The “Return to Work”-ing Mom


The call to return to work in-person is a major adjustment— take stock of your needs.


I was standing in an unusually long camp drop-off line when I got the email. I had 36 days before our return to work. I knew it was coming. I work for a university, one that had given us much grace and support over the past year; naturally, they would want their staff back near the start of the semester. But it hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, my anxiety was worse than I could have ever predicted, like early pandemic heights. 


I know I am not alone. There are so many of us moms that have seen our working worlds turned upside down, taken over by virtual learning between zooms, daycare drop-offs while checking emails, and school pick-ups on conference calls. You would think I would jump at the chance to give it up. But I am not. I am struggling. I am going to miss folding laundry during a webinar, running to the store over lunch, or just being there when my son finishes his school day. I am going to miss being at home and the unexpected efficiency it has brought. 


return to work moms posing for a photo
Jessica and her colleagues— working moms, all vaccinated and gathering for a happy hour in advance of returning to work.


So here is what I am going to do. I am not a therapist, just a communications professional. So join me if you want.


  • Share How You’re Feeling. Let your colleagues know how you feel. Tell your boss you are anxious. I did. And his response was so genuinely kind, I cried. I am certain many of your colleagues feel the same, and it feels good to know you are not alone.
  • Prioritize Your Needs. If you are anything like me, this pandemic has helped you realize your priorities, and you’ve worked to get rid of the extra stuff. Being successful in my career is a priority, but so are my children. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
  • Establish Expectations. Over this past year, mothers have done it all. We have been teachers and mothers and employees and spouses and colleagues and leaders. And while it hasn’t always been pretty, we got it done. Just because you know you can do everything; doesn’t mean you have to. Try to identify what will be expected of you and make sure that it aligns with what you can do comfortably.
  • Ask for What You Want. It took a pandemic, but I feel like I am finding my voice in the workplace. As a working mom this past year, there is almost literally nothing we can’t handle. If there is something you want, ask for it. No one can read your mind.
  • Take Your Time. Maybe what you want is an extra 30 minutes to get to work the first week of your return. Try not to schedule early meetings or many at all. It is going to be an adjustment for everyone. So take your time.
  • Support Each Other. Telling my team that we were in this together and would work through it was honestly just as helpful to me. Like I said, so many of your colleagues feel just like you. Talk to them. Meet them in advance for a coffee or a glass of wine. Seeing your colleagues, especially if you haven’t had much face-time lately, is very helpful. 


Much like returning to the office after maternity leave, this will be an adjustment and a change. Change is scary, and it is hard. But we know we can do it. We are moms, after all. 




a headshot of a womanBorn and raised in St. Louis, Jessica (Lillie) Ciccone is mom to Frank “Trip” III and Winnie. She is married to Frank II, whom she convinced to move back to her hometown after eight years in Boston, where he grew up. Together, Frank and Jessica enjoy finding new and exciting places to travel with their kids. While in St. Louis, they love spending time with her parents and the extended Lillie clan as Jessica is the lesser, but older, one of three redheaded sisters and fellow moms.

Professionally, Jessica serves as the Director of Communications at Saint Louis University School of Law. When she can find spare time, she enjoys running, biking, and a nice glass of wine with friends and family. She is a fierce advocate of paid family leave and dreams of knowing a world where moms in the United States can take an unlimited amount of time with their newborns.