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She's Back

Today I had to leave this little raccoon butt behind because it was my first day back to work from maternity leave. Surprisingly, the most excruciating part of my day wasn’t leaving my infant, it was watching my toddler, Gus, cry at the front door because I couldn't play cars with him. I knew it would be hard, but it was a different kind of hard than I expected.

I didn't cry because I had to go back to work, I want to be at work. In fact, I am a much better mother, wife, and member of society when I have a purpose outside of the home. I cried because I felt like I broke his little heart (and then he was distracted by waffles and my leaving no longer mattered). Every mom struggles with different aspects of returning to work from defining their new role or fitting into work clothes with her postpartum mom bod to dropping her newborn off at daycare. Whatever that struggle might be, we all have a different set of needs. What we shouldn’t have to struggle with is knowing whether or not we are needed in our new roles.

I would like to bet that most moms would have an easier time returning if work wanted us back as much as our kids want us to be home. It's amazing how the experience of coming back to work can shape whether or not you want to be there, how much you as an individual value the organization you are in. When you are welcomed back with open arms, when you have people who reach out and tell you they are excited to have you back and others who are continuously thinking about how you can further serve the organization, then you feel like you have a purpose for being where you are. I've told you before and I'll tell you again: People want to feel a sense of belonging. They want to know they have a place. It takes little to no effort to say, "Welcome back!" or to setup a 15 min touchpoint to discuss next steps.

I spoke to a girlfriend of mine who recently returned from maternity leave. She was in contact with her organization throughout her leave and weeks before she returned one of her Managers told her, "We don't know what we are going to have you work on." To a postpartum mother who still has a craze of emotions running through her veins that could sound like, "You might no longer have a place here.". Ouch! It doesn't matter what was meant by the statement, it's how it is interpreted. We can never forget how much our words matter.

If you are a manager with an employee returning from maternity leave, I would encourage you to make certain you get a meeting on the new mama's calendar for that first day back (even if it is just to say Hi and ask how the little babe is doing). If you don't know what you are going to have them work on then tell them what you do know. Tell them what you are doing to find a place for that individual. Remind them how valuable they are to the organization and that this lull in no way reflects their value. Have a few tasks identified so they feel productive on their first day back. Make some sort of effort to connect with them, but don't let some of your most valuable players sit on the sidelines wondering if they made the wrong decision to come back. 

If you love my blog posts, then I encourage you to purchase a children's book to help give back to working moms: A Stay-at-Home Dad?