These Celebrity Moms Have Opened Up About How Brutal 'Return to Work Syndrome' Can Be
Did you know that the anxiety experienced by moms during the postpartum period, specifically around going back to work, has a name? “Return to work syndrome” is a real thing, and it’s felt by new mamas far and wide — including some of your favorite celebrities.
Under the umbrella of postpartum anxiety, return to work syndrome is the sensation of dread, anxiety, and/or depression a woman experiences when she has to go back to work after having a baby. After birth, mothers are saddled with hormonal changes, lack of sleep, a new routine, and more emotional hurdles that can be difficult to overcome. When separation anxiety is thrown into the mix from the sheer thought of having to go back to work, the amalgamation of tumultuous feelings can cause extreme overwhelm to the point of emotional paralysis.
Take it from Kelly Osbourne — the day before she had to return to work earlier this year, the television personality got on Instagram to share how nervous she was feeling about leaving her son. “Having to leave him this morning was one of the hardest things I have ever done. This day can’t go by quick enough for me,” she wrote. The following day, she got back on the platform to share an update: “I could not leave him again so it’s #BringYourBabyToWorkDay.”
Even Khloé Kardashian struggled to overcome return to work syndrome after having her daughter in 2018. The day before she had to resume her role at Good American, she shared how anxious she was feeling about parting with True. However, on the big day, Kardashian seemed to find a happy medium in her outlook. “I’m anxious to leave True but also eager to get back to work now that I have a new push and motivation … It’s not just for me anymore,” she said on Snapchat.
For more insight from some of your favorite celeb mamas on how difficult it can be to return to work after welcoming a baby, read on.
After welcoming twin sons in 2015, Zoe Saldana spoke to Us Weekly about her return to work. “I’m pretty sure that every parent — not just every mom — would [take time off] as long as your work doesn’t suffer. But we have to pay bills and at the end of the day, I think that’s the best example we can set to our children,” the Guardians of the Galaxy actress said.
She added, “We’re very determined and we can’t just leave everything behind and just focus on them. But it’s painful.”
Khloé Kardashian was incredibly candid with her Snapchat audience about the anxiety she felt toward going back to work after she had her daughter, True, in 2018.
The Good American co-founder told the camera, per E! News, “Tomorrow is my first day back to work. I’ve missed a feeding here and there with True, but I’ve never missed multiple feedings in a day so I have a ton of anxiety.”
She continued, “I’ve been thinking about the 6th. Oh my God, I have to start work on the 6th and I’ve been getting just anxious about it. Today I’m very anxious,” Kardashian shared. “I don’t know how I’m going to leave her all day tomorrow. That’s freaking me out.”
Turning to her daughter, the reality star said, “I got to go back to work at some point. So it will be OK. Right, mama?”
Kardashian was able to find some balance in perspective on the big day — she hopped back on Snapchat to share, “I’m anxious to leave True but also eager to get back to work now that I have a new push and motivation … It’s not just for me anymore.”
“I had to go to L.A. and start this show, and my baby was only a few months old and it was a very difficult time,” Amy Poehler said during a 2015 chat with NPR, per HuffPost, of going back to work after welcoming her eldest son.
“It was harder than I think I wanted to admit at the time,” she shared. “I think I tortured myself a bit in that first year about what kind of mother I was and could I do this thing well and also give birth to this new show.”
The Saturday Night Live icon continued, “There’s not enough… working mothers who kind of talk about who they leaned on and how they got through that difficult time. There’s this thing where nobody likes to talk about how difficult things are. Everybody likes to talk about [how] easy it is or can be if you only do X, Y, and Z,” she said.
“But it’s difficult to be away from your baby and to be working hard and also want to be working — and it’s difficult to be staying at home after you’ve been a person who maybe wasn’t,” Poehler concluded.
In 2019, Amy Schumer shared how her expectations about returning to work after delivering her son were different from how it actually felt to go back. “Five months today, and like all moms I love him so much it hurts,” Schumer wrote alongside a photo of her cradling her newborn.
The comedian continued, “I’m feeling strong and good and like I’m still a human being with interests and ambitions and goals I’m excited to reach. It’s felt good to be back at work.”
“I was so worried about it and was afraid to go back after he was 3 months old,” she admitted. “A couple days I’ve cried from missing him. But it’s mostly good to be back and the breaks energize me to be a better mom and appreciate our time even more.”
In February 2023, Kelly Osbourne opened up to her Instagram audience about how much she was struggling with returning to work. “I have a new found (sic) respect for working mothers,” the television personality wrote.
“I took my first job since having a baby,” she explained. “Having to leave him this morning was one of the hardest things I have ever done. This day can’t go by quick enough for me. I can’t want to have him back in my arms. 😢”
The following day, the new mom posted a photo of herself looking anxious, sitting in a car and holding onto her son’s car seat. She captioned the Instagram Story, “I could not leave him again so it’s #BringYourBabyToWorkDay.”
Claire Danes spoke to Your Tango in September 2013 about what it was like to return to work after having a baby. “I was so in my cozy mommy bubble. I was very anxious about returning to work,” she admitted.
“I had all sorts of exaggerated fears — the biggest one being will I ever want to work again? But, in fact, I do and it’s been great,” the actress said of resuming her role on Homeland.
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