1. Don’t assume you know how we feel about going back to work, mmmmkay?
I once had a male colleague inform me that no woman returning to work after maternity leave actually wants to be there. On the contrary, Mr. Mansplain! After my first daughter was born, I spent my maternity leave miserable, jealous of all the cool opportunities I was missing out on at work. (I literally cried over how much I longed for work and adult companionship. So there, dude.)
With my second daughter, I was still ready to get back to it, though definitely not quite as gung-ho as with the first. My point: no two women share the same feelings or emotions when it comes to heading back to work. Some of us may be overwhelmed with guilt and sadness for leaving our baby. Others of us may be thrilled to ditch the kid and get back to the grind. Or we could fall somewhere in between, or be totally ambivalent, or— you see where I’m going with this, right?
2. Chances are we’re gonna cry at least once during our first week back.
Sad tears, happy tears, who-knows-why-we’re-even-crying hormonal tears … it doesn’t matter why they’re happening. If our office door is shut, or if you see us dabbing our eyes in the bathroom, give us a little privacy, or — if you’ve been through it too — offer a kind word. “Holy crap, it’s so hard and you’re doing great” works.
3. Don’t refer to maternity leave as a “vacation.”
Unless of course, you relax by having your vagina torn open by a human head, followed by a weeklong hangout in a sitz bath because your butt’s plagued with the worst hemorrhoids known to mankind, all while not sleeping for days at a time. Then, sure, be our guest.
Not only is maternity leave exhausting and hard, but many women receive no financial compensation from their jobs during that time. So it can be financially draining, on top of all the other challenges. Don’t drop the word “vacation” unless you’re offering to foot the bill for that mom’s next getaway.
4. Pumping at work is a pain in the ass.
Pumping breast milk during work is like a goddamn second job, no matter how great your company is at making it easy and accessible for moms. It takes precious chunks of time out of your workday, it’s physically and emotionally taxing (not only do you have to strap on your boob-sucking contraption and let it chomp away at your nipples, but it often triggers that emotional connection to your kid), and it requires you lugging a seven-pound pump and your cooler bag full of milk back and forth between work and home. If you see a new mom come flying into a meeting ten minutes late with an untucked shirt and two giant black bags slung over her shoulder, please skip the side-eye and instead bow your head in reverence. She is the hardest-working person in the room.
5. Working from home is not easier than going into an office.
“At least you work from home, so that’ll be easier,” says the well-meaning but totally wrong friend. Allow me to take a second to shout: NO, IT WILL NOT!
OK, yes, sure, you can work in your living room with your boobs out while you pump without worrying about your boss walking in. But there’s a whole different set of struggles and annoyances that come with a work-at-home job: getting distracted or overwhelmed by the endless home clutter encroaching on your workspace, the constant reminders of your baby, the loneliness that comes from working alone. Keep your comment to yourself and just offer to drop off some coffee and doughnuts instead.
6. We are the most tired that ever did tire.
Have you ever stumbled into work after an all-night bender? Cool, cool, so that’s basically what new moms are doing on a daily basis, without the awesome party the night before. But —
7. New moms are also superhumans who can function at full steam on no sleep.
Can working moms get a little more credit for the amount of stuff we juggle on no sleep, often with bodies that just months before created human life? We are literally crushing it — like the Terminator if the Terminator didn’t kill anything and had the occasional breast-milk stain on their shirt.
8. Re-entering the working world as a new mom is harder than anyone told us it would be.
For all the talk about how challenging the first few months of our kid’s life would be, no one really mentioned that returning to work as a parent would be its own separate struggle, one that would leave me feeling frazzled, brain-dead, and completely unsure of myself. Not to mention the guilt that comes at you from all sides, whether it’s worrying about leaving your kid or fretting over not conquering your workload at the office. If you’ve been there, please send a supportive email to that new mom in your office who just got back to work. She’ll appreciate it.
9. If it’s not a priority, we’re not doing it.
Time is now even more precious, what with our new baby waiting for us, and the aforementioned pumping sessions eating away at the workday. So, no, it’s not going to be wasted debating in Slack over what kind of sandwiches we should order for that lunch meeting. (Just get turkey and vegetarian and shut up about it, Jan!)
10. We leave on time now.
No more working until eight o’clock, or lingering around the office for hours after everyone else has left, just to check off that last thing on our to-do list. All those fucks I used to give hit the road the second my kid popped out. There was a very important bath time to get to and an even more important glass of wine waiting for me the second the baby was in bed. Cheers!