When your pregnant colleague left the office 6 or 12 weeks ago, she was glowing and excited and happy to talk about all things baby in the spare minutes of her day. Now she鈥檚 back, looking slightly less glowy and carrying the world鈥檚 ugliest purse (her breast pump). Whether she鈥檚 back at work because she needs to be, or wants to be, or both, it鈥檚 wise to be a little sensitive to this transitional鈥攁nd challenging鈥攎oment in her career. Here are a handful of things not to say (and the thoughts that go through her mind if you do).


1. 鈥淥ooh! Are those pictures of your baby? Wow, she鈥檚 still so small!鈥 Yeah. I know. Too small to sleep through the night, too small to sit up. In almost every other developed country in the world, I would still be home with her while we both got to know each other a little better. But, God bless America, right?

2. 鈥淚 could never leave my baby to come to this place every day.鈥 You know, you might feel differently if you were worrying about how to pay for yet another $20 pack of organic, bleach-free diapers鈥攁nd college!

3. 鈥淚 scheduled that conference call for 6:15 p.m. The dial-in number is鈥.鈥 Let me tell you something about 6:15 p.m. It does not work for me. That is the time that I am trying to nurse my daughter, and order Indian take-out for dinner, and ask my nanny how many times the baby pooped today before she heads home, and make the bed that never got made this morning, and be on email JUST enough that our boss doesn鈥檛 think I鈥檓 mommy-tracking myself here. I am happy to do that call any time during the workday, even while I鈥檓 pumping. Or try me again after 9 p.m., when the baby is sleeping. Because I know you see me leaving at 5:45 p.m. and think that I am lame, but I鈥檓 plugged right back in after bedtime pretty much every night. And I鈥檓 okay with that because it allows me to do things like go to my child鈥檚 pediatrician appointments at lunch time.

4. 鈥淎re you sure you can handle that report now that you鈥檙e a mom?鈥 Yes. I had a baby, not a brain injury. I am just as capable as before, only now I鈥檓 more efficient.

5. 鈥淚 read this thing about how vaccines can cause a baby鈥檚 toes to grow together funny. Here, let me forward it to you鈥.鈥 No forwards. No email forwards ever. I will delete them immediately and put a hex on you for sending them, as I hardly have time to get through the emails that matter. Furthermore, on the topic of vaccines, I vaccinate my child because it鈥檚 safe, and it鈥檚 the right thing to do for the future of all children, including the ones you may be lucky enough to have one day. You鈥檙e welcome!

6. 鈥淢y older sister鈥檚 trainer has these magic crunches you can do to fix post-baby belly.鈥 Never ever say the words 鈥渂elly鈥 or 鈥減ost-baby鈥 to me again. But thank you for the helpful suggestion.

7. 鈥淎lso, my sister鈥檚 baby started sleeping through the night at 11 days old.鈥 Did you say something? Sorry, even my ears feel tired today.

8. 鈥淚鈥檒l just keep going on that project I took over for you while you were out. The client really liked working with me.鈥 Oh, wow. That鈥檚 really nice of you. I think. But while I鈥檇 love the help 鈥 and I truly appreciate your pitching in while I was out 鈥 do you think you could possibly rephrase that in the form of a question? Just so I can be sure you aren鈥檛 trying to steal my job from me? I know I鈥檓 paranoid, but it happens. Also, I really quite liked that project and was really looking forward to jumping back in on it. Since I鈥檓 here and not home with my baby and all.

9. 鈥淲hen do you guys think you鈥檒l have another baby?鈥 First of all, none of your business. Even though I may seem a little vulnerable right now, I am still your colleague, not exactly your friend. Secondly, are you kidding? My c-section scar still hurts!


10. 鈥淟et鈥檚 all go out for a drink after work to celebrate your return!鈥 Mmm鈥 G&T! Or maybe a glass of ros茅! That sounds exactly like what I need. So sweet! Plus, I鈥檇 love to catch up and get all of the office gossip from the past three months. But, oh. Right. I have to pick up my newborn baby at daycare just as they鈥檙e about to close for the evening and then sit in the parking lot and rip my shirt off and nurse her immediately or we鈥檒l never make it home without a total screaming attack in the carseat that will fry my nerves so much I鈥檒l rear-end the guy in front of me and the police will give me a breathalyzer even though I鈥檓 stone cold sober. So no. No drink, sorry.

11. 鈥淥ops, did you spill something on your shirt?鈥 You know, possibly. I鈥檓 running on three stints of 90-minute sleep from last night, so my hands are a little shaky. But honestly, I鈥檓 praying that what you鈥檙e seeing there is coffee and not breastmilk. Because wardrobe malfunctions have taken on a whole new meaning since I started needing breast pads. Yes, like pad pads, but round. So I鈥檓 just going to like not even look down.

12. 鈥淲hile you were out on leave I got a dog. He is so much work!鈥 Good for you. I respect that. But now that I am raising a tiny human I will never again see pets as 鈥渟o much work.鈥 By the way, if your dog ever gets sick and needs to go to the vet, please know that that鈥檚 okay with me and I鈥檓 happy to cover for you.

13. 鈥淥MG, I think your breasts got bigger since this morning!鈥 Well yes, yes, they probably did鈥ecause while you鈥檝e been sitting here in this endless meeting thinking about my breasts, I鈥檝e been thinking about them too. They are about to burst. But I鈥檓 really glad that we could make so much delightful smalltalk at this meeting! Yay! Day鈥檚 just flying by.

14. 鈥淲hy do you always have that 鈥榙o not enter鈥 stickie note on your door? It鈥檚 a little anti social.鈥 Really? Come in. Be social with me and my pump. I double D dare you.

15. 鈥淥ne day I want to have it all too. Can you tell me how?鈥 Honestly? I haven鈥檛 yet figured out the answer to that question myself鈥鈥檓 just too busy doing it! And hearing you ask makes me feel kind of naked. It鈥檚 hard right when you come back to work after having a baby; you feel like you鈥檙e never doing your best at everything all the time. But mostly, I just feel grateful to have all of the good things in life that I do. I don鈥檛 have the answers for you鈥nd while I鈥檓 flattered you鈥檇 ask, the best thing you can do at the moment is just keep working hard and being thoughtful of the people above you and below you on the food chain. And we鈥檒l do the same for you when it鈥檚 your turn.

Did you recently return to the office from maternity leave? What鈥檚 been the biggest struggle for you? Share with us in the comments below.

This was originally published on LevoLeague by Lauren Smith Brody