‘Leaving the child behind was not easy’: lived experiences of mothers returning to work after maternity leave in Ghana. By: Manukure, Joseph Mfum; Annor, Francis and Gyasi-Gyamerah, Angela Anarfi. 2024. Community, Work & Family. p1-24.

This study explored the lived experiences of employed mothers returning to work after maternity leave in the Ghanaian context. Using a qualitative research approach, in-depth interviews were conducted with 21 employed postpartum mothers who had returned to work within one year after birth. Using reflexive thematic analysis, four themes were generated that speak to mothers’ experiences of returning to work after maternity leave: setting the stage for work return, embracing the emotions of work return, re-adapting tothe workplace, and impact on personal and family health. Mothers’ return to work after maternity leave was preceded by extensive physical and psychological preparations including childcare arrangements that enhanced their readiness for paid work. Despite such preparations, most mothers experienced their return to work as emotionally challenging marked by feelings of sadness, guilt, and frustration. Childbirth and return to work also negatively impacted mothers’ work performance as well as their personal and family wellbeing. Moreover, combining the increased responsibilities associated with childbirth and work demands emerged as a major source of stress for postpartum mothers. These findings underscore the need for policies, organisational practices, and comprehensive support structures that facilitate mothers’ return to work after maternity leave.