parent opinion

'After 10 months of maternity leave, I returned to my corporate job. 2 hours into it, I quit.'

This post discusses mental health issues and may be triggering to some readers. 

As a new parent returning to work after a fulfilling 10-month maternity leave, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions. Leaving my baby to return to my corporate job in July 2021 was not an easy transition, and like many parents, I felt isolated and disconnected during my time on parental leave. There hadn't been much meaningful communication from my workplace during my approved time off.

The past four years have had its beautiful highs and extensive mental health challenges, but it's primarily my former corporate life that has been the catalyst for me sitting here as a fraction of myself today.

Watch: Is extended maternity leave good for parents and employers? Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

My first day back post-parental leave had me attending an online conference, where approximately 18 of the team that reported to me were present. I had loved our previous conferences, so this helped take the edge off my nerves as I jumped onto the call.

It turned out to be the most challenging two hours of my life.


I remember almost immediately, in a distinct moment, it didn't feel right for me. I felt out of place, out of the loop, unseen and unheard, I remember thoughts racing through my head "What the hell am I doing here?", "Tammy, you can do this, it will be okay", "I don't feel like I belong anymore", and "Everything has changed".

The feeling only got worse. During those remaining two hours on the call, I had to turn my camera off several times to wipe away my tears and compose myself before flicking my camera back on.

The thoughts continued to flood in, and my body gave me clear signals to get out of there. The emotions within my body became so intense that I couldn't ignore them, and even after months of intensive mental health support and using other alternative modalities, I felt as if I had reverted during those two hours. I disconnected from the call. 

As I ran out the front door to get some air and to help regain control from the panic attacks I was experiencing, my partner Kelvin came out the front with my beautiful Indie to ensure I was okay. 

I was far from okay. 

As our girl crawled across the grass toward me, I remember looking at her with complete fear, yet somehow also knowing that this was the gift she gave me. The gift of cracking me open twice, where I learnt to listen to and trust my body - so that is what I did.

In that moment, I realised I needed to listen to my body and trust my instincts, so I decided to walk away from the corporate world I'd worked so hard to be successful within. To cut a long story short, I had been on income protection from October 2021 for my mental health but was later terminated from my corporate job in June 2022. While I can't discuss the details due to legal constraints, I can say I pursued a federal legal case, standing up for my human rights and speaking my truth.


I also don't live in Sydney anymore. After 35 years, my partner and I moved to the Central Coast, to be closer to family, knowing full well that I'd be commuting up to two  hours each way to the office. I believed - or assumed - that after eight years of "earning my stripes'', I had proven my worth, and I guess I thought it would work. I felt I needed to escape Sydney and would benefit from moving to a more slow pace environment, nestled in amongst the bay, beach and national park. I don't regret the move, even though it added its challenges for work.

For nearly two decades, I had worked in fast-paced environments, including management roles. My career when I left corporate was in the daily fresh operations industry and it required me to be on call 24/7, which took a toll on my mental health.

In early 2019, a crisis at work pushed me to work significant hours per week for three months straight, leading to severe sleep deprivation, panic attacks, and physical symptoms.

This was what I call my initial three-month crisis period, where I experienced severe sleep insomnia and when I did sleep, I would wake to panic, thinking my phone was ringing. My heart was racing, I was sweating, my vision was getting blurry, and I felt entirely out of control.


In the office, I was regularly dry-retching over the toilet and I started vomiting on different occasions. As I walked out of the bathroom, it was like I had to put a mask on. I can even remember making that action with my hand, as if I was putting a mask on, pulling back my shoulders and getting back to battle.

Despite my best efforts to put on a brave face and be there to support my teammates, there were several occasions when the mask fell off, and I became a blubbering mess in front of other people and couldn't hold it together.

During this challenging time, seeking professional psychological support seemed risky, so I suppressed my emotions and believed I had overcome the difficulties. However, after falling pregnant in 2021, I faced perinatal depression and anxiety, which brought unresolved trauma to the surface. With therapy, I prepared myself to return to my corporate job in July 2021, and the rest you know.

While no resolution can erase my past experiences, it provided some relief from daily panic attacks, but no resolution can alleviate the memory and damage of what I experienced through the eight months of the legal battle. The overwhelming sense of feeling unseen and unheard, constant fear around speaking up, daily panic attacks, relentless nausea and vomiting, and three painful shingles episodes still have repercussions for me, and I'll never recoup the $100k in legal costs I spent while standing up for what I believe is my truth.


Returning to the corporate world, I hoped for better accommodations for working mothers, but the demanding nature of the industry and the need to be constantly available made it challenging. Taking baby steps wasn't an option, it was straight back into the fire. Through my research, I discovered that many parents and carers returning to the corporate space, also struggled.

I have witnessed the significant gap in how new parents are reintroduced back into the workplace. There are few discussions about expectations for communication and it's like you are in no-man's-land during that period. There are support mechanisms and processes in place for employees returning to work after injury, or extensive illnesses, but parents returning to work are often left to navigate the challenges themselves, with minimal management support. The experience and discovery came with a clear realisation that my calling is to support parents, carers, and their children.

Listen: The Quicky investigates whether there is there a legitimate medical reason to keep it quiet during the first trimester. Post continues below.

Witnessing the impact of mental health challenges on my family, I understood the need for education, tools, and a supportive community. Starting a new life outside the corporate world has been challenging. Fears of financial struggles and doubts about running a business have plagued me. However, I am determined to share my story and create change.

Combining my corporate background with a passion for change, I help businesses create inclusive cultures that address mental health challenges openly, and support their staff at every touchpoint, and in all scenarios. I've established the Unlimited NOW Network, a community-driven social enterprise, to educate parents and caregivers on navigating life's challenges.


My goal is to inspire corporate organisations to embrace inclusivity and kindness while protecting their employees' well-being. Little Paws, Big Roars nurtures strong, resilient, and kind children. Through my experiences, I aim to inspire and empower others, foster positive change, and build a compassionate community for families and workplaces. Our mission is to defy norms, dismantle barriers, and promote self-confidence and mental wellness in parenthood and life.

Tammy Louise is an award-winning dedicated advocate for mental health and a champion for mothers and families worldwide. Leaving her 17-year corporate career, she became a certified life coach and business owner, empowering working parents and carers through "Unlimited NOW Network”, “Mumma Life is Now" and "Kick Fear in the Butt", and helping to raise resilient children and families, through “Little Paws, Big Roars”. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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