Playing the Mommy Card at Work

Returning to work from maternity leave is a bittersweet time in your new life as a mom. Not only are you coping with the changes to your body and to your routine, but you have a new relationship with your baby. You will feel torn between your obligations at home and those to your employer. Take a deep breath, and understand that you can do this. It will just take a little planning on your part.

First, understand that life is not really about multi-tasking and “having it all.” The key is not in being everything to everyone, but in focusing on just one thing at a time, so that you give your very best to each role in your life. For example, when you are at home, be at home. Turn off your cell phone and do not check your work email. Don’t work at home unless absolutely necessary. Your family needs you to focus on being with them and relaxing. Conversely, when you are at work, be at work. Don’t call in to check on the baby and ask your caregiver not to call you unless it is an emergency. Keep the display of personal photos in your workspace minimal, and do NOT whip out the baby pictures unless specifically asked by a co-worker. Focus on your work so that your boss and coworkers see that you are as dedicated to your job now as you were before you became a mom.

Next, decide how you will handle the unexpected situations. Realize that although something may be “urgent,” it is not necessarily an “emergency.” Decide ahead of time which situations will require your immediate attention, and which can be delegated.

If your baby is sick, someone must take care of her. Unless you already have in-home care, the baby will probably need to stay home until well. Just remember that although you are both equally worried about a sick baby, in reality only one of you needs to stay home at a time. See if you can alternate who stays home with the baby until she is well. See if working from home for a few days is a possibility. This is one situation where you will probably need to play the Mommy Card, but teach your employer that although you will try to arrange for minimal impact on your work schedule, your child takes first priority.

When your baby has routine doctor appointments, you should not need to play the Mommy Card. Parent/teacher conferences also fall under this category. As these appointments are planned far in advance, so you have the opportunity to schedule them for a time when they will have minimal impact on your work schedule.

There will be times when you will be expected to work late. When you know about them ahead of time, you can plan accordingly. After all, you will have many opportunities to tuck your baby into bed, so you can afford to miss a few. When you have little notice, carefully weigh your options. If there is someone at home who can put the baby to bed for you, then you probably should not play the Mommy Card this time. However, if no one else is available, you have no other choice. Explain to your employer that your childcare situation requires you to be home by a certain time that night. Be prepared to remind your boss about other times when you have been able to stay late.

Being a mom is your most important job, but it is not your only job. You can meet your obligations both at home and at work by identifying your priorities ahead of time, taking each situation as they come on a case-by-case basis, and knowing when to play that Mommy Card.