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Back to work: What coworkers say to new moms

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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