Ok boro mama,Something I have been thinking about is this. How can I best support my mommy friends who are nearing the end of their maternity leaves? I have two friends who are getting ready to return to work, and I’d like to be of help to them somehow, as well as to those who have already returned (love you!). I’m thinking not just of kind words or emails, but beyond that. Can you offer me some advice on what might be helpful, inspiring, consoling, etc? Something that might be a token or item the mama could use or look at throughout the workday that would help? I don’t know… Just some way to be a support to the mamas who are away from their babies?Thanks lady. 🙂Laurie
I have been pondering your question for a while now – this is a tricky one! Going back to work has been excruciating – I often feel as if I’m going through the day with that strange feeling that you know you’ve forgotten something at home, but can’t figure out exactly what. Those are the good days. On most days, I’ve got a knot in my stomach – like the one you might have if your BFF/Significant Other emails you at work to say “We’ve got to talk tonight, but I can’t tell you about what”, and it’s 9am. I’ve given up trying to sugar coat it – my heart permanently broke a little bit when I had to stop being with Marley all day and now I’m just trying my very best to be a grown-up about the whole thing. 🙂
How to help the moms that are going back to work or are back to work already? Whew. I will do my best to talk about what has helped me a little bit, but as with most things about parenting, what helped me might not be suitable for everyone out there. I sure hope I can help!
- Don’t underestimate your “kind words and emails”! There were a handful of folks who made a point of consistently checking on me during the first week. Whether it be via phone, email, text, whatever – it was very comforting to know that people cared how I felt about this process and asked if I was okay. Someone even sent me a hand-written note, which I keep up at my desk to look at every day still. 😉
- Be mindful of potentially hurtful or insulting questions/statements about her work or personal situation. Let it be noted that you, dear Laurie, are not guilty of ANY of these, but for the benefit of all readers I shall kindly provide a small list of things to NOT say to your friends who are going back to work. Yes, I have heard all of these, and please forgive the bitter tone:
- “Why are you going back?” – This one is pretty obvious, folks. Take a wild guess and I bet you’ll come up with the answer. She is probably going back because she has to, because she can’t afford not to. This is not something she feels like repeating over and over again.
- “Aren’t you worried about the baby, going to daycare that YOUNG!?” or “Do they really have daycare for babies that YOUNG!?” – Your friends are all too aware of how young their babies are, and how quickly the transition to work has crept up on them. Indeed, they have likely read some horrifying research statistics published by La Leche League or the like, and are already frightened of leaving their babies. These questions do not help in the effort to work through the feelings of guilt and apprehension.
- “Can’t you just work part time?” or “Isn’t daycare too expensive?” – Chances are, your friends are not complete nincompoops, and have therefore already appropriately researched and considered all possible work/baby situations. Not all women make the same amount of money (or less) as daycare costs, and if your friends are at all like me they are very uninterested in having a discussion about private financial matters with random curious parties.
- “Well, I just couldn’t do it” – This one is the worst. SAHMs – please don’t say this to your working mom friends. I “couldn’t do it” either. It is rather likely that your friend is equally attached to her baby and believes it will be impossible to leave baby all day every day. My husband had to practically carry me out of that daycare the first day. I am not somehow a “harder” person than my SAHM friends, I just did what I had to do because I had to. Period.
- One thing that has helped me a lot is having a lot of different pictures of Marley around. This helps with pumping and just for comfort. If you are good at collages or other such crafts, you could get access to photos of the baby and make something for her desk/purse, etc.
- This last thing is a suggestion for any working mom readers out there…. get involved in charities affecting women and children. I have been involved in a charity called Women for Women International for about 2 years now. I have a “sister” in the Congo named Jeanette. As her sister, I provide financial aid and enrollment in a comprehensive program for women in war torn countries in which she learns job skills and receives women’s rights education. As my sister, she provides me with courage and a healthy dose of perspective. When I find myself feeling sorry or lonely, I read my letters from her (in which she explains that she is fortunate enough to have access to running water 3km away for her 4 children) and feel humbled and grateful for the life I am providing for my family. I plan to become somehow involved in Unicef in the near future, as well. Feeling connected and somewhat useful to much less fortunate mothers around the world has kept me afloat. This is a big world we live in, and there is a lot to be grateful for – especially my happy and healthy family. 🙂
Thanks for writing, Laurie! Thank you for wanting to help. 🙂