Hey Childless Coworker!
After four months spent keeping a baby alive, I have emerged blinking like a newborn myself back into the florescent office light. It’s great to see you. I’m happy to be back. Since I’ve been on maternity leave, stuff around here hasn’t changed much, but I have. So I’m going to let you in on some things:
1. I don’t want to go to lunch with you. I would love to take a two-hour lunch and order a few beers like the old days. I really would. But two hours in the middle of the day is time I just don’t have. I’ll totally hit up the food court on a slow day with you, but I’ve got to run to Target. Meet you at Chipotle in like 18 years.
2. There’s a pump in the backpack. Yes, three times a day I schlep my backpack upstairs, plug in an electric pump, strap plastic tubes to my nipples, and pump out 5 ounces of white gold. So don’t ask, “What’s in the backpack?” unless you want me to get real technical.
3. I’m leaving at 5:00. Forget waiting around till 6:30 to look like I’m busy. By 5:06, I’m in the passing lane pushing the speed limit in the name of getting home for bath time. I’ll be back online at 7:31 waiting for my marching orders. Go ahead, ask me to do something. I’m not sleeping anyway.
4. Just because I love my kid doesn’t mean I want to talk about him in the hallway. Yes, it was hard leaving my defenseless infant with a nanny for eight hours after four months of feeding him for every single meal. Yes, I ugly-cry on the commute and in the pump room. Yes, I feel a huge wave of guilt whenever any dude mentions that his wife stayed home because she felt the “mother instinct” as if I don’t. Yes, more than anything else I want to turn back around and drive home to squeeze those chubby cheeks. But, no, I don’t want to talk about it in the hallway outside of the fourth-floor men’s room. Let’s just not.
5. This feels like the spa. So please don’t complain to me about work. Eight hours of Zen in an ergonomic chair sans vomit? Spa.
6. I really am working from home. When there’s no watercooler talk or drawn-out meetings taking up your day, there’s nothing left to do but work. So yes, I can get that project done on time. Yes, I can hop on that conference call. Yes, I still pay my nanny to come because (gasp) I’m working.
7. I’ve got something to prove. I’m more focused than ever, and I’m better than I was before the baby. I’m a multitasking force to reckon with, more efficient than ever with a long distance bullshit detector. I’m back and refreshed, and I appreciate my job. I even like it better than I remembered I did.
8. It’s really great to see you. I’m so happy to talk to someone who isn’t interested in my milk supply. Carrying on an adult conversation feels almost as good as it does to wear pants that button. Just don’t be insulted if I have to cut it short.
So, next time you see me lugging my backpack to the fourth floor, let’s keep the small talk minimal. Just know that I’m going through a wonderful/terrible, happy/sad, welcome/forced change, and please, for the love of nap time, don’t ask, “What’s in the backpack?”