It doesn’t seem that long ago but it was about 2 years ago that I returned to work after having my little man, and I hadn’t realised how hard it would be to return to work after a year off (well year off as much as it can be changing nappies, clearing up vomit, sterilising bottles till your hands feel like sandpaper and rocking a baby that won’t go to sleep alone or without white noise!)
An old colleague once said that she thought she’d have another baby because she fancied a year off, really? I’m sure you could just take a year out without having a baby, not only that…is it really much of a break????
When I did go back to work, I was fortunate enough that a part time colleague left so I managed to slide into that part time role. There was a temp in the office who was covering my former job, but didn’t really get to know her that much because she didn’t stay for long after and she was up the other end of the office. She seemed pleasant enough?
I struggled a bit when I came back to work, admittedly I missed my little boy and I still do now when I’m at work (even though most days he makes me feel the need to drink wine and eat chocolate). But the hormones and the change in lifestyle and routine was hard, luckily I had colleagues that were supportive to me and extremely understanding of the situation and a couple of them were mums themselves. I did have moments where I felt like I’d missed out on things at work because I worked two days a week, but that came with the territory and I just had to accept and get used to it.
But I had a moment the other day when discussing with another mum who had recently returned to work after maternity, to her job. (You may wonder, ok that sounds normal). But apparently when she returned to her job (remember she was fragile and hormonal and as I said before I was lucky enough to have an understanding and supportive team and manager) BUT when this mum returned, she had a temp that had been covering her responsibilities (on a higher salary may I add which she later discovered). The boss then told her that apparently the temp had done an excellent job, and yes the mum returning to work was grateful for that but it didn’t stop there. Her boss felt the need to tell her how great she was at the job, she had more knowledge than most of the office and could probably run the office, she literally could not stop praising the temp! Yes yes yes, the temp was great she filled the position blah blah blah, but did the boss think that maybe it was a little off to keep praising her the week the mum comes back?? Again, hormones????
I wanted to hug this woman who had just opened up about it, because I felt bad for her and also because yes, this is something that everyone should be thinking about when they have a member of staff on maternity leave. Sooooo here I have devised some ideas of what you can and cannot say when member of staff that returns to work after being on maternity leave.
- First the most important one to say is; it is so good to see you and have you back in the office. You could even go as far as to say I’ve missed you.
II. One of the first things my boss said when I came back was; I have missed your sense of humour. Ok, that mum may not have a sense of humour, but you could find something else about her….it might not be humour, politeness perhaps? It could be positivity or even efficiency?? Remember you’re giving her a confidence boost that would probably make her perform her job so much better and would make her feel so much happier and better about herself.
Drei. Some mums do return to work part time, I was lucky enough to do so, BUT one thing that really got my goat (baaaa) was someone actually said to me in the office one week; well you’re alright because you’re part time. Do you think I look alright?? Because I feel like crying most of the time because of the guilt I feel spending at work when I should be with my baby!!! (ok that was a bit too personal, but you get my drift yes?)
IV. The advice, don’t feel the need to give a new mum advice, you are work colleagues not friends or family (unless you’re particularly close or she even asks you). This didn’t happen to me, but a friend of mine was in tears at one point because her colleagues had said to her toughen her up and let her cry herself off to sleep because she had once been asked how her little girl was and she’d mentioned that she’d had a tough night with her sleeping. Ironically, the lady that gave her the advice and never had children and didn’t know that actually, that little girl that had been crying had colic.
And finally; Cinq! I’ve heard this one quite a lot too, when the mum returns to work and on seeing people from the company that work in different departments they say; Oh I thought you’d left! I know some of these people you don’t see often but a lot of these people don’t think about what they’re saying. If you are about to return to work after being on maternity leave and you’re a tad anxious…..stay away from those you didn’t deal with much before, unless of course they knew you were off having a baby!
This wasn’t just a rant, it was one of those lightbulb moments that I wanted to share. I really feel that this is a lot of common sense but maybe should be passed around in companies, to individuals who think they know what to say and do when a mum returns when in fact they don’t. I dedicate this blog (cheesy I know but I’m passed caring now) to the mums who are about to or have returned to work and their teams, managers or employees didn’t make them feel welcome. The ones who felt that all they wanted to do was go back home and crawl into bed and cry after being back at work the first few days. The ones who came back after a year and felt like they didn’t know their place, the ones who work at home and at work, but you only get paid for the work at work.
If you’re a manager or you’re in a team and you have someone on maternity leave right now, please remember reading this.
And if you don’t, then screw you, hopefully that new mum will find another job!