"On my first day back one of my coworkers left flowers on my desk with a happy welcome back note. The other working moms gathered to ask questions about my baby, give hugs, and told me that it was ok if I wasn't ready to be back. They said to take it one day at a time and if I needed to cut back on my hours then the company would survive. They didn't necessarily have the power to grant me time away but what I heard was recognition (that this was hard), empathy, and that they would have my back if that's what I needed and if I had to fight for it. These things meant a lot to me. (In the end, I kept at it full time.)"
""Back at work myself just today and one lovely thing two of my colleagues did for me was give me a bouquet of flowers. They are moms, too, and said on their first day back from leave, they were given a bouquet so they were paying it forward with me and they were among the first two to pop in my office this morning. I had no idea how much that would mean to me and I've promised myself to do the same for the next mama in the office. I've always loved my job but I had no idea how much instantly closer I would feel to certain women in the office. Amazing."
Find allies / fellow moms/ mommy mentors:
"There were 2 other nursing moms when I went back to work -- at a company of about 20. It was great to commiserate and see how they handled things, especially since they were experienced moms. We even pumped together in the storage room!"
"I am a first-time mom who returned to work in April. I found it very nice to talk to other moms - even if I wasn't close to them - when I first got back as they understood how hard it was to be away from my son. I just appreciated the gesture of them saying, Come talk to me anytime, I understand. Sometimes I did take them up on the offer, other times it was nice just to have the support. I think it's good that you decided not to check in every day, though, as after a time it got too much with people asking how I was doing all the time, and sometimes it made me feel worse - in the beginning I found I couldn't really think about my son or I would start to cry."
"Email group to help new mom feel welcome…. Check in every few days rather than all the time. I'm going to check in with her now and then, as you all suggested, rather than every day. And my 4 colleagues are totally loving the idea. We use hipchat instant messenger a lot at work, and I created a private "moms" group on there - in the course of planning the gift bag, the five of us have already had some funny conversations on there. I made sure we talked about boobies and nipples right away, to break the ice. haha."
Have all co-workers bring their babies/ kids to work for a meet and greet:
"We all brought our babies by the office either on a day off or had a caretaker/partner bring them in. That helped too -- being able to show off the kid and have everyone else see this tiny person who demanded and compelled my time. I think that helped some of my coworkers who aren't yet considering parenthood and those way past childrearing to personalize my absence. It also swept aside any possibility that talking about the baby is taboo or poor form. The babies visited for maybe an hour, were passed around, oohed and aahed over, but weren't around long enough to annoy people. (I don't think!)"
"It's a lot easier to stay empathetic with someone at work when you remember they are people too, loved by their mom, son, grandma. And boy did I need the extra empathy when I got back to work! "
"On my first day back I ran into a woman who works on my floor who knew me vaguely, we don't work in the same department but were friendly. She asked me how the baby was and then she asked me how I was and I broke into tears! She reassured me that it would be ok. Just by her asking me how I felt made me feel so validated that this was going to be hard and that it was ok but I felt her support just with that little gesture. There aren't many moms in my department but the next time someone comes back from maternity leave I will make a point to at least make a small gesture of support. These all sound like great ideas!"
"Secondly, for "warm fuzzy things people said to me about going back to work": I got a lot of mileage when some one told me to allay my fears of my child forgetting me and loving the nanny more: "The more people your little one feels loved by, the better." I can now say, as my first one is 10, that with the second one, it was much easier to return to work because I knew from experience that having your child in daycare in no way diminishes his or her love for you."
Take her out to lunch:
"It think it would definitely be nice to offer to take her out to lunch. You can give her an out--an "I understand you might just feel too busy"--but one of the hardest things about being a working mom, at least for me, is the feeling of loneliness that being so busy and so stressed out can engender. Taking the time for a lunch can be really helpful."
and the argument not to take to lunch:
"You could do something organized or not. I think it depends on recipient. My friend who came back is private person and didn’t want people checking up on her all the time. But appreciated acknowledging her coming back and I told her if she has to cry its totally normal and any time she wanted to talk I am here for her. I would periodically stop in the first few days and weeks and talk to her about her daughter. Going out to lunch could be a good idea. It wouldn’t have worked for me because of the pumping I was pumping 2-3 times a day and just the feeling of coming back and being behind needing to catch up. I left pressure not to take lunches the first few months back."
Make a gift basket/ welcome bag:
"I have done things for new moms who have come back from maternity leave. I have made a basket of and left on their desk the first day."
Items to include in a gift basket/ welcome bag:
- mother's milk tea,
- raw almonds,
- dried fruit/nut mix,
- box of quick cook oatmeal,
- Cadbury chocolate bar,
- box of lansinoh breast pads ("I always wished I had an extra box at work!"),
- some healthy snacks
- fresh fruit
- giant water bottle with straw
- a box of tissues
- a card from all of us moms in the office.
- One thing I would add to the gift bag is a couple of extra pump bottles or at least a box of breast milk freezer bags - I forgot all but two of my pump bottles one day and had to buy a box of bags to make it through the day."
Decorate the "Mothers Room" if your office has one (and if it does not have one, lobby for one!):
No one really did anything specific for me, but when I got back, I decorated the "Mother's Room" (pumping area) with pics of all the mom-baby pairs that had benefited from that room, along with date of birth. I also posted information on breastfeeding/pumping (safety, hygiene, etc.) and some articles about working moms, and some fun breastfeeding memes. I'm looking forward to decorating the room some more, because it's kind of dark & grim. If other people had made the space really welcoming, that would have felt awesome. Also, consider stocking it with supplies like extra pump parts, milk bags, mints, breastfeeding tea, fenugreek tablets, etc. - and snacks if you don't have a pest problem.
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