Research of 1,000 adults found 80% of women were worried about leaving their child in other people’s care, with 35% saying their employer failed to provide help and understanding about becoming a working mother.
Among fathers, 39% said they felt guilty about returning to work with 37% saying their employers offered them no flexibility after starting a family. A fifth (20%) said they would have preferred to become stay-at-home dads.
The research, conducted by childcare provider My Family Care, prompted its director Ben Black to urge employers to do more to support parents.
"Due to the lack of support from their employers on returning to work, women often feel forced to give up the careers they have trained and worked so hard for in order to fit in their new role of motherhood,” he said.
“Staff need to be supported as they return to work and deal with the challenges that being a working parent can bring. Employers who respond to their needs will be rewarded with engaged, productive and loyal employees."
A mother who gave up her full-time career in HR after having her first child described how plans to work part-time after a year of maternity leave were made unworkable by her employer.
After returning to work on a three-day-a-week contract, she was expected to perform the same role she had done under full-time conditions.
“I was finding it such a struggle, commuting three hours, three days a week, and trying my best to be a good mum,” said 31-year-old Leah McGrath, former HR service manager at an agra-pharmaceutical company.
“I was getting ill all the time; whenever there was a virus going around, I would catch it as I was so run down and my little girl's behaviour was becoming very challenging. After a while I realised there must be more to life and resigned. It was extremely scary but I am so pleased I did."
According to research published by the think tank Resolution Foundation in 2012, nearly 45% of mothers of school-age children were found to work 40 hours or more a week in the OECD compared to less than 20% of British mothers of school-age children.