What Not To Say to Someone Returning from Maternity Leave

It’s been a year since I returned back from maternity leave. Yup, a little over a year ago, I was starting to figure out daycare drop off and pickups, our new routine, and how to juggle life as a now working mom.

So, now that I’ve been there – and survived – here are some tips on things NOT to say to someone returning from maternity leave:

How was your vacation?

Believe it or not, people have asked this. Or said something similar, like, “How was your time off?” While I was very grateful for my FMLA-esque time at home, it was hardly a vacation or time off. In the beginning, FW didn’t realize that he was supposed to sleep at night, so he’d be sleeping during the day and then up at night. And then when he finally did start sleeping at night, it would be for 2-4 hours at a time. Also, I was breastfeeding (and newborns eat about every 2 hours from the time they start eating), which meant that an average morning went like this:

  • 7 a.m. wake up when baby wakes up.
  • 7:15 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. feed baby.
  • 7:50 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. burp/dress/change baby.
  • 8:20 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. put in a load of laundry.
  • 8:35 a.m. – 8:50 a.m. change baby into new clothes because he spit up all over himself. Luckily, laundry just started, so I can throw the dirty onesie in there.
  • 8:50 a.m. – 8:55 a.m. think about eating breakfast … but am interrupted by hungry baby crying.
  • 9:15 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. feedbaby. Repeat cycle. Except this time baby likely has a diaper blowout. 💩

Let’s just say it wasn’t much of a vacation 🙂

How are you planning on losing the baby weight?

Yes, I was also asked this. While not directly commenting on my new mom bod, it’s NEVER appropriate to ask a coworker this.  Or comment on anyone’s body- especially someone who has just given birth.

It must be so nice to be back and with adults again!

Sometimes, yes. But most days would I like to be home, snuggling with my little baby? Yes. Adults aren’t always as cracked up as they should be.

It must be so nice to get a break from the baby!

Wait, was that you said? I couldn’t hear you – I was halfway falling asleep at my desk and also thinking about the diapers, bottles, milk, etc. that I need to buy before heading to daycare pickup, while also calculating how much longer we can have this conversation before I can figure out a polite way to excuse myself to go pump. While I may not physically be with my baby, it didn’t really feel like I was  getting a break.

a selfie a few days before returning from maternity leave

I’m tired.

When I first went back to work, my average night’s sleep was awful. Some nights, FW would be up at 9, 11, 3, 5 and nurse for 30ish (at least) minutes each time …. Meaning I got 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time, if that. No, I’m not saying you’re not tired, I’m just saying I had no idea what tired meant until I had a newborn at night and then had to function as a working, professional adult during the day.

So glad you’re back – we’ve been waiting on you for [insert names of 7 projects].

While it’s nice to feel needed, it’s also nice to get back into the swing of things slowly. I’m not saying you need to give working moms a break and be easier on them, but the first few weeks I was back, were HARD. I was tired (see: aforementioned lack of sleep) during the day and it was hard for me to work on my couch at night like I often did before FW.  I had serious mom brain some days. And, weekends became much more precious – they were time I longed for to spend with my new family. So, when I had to some of the first weekends that I was back, it was hard. If you know a mom recently back from maternity leave, at least tell her how much you appreciate her being back and understand her new schedule – and priorities – may be a little different.

So what CAN you say to a mom who’s back from maternity leave? Here are 3 things I’d recommend:

  1. You look GREAT! (I don’t care if she hasn’t lost any baby weight or looks like she hasn’t slept since giving birth … we all need to hear it sometimes!)
  2. We missed you so much! It’s nice to feel the love at the office, especially when you’re missing your baby!
  3. Here’s _____ for you and your family! (where ___ = healthy dinner, gift card for dinner delivery service, diapers, a frozen dinner, etc. Basically anytime someone dropped off dinner – or diapers! – they were my new favorite people. )

Please note – I am INCREDIBLY lucky to have an amazing group of coworkers who for the most part are supportive and understanding. But not everyone is so lucky. AND note that I do not speak on behalf of all recently-returned-to-work women. All women are different. Some may enjoy talking about their post-baby bodies. Some may have felt like their time off was a vacation. So please take these as suggestions and think how you’d like to be treated as well.

Note: These random thoughts are part of the Thinking Out Loud linkup. 

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