How to get into work mode after your fourth trimester without losing yourself
Getting back to the working world after welcoming a baby can be tough. Phumeza Langa knows all about it! Here she shares her top tips on how to return to the workplace without the mommy guilt.
Phumeza Langa is a new mom and knows a thing or two about the lesser known fourth trimester. (Supplied)

I recall my first day back at work: it was so surreal and I thought all was going well, until the fourth day when I realised that I was actually back at work and my daughter was with a day mother. 

In that moment, I wanted to go fetch her and just hang out for the day like we used to since she was born. Instead, with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I shared my moment with a friend and she related her own experience – I realised that we are all on this journey together and we truly would be okay. 

I am not quite at the “I’m making it through just fine” stage of things. Mommy guilt still has a firm grip on my mind and heart but I have tried to remember a few things that I am using to get me through each day… and yes, some days I find myself adulting really well and other days are just a mess, and it is okay.

Did you have a similar experience when you returned to work? How did you cope? Tell us by emailing to and we could publish your tips. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.  

This is what helps me through, and maybe it can help you too.

phumeza langa's advice in the fourth trimester

1. Trying to do it all?

How hard is it for you to pick and choose what you can manage to do, while acknowledging when you cannot get to some items on your to-do list?

If someone asks me to do something, I go into a flat panic about not being able to get it done, because in my head I believe that they may get upset with me for not doing it.

Alas, I learned to accept that I cannot do it all and I need to stop trying because I’m not doing anything but cause myself a lot of unnecessary stress.

Pick what you can do day by day by order of importance, whether it is related to work or it’s personal, and do that well – and for what you cannot get to, there is always tomorrow.

2. Find your own rhythm 

There is always some sort of pressure that will come with just being able to “get back into the swings of things”, and I found that I have not been able to get back to my previous way of being.

There has been a shift for me, I’m moving to a different rhythm and the person in control of the music is a little person barely 6 months old. 

It has been a blessing in disguise that I am now being forced to try to slow down, and take a moment to just breathe before I rush off to tackle the next item on my to-do list.

3. There is power in saying “no”

You should not for a moment feel bad if you do not have the energy to do something or be somewhere. Burn out is a real and true thing that can creep up on you too quickly without you realising.

Having said that, it is advisable to go through the items that you need to get through, the things that have been requested of you – be it at work or in your personal life – and be honest with yourself, if you need to say “no” then say so.

Hard as it will be, it’s better to be upfront so that you don’t find yourself doing something half-hearted (or not at all). 

4. Give yourself a break

You have asked it of yourself enough times, but are you practising self-care in your own life?

I know I’m failing at that, but I am trying to find ways and have a moment to check in with myself to make sure that I am okay, or to just let myself know that it’s going to be all right.

Truth be told, we are hard on ourselves and sometimes unnecessarily so. We do forget that we are human and that we are continuously trying our best.

5. Show up and try to be all that you can be

So... do I still wonder if my little girl is okay, realising that mom is at work not spending all day with her? Yes.

Do I take moments to remind myself that I am a working mother and I’m doing it all for her? Yes.

Do I look at her picture and videos, resisting the urge to call the day mother so she can put my child on the phone and I can chat to her? Yes.

All we can do, each and every single day, is show up and try to be all that we can be for not only our loved ones, but for ourselves too. Because it is true when they say that you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Did you have a similar experience when you returned to work? How did you cope? Tell us by emailing to and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.  

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