What They Say
And What We Hear

I won't lie to you: Going back to work after having a baby is a gut-wrenching experience. You have a small, helpless infant whom you likely are entrusting into the care of a stranger. And just when you come to terms with that, you have well-meaning coworkers saying all the wrong things...


With my first son, I couldn't bear the thought of going back to work and leaving him. So I didn't. Instead, I stayed home for a year and freelanced a bit. At the time, our bills were low enough that my husband and I could get by without two full-time incomes. But when my daughter was born, that wasn't an option. Between rising costs and increased expenses, I had to return to work.

I found that going back to work was something best done without thinking about it. In the weeks leading up to my return, I lined up a daycare, talked to my son a little about heading back to daycare and otherwise went about my daily business of caring for two kids. And when the day came, rather than stress about it, I just dropped the kids off, made sure they were comfortable and went on my way.

In the office, I was greeted warmly by my excited coworkers who said that they were thrilled to see me back. There were hugs and well wishes and requests to see the baby... but as an emotional new mom, it's hard not to read too far between the proverbial lines.

What they said

My coworkers really meant well as they welcomed me back. But even the most well-meaning comments can be hard for a new mom to take. Here are a few comments you might face, as well as some responses you can be ready with.

1

Are you glad to be back?

You want to say: Glad? I just left my two kids at a new daycare and came here. In heels. Of course not!

Real potential answer: It's not bad. It's nice to have adult company and conversations. But don't freak if I slip a ’goo-goo-cootchie-coo-coo’ into conversation.

2

Was it hard to come back?

You want to say: Are you freakin' kidding me? What do you think?

Real potential answer: Well, leaving your child is never easy.

3

Did you miss work?

You want to say: I gave birth to the sweetest little person who I've been cuddling on the couch with for the last three months — and watching all my favorite daytime shows too. Definitely not.

Real potential answer: Work is a fun challenge, so it's nice to be able to do it again.

4

I could never have left my baby when he/she was this young.

You want to say: Thanks for the guilt trip.

Real potential answer: I know what you mean, it's not easy. But with the economy the way it is, it's a choice of return to work or go without food.

5

You must be so sad. How are you holding up?

You want to say: Of all the stupid things to say! Are you trying to upset me?

Real potential answer: It's not easy, but I am doing OK so far. Thanks.

6

We got along fine while you were gone, but it's nice to have you back.

You want to say: Wow. Way to make me feel useful around here. Does that mean that I'm not necessary anymore? Do I need to worry about my job?!?

Real potential answer: That's good to hear. I'm glad to be back. What can I help with so that the duties are more evenly distributed again?

Read more about working motherhood

Labor after delivery: Working versus staying home
Back to work: Surviving the first month

Breastfeeding and returning to work

Tags: coworkers

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Comments

Comments on "Back to work: What coworkers say to new moms"

Wendy December 12, 2012 | 8:16 AM

I remember so well the day I had to go back to work after my first daughter was born. I thought I'd never get past those first few weeks. But I made it and my daughter is a beautiful, happy 12 yr old today. And as moms, we are so amazing at doing what needs to be done with grace. It's all a part of growing as a parent and helping your kids grow up in a 2-income household economy.

Jessica November 29, 2012 | 8:55 AM

This is so true! It's crazy all the questions you get asked when you return to work, so just go with the flow! People are just curious, I don't think they intend on prying or being rude.

Jennifer November 04, 2012 | 8:18 AM

This was a great read! It is important for women to be prepared for the reality of returning to work after the joyful and blissful absence of giving birth. The situation may be awkward and strange at first so it is helpful to rehearse answers to questions that people may ask. The most important thing to also always keep in mind is that you are going back to work FOR your kids, so in many ways it is an act of love for them.

Shannon November 03, 2012 | 2:53 PM

Love this article! It can be extremely hard to return to work, but it's important to remember that new moms are returning because they HAVE to. If it weren't for money, I'm sure all mom's would want to stay home.

Maureen November 02, 2012 | 4:57 PM

My best advice is to find a new project fast so it will be VERY distracting! This is a great recap of what you really do hear once you return.

Sharon June 20, 2012 | 5:39 AM

this article is great! it made me literally laugh out loud! Of course when you return to work you're going to be faced with all those questions. Try not to let it get the best of you. Answer them, be polite, and move on with your day. Focus on all the positives of going back to work - adult conversation, extra income, feeling productive, etc.

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