3 Awkward Conversations Every Mom Has When She Returns to Work | Working Mother

3 Awkward Conversations Every Mom Has When She Returns to Work

Here's how to deal with your co-workers' questions and snubs.

dumb question

Yes, your co-worker really did just say that.


“Transparency” is a big buzzword in corporate America right now, from 360 reviews to all-glass offices (so convenient when you’re pumping breastmilk, right?). In my new book, The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby, I shout the concept on almost every page: Don’t hide your motherhood at work! Be open about the challenges and struggles that new parents face when they come back to work—you will change your workplace culture for the better. You will!

But (there’s always a but), that doesn’t mean you necessarily should say everything that’s on your mind, especially when other people around you might have forgotten to take their sensitivity vitamin that morning. Never fear! Here’s your cheat sheet for three steam-out-the-ears moments.

WHEN YOUR COLLEAGUE SAYS: “Oh, don’t you miss your baby?”

YOU THINK: Waaah!! Oh my God, of course I do, you insensitive fool—I was just starting to focus on the work in front of me, and thank you so much for pulling me right back into conflicted/distracted mode.

...BUT YOU SAY: “You know, yes I do. But when I was home I missed this part of me, and I’m glad to be back.”


WHEN YOUR BOSS SAYS: “Let’s have your colleague see that project of yours through since she handled it while you were out.”

YOU THINK: But wait! I’m back! And I’m having this awful feeling that she might be better at that project than I am ... especially since I now have to leave at six on the dot, and, oh my God, what if I’m never able to “lean in” again?

...BUT YOU SAY: “That makes sense. I’m here to help if she needs it, and in the meantime, what can I take off of your plate?”


WHEN YOUR DIRECT REPORT SAYS: “How on earth are you doing it all?”

YOU THINK: Honestly? I have no effing idea.

...BUT YOU SAY: “Honestly, I have no effing idea, but I’m awfully happy for your support and help, and please know that I’ve got your back for anything you might need in your personal life, too!”



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