotiate fewer days a week with Google, which it sounds like you’re already doing! As for your other question, I think the content is great and I personally never mind sponsored posts as long as it’s stuff you genuinely like and would recommend. I think it’s quite obvious when people just push random products every other post because they’re paid to, whereas decent brands every few posts are useful to read about. People following your blog are likely to share similar interests to you, so will probably be interested in products and brands that you genuinely value. Hope this helps and good luck!

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:15 pm

      hey harriet ! ah so nice to hear from you and thanks for sharing your experiences and how you guys make it work. interesting stuff, and i so hear you re not having a fast paced career you feel ‘obliged’ to continue, just ‘cos…i think you’ve really hit the nail on the head in a lot of what you say – flexibility is KEY isn’t it. and thanks also for the comment re my blog and endorsements – that means a lot and makes a lot of sense. big love x

  10. Andrea
    March 28, 2017 / 3:06 pm

    Hi Emma! I’ve been through this situation before with returning to work after number 2. You feel double the mum and double the love! I know. I actually resigned as a retail manager and got a part time job when number 2 was 13 months old. He’s now almost 5 and I still struggle some days with committing to my 22 hours a week. However, I am happier and more balanced, but childcare fees are still an issue even when part time. 4 days a week sounds good for you, is it an option to work from home for one day a week in your job? I really hope you get some clarity soon.
    As for your blog, it’s my absolute favourite. I would suggest some more recipes? Esp easy ones for kids that you’ve tried and tested?
    Sending love and hugs and I hope you feel less confused soon x

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:17 pm

      hey andrea – thanks for your lovely comment and also for sharing your experiences. there’s just never a perfect answer is there?! it sounds like you have quite a nice balance down though so that’s awesome. 4 days is an option yep for me, but sadly not working from home 🙁 ah that’s so kind of you re my blog and thanks for the idea of more recipes – i’m definitely going to look into this. big love to you!x

  11. Hayley
    March 28, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    I returned to work after my second in January after a year off, with two under two like yourself, it was both hardwork but so rewarding to be with them 24/7 (except for grandparent days, I loved spending time with babe one on one) I dreaded returning to work, didn’t want to, needed to, but it’s now been almost 3 months and I have definitely got back into the swing of it. We are so amazingly grateful that we have 3 days free childcare with different sets of grandparents (?? Both children of divorce) but with the 30 free hours childcare kicking in from Sept 17, this will help too. I get Sunday night dread every single week, but it makes me super appreciate my days with my minis and our mummy baby Fridays, so the housework can sod off!! Give yourself time, if you decide to return. It has taken me almost 3 months to settle back in, and the juggle is real, believe me, but I find being super organised the night before sets me up for the next day ahead x x

    • emmaross
      March 31, 2017 / 6:02 pm

      hey hayley – thanks so much for sharing your experiences – super interesting to read. you are right about giving myself time if i do go back to work – that is really wise advice. cant expect for it to feel ticketyboo immediately! And yes the need to be organised is real!! got to improve this. so glad you are doing well and your decision is working out well for the family. big love x x

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