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.”
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.
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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.
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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.