What to Say, and What NOT to Say to the New Mom at Work

I finished my 4th week back to work, and I’m pretty proud of myself for not losing it on a regular basis. Surprisingly, my first day back was not bad at all. People were welcoming me back, taking time to catch up with me, and eager to see the tons and tons of pictures I had. Day #2 was a bit harder, but really the first week was so filled with getting settled back into work and catching up with people that I really didn’t have time to get upset about missing Jack. Leaving him in the morning was hard, but I distracted myself on the car ride up with the radio.

Meeting Dziadek

It was the 2nd week back that was really tough. There was more downtime, and I didn’t have any more welcome back visitors. More than once I hid in the bathroom and cried. Two different people caught me in the act of crying, one mom and one woman who never had children. There was a noticeable difference in reaction. Mrs. Mom just gave me a kind smile and assured me it’d get better. Mrs. Not-Mom tried to be comforting, but she got very anxious, awkward, and ran away as soon as she could. Both women were very sweet, and I’m lucky they were the ones who “caught” me.  I haven’t cried at work since that 2nd week, so I must be doing better.

Everyone was so welcoming and sweet to me. I know everyone had good intentions, but the whole experience taught me what to say, and what not to say to a mom returning to work.

Selfies with Mama

Say: How are you feeling?
Don’t Say: You must be glad to get back to life with adults.

Going back to work is very emotional, and I really appreciated people who were concerned about me. While I don’t think asking about time spent with adults is meant to be hurtful, being at work was really the last place I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but it’s nothing to being a mom. Don’t assume that the new mom prefers adult company over her baby’s. I’m sure I’d eventually miss going to work, but for me the 12 weeks was not early enough time to miss it.

I also think this is kind of degrading to SAHMs. I have wanted to be a SAHM since forever. That surprises a lot of people because I took the time to earn a Master’s degree and start a career, but I don’t believe in the whole working mom vs stay at home mom mentalities. Babies are exhausting work, and my mind didn’t “turn to mush” from being home with baby. It’s just a different set of skills.

Happy Birthday Mama!

Say: I understand how you feel.
Don’t say: You should feel lucky; I only had half that much time off.

I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about missing my son. I stayed home with Jack for 11 weeks. I only received disability pay for 8 weeks (I didn’t get paid family leave), and I didn’t even get any of the disability money until week 10. It wasn’t an easy situation, and I can understand why people have to go back to work sooner. But the fact is, we in the US have THE WORST maternity leave policies IN THE WORLD, especially for a developed country. I’m glad I was able to take the 11 weeks I had, but it was nowhere near enough time. Don’t make a mom feel guilty or ungrateful when in reality you both have been treated unfairly. I could go on and on about this topic, but instead, just look at this infographic to see what I mean. It is a topic that absolutely disgusts me and an issue I had no idea about until I became pregnant.

Say: Let me see pictures!
Don’t Say: Did you want a boy/girl?

I can’t imagine wanting anyone other than Jack! Although, I feel like if I did wish he were a girl, I would feel incredibly guilty about it. Post-partum depression is a real and serious condition some women go through. It was one of my biggest fears while I was pregnant, and I’m lucky that I’m not suffering, but you never know what the next woman is suffering. Don’t make anyone feel bad about how they feel. Ask to see pictures instead. All mommies love to show off their babies!

My Family

Say: How are the pets doing?
Don’t Say: I hate babies.

Basically, don’t ever say that kind of stuff at work. Ok, so no one actually said they hate babies to me…at least not after I had my baby. It’s your prerogative to not have or like kids, but either way you shouldn’t push your ideals on someone else, or make yourself seem superior to people who don’t share your feelings. Prior to Jack, Lilu and Buschkii were my babies. I even have a picture of them on my desk. That didn’t mean I didn’t want a human baby. Some people assumed that because I loved my pets so much I was not a baby person, but that obviously wasn’t the case. Don’t think that I forgot about who went on about thinking babies are gross.  It took us a long time to have our Jack, and not without struggles.  You never know if the person you’re saying this to can’t have kids, is having trouble having kids, or just isn’t ready for them yet. But it was nice when people asked about my pets. Cats, dogs, and babies? It’s like cuteness overload!! Ask away!!

Jack & Lilu

Again, I don’t say any of this out of anger, nor do I think anyone had any ill intent, and I took nothing personally or was offended. The whole experience just made me become more conscious of what I say to people. It also made me think about how a hormonal and emotional returning mom could get upset while she was already missing her baby.

The idea of having to leave him every day still sucks. The feeling is almost physical, like a bungee cord attached to my throat that gets stretched and pulled and gags me as I leave him.  But the cord seems to be stretching, and coming home has never been so great. When I finally see him it’s like relief. I’ve always wanted to stay home because when I was a kid, I had terrible separation anxiety. I still do actually. There’s no doubt in my mind that the pulling in my throat and the instant relief when I leave and return to Jack is part of my anxiety. So I’m trying to be positive and look at the bright side again. My personal anxiety is one thing, but if I go back to work now, when Jack won’t really have any memory of it, I can prevent any lasting anxiety when he gets older and has to go to school. I don’t know how true that is, but it helps me deal with leaving him.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Now he’s starting to smile and laugh when I come to pick him up. The other day he was having a bottle when I walked in, and he immediately stopped eating, turned his face away from his bottle and to me, and gave me a huge smile and giggle. It was so awesome. I haven’t done much else then soaking up time with him. All I want to do when I get home and on the weekends is hug and play with Jack. I think the feeling is mutual. I know I’m spoiling him, but he doesn’t like to let me put him down when I’m home. I have to get cracking at some projects because his christening is coming up, and I have lots of cute DIY ideas for decorations and favors!

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Jack has also celebrated a lot lately: meeting his great-grandpa (Dziadek), his 3 month birthday, his first St. Patrick’s Day, his Daddy’s birthday, and his Mama’s birthday. He’s also figuring out how great Lilu is and how nice her soft ears are for touching.

On another adorable note, Buschk ran out after Lilu yesterday, and they immediately started playing peek-a-boo. What’d I say about cuteness overload!?


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