“It must be bittersweet.”

“How are you holding up?”

“You poor dear.”

Seventeen of these. SEVENTEEN.

It was my first day back at work today. I got four “Welcome back!”s, and seventeen comments assuming I was in some way suffering, sad, or regretting my return to work.

Folks, I am ecstatic to be back at work. My situation is such that I could absolutely have taken a full year off – job security, financial security, general demands of life – I could absolutely have done it. I did not want to. I (and this bit is critical) chose not to.

It turns out my pre-parent self knew my parent self well enough to predict that even though I am a mom now, I am still happiest when I am able to be scientist too.

I love Spud to bits. He is the cutest, most fascinating, glorious little butterball of a baby there ever was. He makes my heart full, and my soul glow. He has a tooth and is trying his darndest to crawl – whole new ball games abound.

I am delighted that Pea has this chance to get to know him as well as I do. Today was a banner day for Spud and food (15.5 oz in 8 hours! Nary a spill from the sippy cup! Pea had to go into the freezer stash to satiate our child!). It was a brutal day for naps (two 40 min ones, with the second under protest and the third rejected outright. Spud is teething, and possibly also growing, and Pea didn’t know to use the  sleep sack). Still, all in all a good day!

I found it increasingly unsettling that my conversations at work always started with an assumption that I did not want to be there, gained friction when I asserted that I was very pleased to be back, and had a relaxation of tension when I mentioned Pea was home for the next while. “Oh, that’s nice, that must ease your mind.” “Oh, that’s all right then.”

Is it? Is it all right, this choice I have made about MY life and MY family and MY child? I’m so very pleased you approve, and made it so clear that you wouldn’t have if I had brazenly stuffed my child in the nearest daycare. Where, you know, the staff have actual experience and training with babies and have age appropriate toys, and are not just blindly winging it the way Pea and I generally are. I’m so glad you approve.

I’m a bit steamed. But I also had a really great day at work, and Pea and Spud had fun when Spud wasn’t refusing to nap, and Pea sent me my new favourite photo of both of the gorgeous men in my life (going for a walk. Pea looks delighted. Spud is making the most amazing “whaddafuk is going on and whodafuk is you?!” face). So never mind those commenters, today was a great day.


8 thoughts on “Assumptions

  1. countingpinklines

    *sheepish* I’ve definitely been guilty of some of those (at least the sort of “How are you holding up?” type questions). I would feel better about it if I was also asking the dad.

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      Yes – I know for a fact only one person asked Pea how he was feeling to be back at work, a fellow new parent. He was back at work fifteen days after Spud was born. If anyone needed hugs and pity, it was him!
      I’ve asked people if it feels strange to be back, but I don’t think I’ve actively pitied them. At least, I will try hard not to ever do it again.

      1. countingpinklines

        I have actively felt bad for a friend in one case – she went back to work at 6 weeks because that’s all she got and this was during her residency so she went right into a completely crazy schedule. And I think she wasn’t quite ready to go back but had to if she wanted to keep her career.

        Typically I ask if they’re managing ok (work+feeding/pumping+sleeping) but I have no idea if that’s appropriate. There’s usually a limited amount I can do to help in any case.

  2. Jill

    It’s hard to balance everything once you have kids! It’s so good that you love what you do enough that going back to work can be a happy time!!

  3. Mary

    I felt something similar. In fact, though I was entitled to a 4-month (or something like that) leave, I went back to work after 5 weeks because I really wanted to be back at work. Of course, I was bottle-feeding, so I just had to show where the bottles were and I was all set.

  4. rainbowgoblin

    Yeah. People are just judgey about parenting as they are about pregnancy. I’m sure it would be helpful to just let it wash over you, but I’m not sure how to do that.
    Our daycare is wonderful. I will freely admit that our kids get a much richer experience there than they would if they were home with me. As for paternity leave… We don’t have it here. I think I would have been jealous at the start of my maternity leave, but now I wouldn’t give back a second of the time I had. I also wouldn’t want a second more, mind you. I LOVE working again.

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      People are so judgey! It makes me realize how judgey I am, and try to make fewer assumptions about other people’s narratives. It is hard though, because obviously my narrative is the best narrative (ha).
      Pat leave is so critical for everything. Pea thinks the only way you get gender equality in hiring and pay is for it to be equally likely that a man or woman of reproductive age disappears for a standard gap of time because of a baby. Equal chance, equal disruption, equal everything else, and I’m inclined to agree.
      That said, he’s only taking the 12 weeks he was given rather than a full six months that he’s legally allowed (as I only took six of our potential year), so he’s not quite walking the walk. He got pushback from his manager about the length of the leave before Golden Company made it standard/fully paid, which was interesting. I got pushback for coming back early from a number of higher ups. So there is assumption-managing work to be done still.
      I also LOVE working. I am so much happier than I was at home.


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