I recently looked in my diary and realised that it had been exactly a year since I returned to work after my maternity leave. It seems like only yesterday that I left my precious 10-month-old in the care of strangers and went back into the world of work. In the weeks leading up to my first full time day I was having nightmares with images of my baby sitting sad and alone in a place similar to those Romanian orphanages we saw on TV in the nineties. How was my tiny little baby going to cope without her mother? Absolutely fine, it turned out (who needs mummy when the nursery has a huge ball pit with a slide into it?). I, on the other hand, was completely unprepared for the challenge ahead. I quickly realised that during my time as a full time mum I had lost a very important skill: how to socialise with other adults. Adult conversation is a fine art, one which is essential to your survival at work – in my case an office. To be honest I never truly mastered it before but after almost a year spent in the company of a tiny human, I found it difficult to expand my topics of conversation beyond rubber ducks and toes.
I had to learn the hard way, but you don’t have to. Just use this handy 10 step guide I created just for you:
- When you discover that you have accidentally brought your childs Fisher Price phone instead of your own mobile, just keep quiet and turn it off before anyone notices.
- Don’t assume that your colleagues are interested in the colour, smell and consistency of your child’s poo poo. They are not. Even if it was a really firm, brown one.
- Try to think of the blob of baby breakfast on your expensive (and clean-that-morning) top as a conversation starter. Everyone loves a good anecdote, especially one that involves warm porridge being catapulted towards your unsuspecting face.
- Tone down your enthusiasm for your hot mug of coffee just slightly. The third time you caress it and tell it how lovely and hot and strong it is, and how much you have missed it, people will start to worry.
- Try to avoid singing out loud the nursery rhymes you’ve got stuck in your head. Some of the rhymes are very catchy and you really don’t want to start a Wheels on the Bus epidemic in the office.
- Don’t mention the fact that you’ve only had a proper shower once this week. Adults care about personal hygiene.
- When your colleagues tell you about Friday night at the pub, do your very best to fake disappointment that you missed out. Pretend that you would happily have traded your one free hour on the sofa for sitting in a sticky pub watching your supervisor vomiting on her own shoes.
- When you finally give in to the pressure and find yourself in that sticky pub, go all the way. Dance on the tables, take your top off, sing loudly and vomit on your supervisor’s shoes. Then maybe they will stop pestering you about going to the pub.
- Resist the temptation to show your non-parent colleagues ten new pictures of your baby every day. She may be the cutest thing that ever walked the earth, but to them – as you might remember from before you had your own – all babies look the exactly same.
- When talking to your parent-colleagues, to avoid making anyone feel guilty, defensive, judged and angry, don’t mention subjects such as birth pain relief, breastfeeding, sleep training vs. co-sleeping, baby led weaning vs, purees, vaccination…in fact just don’t talk about your children. Nothing good will come of it.