The ‘unexpected joy’ of returning to work after caring for kids - 10 things parents loved the most about getting back to work after maternity leave according to new research (and #5 is so relatable)

There's positives to going back to work if you're worried about it

Smiling woman sat at a desk holding a coffee
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Returning to work after maternity leave is often daunting, but a new study reveals it can be a 'joyful experience' for some - here's the top 10 things parents going back to work love.

Going back to work after maternity leave is understandably a worrying time. There's the hoops to jump through when requesting flexible working, and some women sadly face workplace discrimination when they return to their place of work after having a baby. Navigating the rising childcare costs is also another consideration and cause for concern.

However, amid the negatives a new study identifies the 'unexpected joys' of heading back to the workplace. Placing a much-needed positive spin on maternity leave coming to an end, the research was commissioned by Gill Jones, group chief quality officer at nursery chain Busy Bees.

Gill says "Returning to work after having a child is a big step for all mums and dads, whether you're eager to resume your career or have made the decision for other, more functional reasons. But this research highlights that the return to work can bring pleasure in lots of small and unexpected ways." We reveal the top 10 joys experienced by parents heading back to work, identified by the study findings.  

10 joys of returning to work

  1. Adult conversations
  2. A change of scenery
  3. Engaging their brain in professional tasks
  4. Having more structure to the day
  5. Feeling more like themselves again
  6. Enjoying a cup of tea or coffee while it's still hot
  7. Having more variety to their day
  8. Not having to look at an untidy house
  9. Going to the toilet in peace
  10. Getting dressed up

The study also found 46 per cent of parents are reassured by regular updates on their child's progress throughout the day when they're in childcare, and 36 per cent appreciate receiving photos of the activities their little one engages with.

Meanwhile, over eight in 10 (82 per cent) of parents who use a nursery believe it positively impacts their child, reporting their top benefits to be developing social skills (50 per cent), boosting confidence (33 per cent), and encouraging them to try new activities (23 per cent).

Mum-of-three and GoodtoKnow deputy editor Heidi Scrimgeour identifies with the research, sharing her own joy at returning to work after her first child. She shares "I was teaching as a visiting lecturer, a gig I'd started when I was pregnant then took a break from when the baby was born. I can vividly remember standing in the lecture hall for my first class back and having this amazing kind of 'And, I'm back in the room' feeling because there was no crawling baby using my knees to drag themselves up to standing every time I sat down. 

"Just the physical freedom seemed incredible. Plus students talked to me like I was exactly the same person I'd always been which was this really solid reminder that I was still in there, somewhere! I also remember the joy of buying new work clothes - I needed new ones because my body had completely changed beyond all recognition after pregnancy and I was a bit lost as to what suited me, but I bought a fancy black dress and boots and felt so put together!"

"There was no crawling baby using my knees to drag themselves up to standing every time I sat down. Just the physical freedom seemed incredible."

Heidi Scrimgeour

The research findings also highlights the importance of flexible working for those with young children - it found 82 per cent of parents returning to work would not consider a job that didn't offer flexibility. It also found the top three most appreciated support factors offered by employers to be emotional understanding from managers (23 per cent), paid time off when a child is unwell (27 per cent), and the ability to work from home at short notice when necessary (22 per cent).

Gill Jones concludes "We understand how important it is for families to strike a balance between spending quality time together and developing their careers. Having the reassurance of professional early years experts, along with regular updates on their little ones' wellbeing, allows parents to focus on their professional lives safe in the knowledge they're doing the best for their child and themselves."

For more on working parents, working from home keeps mothers in employment according to research, but it's not always easy - mums returning to work were found to earn 43 per cent less than working fathers, further decreasing the incentive to stay in their jobs. If you took time away from work to care for children, a new online service could help maximise your state pension. 

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.