When I came back to work after 10 weeks of maternity leave, my co-workers, teammates, and friends signed a “Welcome back!” card.
They gave me a grace period to catch up on emails and remember where I was and what I needed to do.
They asked me about the baby, and about my older boy, and about me.
But the thing I keep thinking about is bagels.
My manager detoured to my favorite local deli that first day and picked up a bag of fresh bagels, along with schmears, for my triumphant return to the office. She celebrated me with carbs and cream cheese. She remembered what I liked, and she made me feel like I was a necessary, loved part of the team by remembering that.
She sent an email alerting our team that I was back. She set meetings for us to catch up. She told me how glad she was to have me back in the office. She let me be for a few days, absorbing 10 weeks of missed meetings, emails, and work miscellanea. Her words mattered, but so did her gestures.
And now here I am, a few weeks back to work, living the working-mom life (thinking about and not thinking about my baby all day), being grateful for a place to think about other things, happy to make a good living by using my brain.
And I’m thankful for co-workers who welcomed me back with words and gestures, and who care enough to feed me. I’m grateful for the bagels.
Pay it forward
All this to say, if you have a co-worker coming back to work after a leave for any reason (family, personal, medical, maternity), greet them warmly. Sign a card. Ask how they’re doing. Let them settle back in for a few days. Bring them breakfast.
If she’s a new mom returning from maternity leave, ask if you can pick up her coffee one morning. If you know where the “wellness room” is for breastfeeding moms, make sure it’s stocked with paper towels, Lysol wipes, tissue and a comfortable chair. (Bonus points, if you’re a people-manager or HR manager and you add parenting magazines, storage for pumps and accessories, and a mini-fridge for milk storage.) Leave her a note to know you’re there in solidarity. Tell her kindly and gently if her shirt has spit-up all over the shoulder.
It takes a village, y’know?