Lean Towards Me: How To Support A Mom Returning To Work

So what’s the best way to support a mom who’s returning to work after a maternity leave or extended time off with her children?  Sure you can check in on her, offer your support, give her a rousing pep talk, but sometimes what she needs is a big, fat honking lie.  Yes, a lie.  If not a lie, then maybe she just needs you to keep your trap shut while she works out her new reality for herself.

I practiced the art of compassionate lying with a friend who’d recently returned to work.  You can read about it here.  The short version is that I ran into her and she told me all about how her baby was refusing the bottle.  How she “wouldn’t touch it.”  Thing is, I had seen the baby with my own two eyes guzzling a bottle.  Seriously.  She was like me with a glass of water after a Saltine cracker binge.  But I didn’t correct her.  So maybe that wasn’t a lie so much as a chance to let her have the reality she needed without barging into it with my “observations.”

Who wants to be this alone upon returning to work? Image credit: Wikipedia commons

Who wants to be this alone upon returning to work? Image credit: Wikipedia commons

How else can you support a working mom?

I guess you could point her to this blog so she could have something entertaining to do while she pumps at work or takes the train to the office.  You could tell her that it’s cheaper than downloading a book and easier on the eyes than people watching in a metropolitan area.

You could give her a gift certificate to Ann Taylor or Victoria’s Secret, depending on how formal her office is.

Messages are nice (text, not voice).  Extra Ambien or Zoloft you aren’t using might be appreciated.  A Coach briefcase.  All of those are great, but for me, what I wanted was someone to listen, to empathize and to tell me that I’d find my footing.  I was DYING for someone to assure me it was OK that it might take a while to find my groove again.  (Turns out it took me 5.3 months to feel human as a working mom again).  If you can offer that (and a tip on where to get killer ballet flats for a fraction of the cost), then forget about your friend, come reassure me!

As for Leaning In, I’m generally all for it, but I want my working mom friends to also lean towards me.  Tell me how you made partner (and that it still sort of sucks even when you have a corner office).  Tell me how you found the right combination of nanny-daycare-family support.  Lean in to my office and tell me about the great article by Brene Brown you just read.  Give me a book recommendation (then tell me how the hell to find time to read a damn book).

Because, honestly, the worst part of all of this was the loneliness.  The long, terrifying hours of working while still rusty and wondering if I’d ever get my mojo back.  Those sucked.  The lunch hours I was afraid to crawl out of my office into the sunshine because I was afraid I would either (1) think about my children and choke on sobs while eating a sandwich, or (2) leave the building and never come back to face all my terrors.

Lean In all you want, ladies.  Please just also lean towards me so I won’t feel so alone.

* * *

This week I came across more inspiring posts about how other mothers are using their time to fit it all in.  I love seeing how other people make the minutes count.  Check these out:

Kristen over at Motherese nails her schedule down for us.

Icecream Mama has a ball with her schedule too.

Erin Margolin’s making the most of her morning and just reading it makes me want to take a long nap.

* * *

If you care to share a work story, inspiration or rant, you can do so here. Every Friday, we talk about work, balance, and busting through the glass ceiling one fist at a time.


21 thoughts on “Lean Towards Me: How To Support A Mom Returning To Work

  1. We are all struggling in our own ways, doing the best we can to keep our heads above water. It reassures me to hear you found your footing, but of course i just assume you are far better and wiser than me and I may just stay feeling this lost forever.


    The lonliness, yes. Most days Im just glad to get a “hello” and dont need my friends to have the right or perfect thing to say. Although intel on where to get ballet flats at 50% off would be IDEAL.

  2. i’m so happy for a little time to myself to just read or write. and i agree, just a text hello check in is so nice. but if anyone would like to do my laundry… well, i won’t stop you…

  3. I have no clue what “Leaning In” is all about, but I can lean toward you and give you a virtual hug! I was never a SAHM, but I have been laid off twice since my oldest was born. Those periods of unemployment were both a curse and a blessing, because although they made our finances crazy, they gave me more time with my kids. Going back to work after those was always bittersweet.

  4. I have loved reading your thoughts on going back to work, and what it has meant for you and for your family. I’m not a working mom yet, but I definitely will be, hopefully soon, and I think all the time about how it will look and feel, and what it will mean for me and David, and for the family we want to have. There are so few female lawyers at my firm who are where I eventually want to be, and it’s sometimes pretty discouraging. I admire so much what you’re doing, and the courage you have to say “it sometimes sucks, but lets work together to make it work as well as we can.” Thanks for blazing this trail that I really, really hope to follow.

  5. You are not alone!! I am not a mom, but I think all women should lean in and support each other, no matter their circumstances regarding children. I think just taking the time to connect with each other – sincerely, really connect – to listen, to support and encourage each other is important. We gals gotta stick together!

    ** Also, regarding my not being a mom – even still, I LOVE your blog! You make me think and laugh laugh! 🙂

  6. One of the things I love about your blog is that you don’t make it seem like it’s all fun and games all the times. It’s hard to be a parent, it’s hard to be a woman in the working world, and it’s really hard to do both. Leaning on friends is essential. Thank you for talking about this.

  7. Aw! I love this post!! This is the way it’s supposed to be. We’ve got to support each other. Period. Then end. It makes life better.
    “lean in toward me so I don’t feel alone” AMEN!! –Lisa

  8. Outlaw Mama! You’re doing awesome and if you made it thru the day without cursing the very offspring that you passionately love (Motherhood is a conundrum like that) then high five, fist pump, fancy coffee drink, wine, margarita – (whatever you pleasure). I had a moment of awakening the other day at my work when a coworker was having a rough day and I told her I was really proud of her for showing up and not telling off the last caller. It sounds silly, but we need the little bits of encouragement to keep going! I too, upon returning to work, loved those that just listened, brought me food, and hung out with me while I cycled loads of laundry, or scrubbed my toilet.

  9. So much wisdom here – from restraining ourselves from sharing our “observations” (I’m totally guilty of seeing someone’s sharing their concerns as an invitation to share my own story) to inviting other women to lean in and let us know how they’ve made it work. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all spend a little more time propping each other up and a little less time reading articles about how we’re cutting each other down?

    (Thanks for the link love, by the way!)

  10. Pingback: Define “best and brightest” | MaNNaHaTTaMaMMa

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