Inside: The first day back to work after maternity leave coming up? It’s exciting, scary, sad – the whole kitten caboodle of emotions. Here’s how to get by as you return to work on day one!
Tomorrow is my best friend’s first day back to work after maternity leave. I wrote this for her because years ago a friend made my first day back to work exponentially better by way of the written word and some good jokes.
Are you going back to work after maternity leave soon? Put this one in your back pocket, mama. It’s going to be alright.
On the First Day Back to Work Hot Mess Express
Tuesday, May 26, 2015 was my first day back to work from maternity leave after my son, Jack, was born.
I remember this day vividly for a few reasons, not the least of which are the brutal ugly tears I cried on the way into the office. You can look forward to going back to work and feel like total garbage on your first day as a working mom, turns out. It’s complicated.
Vision blurred and already feeling some chafing from professional office-appropriate footwear, the day did not start off well. Then I got into the office and cried some more as I put pictures of my sweet little dude up on the wall. The waterworks continued the first time a coworker dared to say “Becca! Hi!”
I was a mess.
Working Mom Guilt
At the same time, this was a choice I had made.
I wanted to go back to work after maternity leave. I genuinely did miss it while I was home and looked forward to getting back to academic calendars, staff meetings, and eating my lunch whenever I wanted. The feeling that I wanted to be there made it almost harder somehow.
On top of all that mom guilt, I felt like I sort of forgot how to work.
What is my email password? How do I walk in heels without looking like an injured baby deer? Do I sign this email “Love, Becca” or is it “Best regards”? Who’s that new girl? What does that acronym mean? Oh sweet Lord, we’re supposed to do math here???
Also, I definitely hugged a coworker that day whom I should not have hugged. We weren’t that close. It was an instinct since the past three months I had been around other hormonal first time mothers who all needed hugs. It’s taken me nearly four years but I think we’re cool now. She’s a mom too, so I’m sure she got it.
Have a Friend Like Cathy, Be a Cathy
But the real reason I remember the day I went back to work after maternity leave so clearly is because of a former coworker and experienced mom who knew EXACTLY how to get me through day 1 after baby.
Jokes. Lots and lots of jokes.
Cathy and I worked together for three years before her family moved away. Thanks to the glorious internet age we kept in touch by email and the occasional Facebook shout out.
I could always count on Cathy to help me convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, remind me of Canadian holidays, and to be the ultimate truth-teller. Before I had Jack she was the only one to tell me that I might be really sad after having a baby, and that was okay as long I made sure I talked about my feelings.
Have a friend like Cathy, be a Cathy.
As a mom of two, Cathy also knew that the first day back to work can be tough on the head and the heart. She had gotten to know me quite well over the years and understood that if anything was going to keep me powering through the day it was going to be laughter.
Mom’s Got Jokes
At 8:32 am that first day back in the office, Cathy sent me this email:
Subject: Question 1
Q: What did one mushroom say to the other mushroom?
A: You’re a fun guy.
That was it. No other context. It was perfect.
At 10:50 am, Cathy sent me this email:
Subject: Question 2
Q. Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom?
A. Because the “P” is silent.
This woman had jokes queued up for the ENTIRE DAY. Every two hours a new one would pop into my inbox to keep me smiling, to keep me distracted, and to let me know that someone out there totally understood what going back to work after maternity leave felt like.
Mom’s Got More Jokes
Do you need some more jokes? Cathy’s got you covered.
Q. What do you call a cow with no legs?
A. Ground beef
Q. Why do bicycles fall over?
A. Because they are two-tired,
Q. What’s Forrest Gump’s password?
And last but definitely my favorite:
I went to the zoo the other day. It was empty, except for a single dog….
It was a Shih Tzu.
You’ve Got This, Working Mom
I know the first day back to work after maternity leave can be tough. Just know that you’re not alone in feeling sad, or happy, or confused that you are both sad and happy.
You have been through a lot the last few weeks or months, so there’s going to be some transition time. That’s okay.
But keep going knowing that whatever choice you make, you are making the exact right decision that you know how to make for yourself and your family.
And to make it all a little easier, keep laughing every chance you get.
Oh and to Cathy, you are a rock star and a legend.
And to Kel, I love you and you’ve got this. (P.S. Check your email tomorrow.)