Socially Acceptable Responses To 'Thoughtful' Maternity Leave Questions You'll Hear At Work

by Deb Biondolillo
Originally Published: 
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Working moms-to-be, I know you’re tired. Aside from the burden of having to get up to pee every 20 minutes and that nagging pain in your lower back that has you shifting uncomfortably at your desk all day, there’s something else you have to deal with. It’s the not-so-thoughtful questions from your co-workers. If you’re like me, you probably want to tell them how you really feel, but I suggest you take a more socially acceptable approach.

Here’s what you might hear the week before your baby is due:

How will I survive when you’re gone?

Answer I’d like to give: Let’s look at it as a grieving process, if you will. When I’m gone, you’ll go through a bit of denial about my absence when shit hits the fan and you realize how much order I bring to the office. Anger will erupt when you realize I’m not here to do your small tasks and you can’t figure out how to edit a Word document. You may even need to bargain with other employees and bribe them to help you add a new event to your Outlook calendar. Depression will come next — I too would be depressed if I didn’t know how to edit a Word document. Finally, you’ll just have to accept it. It’s temporary — you’ll make it through 12 weeks. Listen, we’re in the same boat here so I suggest we both just figure shit out. How will I survive as a new mom? I have no idea what to do so I’m going to wing it, and I suggest you do too.

Polite Answer: If the step-by-step guide to my job that I created for you isn’t helpful, just ask Google.

Can I call you if I need to?

Answer I’d like to give: I’d prefer you not. I’m using the time I’m legally provided to enjoy the new life I created, and from what I hear, it won’t be easy for me to grab a work call while I’m changing diapers and cleaning spit-up. When that little new life is sleeping, my hot mess-self will be sleeping as well or trying to squeeze in a quick shower to feel like a person again. I think the better question is, if I go absolutely new-mom-stir-crazy and zero people are available to listen to my rant, can I call you if I need to?

Polite Answer: If you really have to, but I can’t promise I’ll be available to chat.

But the questions don’t end there. What about when you return to work? Yup, more comments and questions.

Wow, you almost look back to normal again.

What I’d like to say: My boobs have exploded, and I’m catching the leaking milk with nursing pads stuffed inside my sports bra as we speak. I’m still up 20 pounds from my pre-baby weight, and it’s going nowhere fast. I’m running on three hours of sleep, haven’t washed my hair in four days, and I threw on some mascara in the parking lot before I walked into work. I’d kill to wear sunglasses all day at my desk, and if I could talk to you through a permanent princess Snapchat filter, life would be grand. Not sure if you remember this part, but there was a life inside my body and I pushed it out. That happened. But yes, I suppose I’m happy to hear I look “normal” again.

Polite Answer: Define normal?

How was your break?

Answer I’d like to give: OMFG, it was so awesome! I relaxed and got my beauty sleep, I binge-watched every show on Netflix, learned a few languages, and then I traveled to a few different countries. So fab. Remind me to send you my Google Photos album so you can see all the pics from my raging 12-week “break” from work. P.S. I’ll break your face.

Polite Answer: Let’s chat about my break after your first baby arrives, mmmk?

How much time do you need to pump?

Answer I’d like to give: How much time do you need to take a shit? You don’t know, do you? One minute, 10 minutes, depends on the day, depends on the prior day’s meals, doesn’t it? The body is crazy like that! Just as crazy, there’s no timer on when my milk lets down, but I can promise you one thing, timing my pumping is not going to make it go any faster. And if you knock on the door while I’m pumping, I’ll stay in there for another 20 spite minutes.

Polite Answer: Assume an hour, and let’s hope less.

Want to hear about everything you missed while you were gone?

Answer I’d like to give: I’d love to. No, really, I would! I’ve really enjoyed being alone with my baby for three months. That time was amazing, and even though I feel like I fought a war, I wouldn’t change a thing. But having an adult conversation about something other than nursing and sleep schedules? I’m down. I can’t promise I’ll care about any of it because not many things in this world seem important to me at the moment besides the new life I created, but I’ll try really hard to pay attention. I also can’t promise my mom brain will follow half of your stories, because while you speak, I’m timing when to pump next, texting daycare to see how my baby’s doing, and Amazon-priming some fresh nursing pads to my doorstep.

Polite Answer: Absolutely. Tell me everything.

Gasp! Is that breast milk in the fridge?

Answer I’d like to give: Oh no, it looks like you forgot to order me an entire separate refrigerator to store my baby’s food. Whoopsy, you silly goose! By the way, it’s in a sealed container, but if its mere existence is offensive, I’d like to remind you that your week-old burrito in the same fridge is slightly more offensive. And if you continue to comment about it, I’ll just make sure to place it a littttle closer to your lunch tomorrow and every day after that for the foreseeable future.

Socially acceptable answer: Sure is! You spill it, you die! And make sure you use the regular milk in your coffee!

Can we grab drinks after work to catch up?

Answer I’d like to give: Do you have breast milk test strips? But in all seriousness, we just spent 8 hours together and 40 hours together all week…are you obsessed with me? I can summarize my last 12 weeks in 8 words: baby, shit, milk, sleep, tears, joy, pain, love. Sorry, but the second the clock strikes 5:00, I’m leaving to cuddle that baby and inhale his delicious baby scent into my soul for the rest of the night.

Socially acceptable answer: Kinda busy with this working mom stuff right now, but when I figure out how to juggle it all, totally.

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