Q. My job is very low-stress and makes no demands on me physically. Is it reasonable for me to consider returning to work before six weeks? (My job offers a reduced work schedule and flex time, so I could come in just one or two days a week.)
Whatever works for you and your baby and family is completely reasonable.
But, if you’re trying to make plans before the baby’s born, our advice is to not commit to any kind of schedule until you’ve had a couple of weeks of personally experiencing the new-mom lifestyle. Six weeks is the standard time given for moms returning to work, but it could turns out that you need more time: you may have unforeseen complications to recover from, your baby could have health issues, heaven forbid. Or more likely, you may find that feeding the baby every two or three hours, day and night, tires you out to the point that getting dressed and leaving the house seems impossible. And then there’s the fact that newborns are very attached to their mothers and will protest, loudly, if they’re separated from her for more than a few minutes, making it tough to leave them with someone else, and the reality that if you don’t have help at home newborn care is very, very expensive.
Plenty of moms can and do go back to work soon after the baby’s born, but not everyone has an easy time of it.
Your best bet is to plan to stay out for the maximum amount of time you can get away with. You can always surprise everyone by coming back early. But better to overestimate how much time you’ll need than to guess low and have to let down people who might be counting on you.