Being a working mom is hard. Being a brand-new working mom is even harder. No matter how much a woman loves her career, her job, and her baby, navigating the working world as a mom can be difficult, especially early on.
From the sheer logistics she’ll tackle to the complicated emotions she’ll experience, a new working mom will need the support of not only her friends and family, but her colleagues as well.
If you’re a working mom, you know better than anyone what your new working mama colleague needs. Though individual experiences vary, there are some things that are universal. Still, if you’ve been a working mom for a long time, or if you’re not a parent, you might not realize the simple ways you can help a new mom at work.
Here are five ways you can support a new working mom.
Ask how she is doing.
Do you know someone who just returned to work from maternity leave? Or, maybe she re-entered the workforce after some time away? If so, ask how she’s doing with the transition.
As a mom, she’s no longer the center of her own world anymore, so she’ll appreciate you checking in. Maybe she’ll feel like having a heart to heart, or maybe she’ll provide the sanitized version.
Either way, your concern for her wellbeing will likely mean a lot to her.
Follow her lead.
Check in with your new working mom colleague, but don’t make assumptions about how she’s feeling.
A new working mom will feel a variety of emotions. Her heart may be heavy over being away from her baby, but she may also feel some relief at reclaiming her professional identity once more.
Maybe she dissolved into a puddle of tears the moment she handed her baby off to a daytime caregiver, but maybe she also enjoys her newfound quiet time and ability to converse with adults once more.
It can be confusing and heavy, even under the best of circumstances. So, follow her lead. Give her a pep talk if she could use it, but if she’s feeling confident, don’t give her a reason to doubt herself. Working motherhood will throw enough challenges her way.
Don’t make assumptions about her goals.
In addition to not making any assumptions about how a new working mom is feeling, don’t make any assumptions about what her professional goals are either.
Some moms won’t feel comfortable taking on too many additional responsibilities right away, but some will be happy to dive right in. Don’t assume that she no longer wants to travel, take on big projects, or acquire new certifications.
If you are in the position to extend opportunities, make the offer and leave it for her to decide whether she wants to accept.
On the flip side of that, if you are assigning work, don’t purposefully overload her upon her return either, and don’t penalize her for having taken leave. Without even getting into potential illegalities, that kind of behavior does nothing to support a new working mom, and it definitely isn’t the way to establish long term loyalty.
Treat her to lunch.
Another way you can support a new working mom is by taking her to lunch. Going out for lunch when you’re a working mom—or any mom, really—is a luxury.
A small gesture like picking up the tab for a meal is a simple way to show your support and understanding for this new road she is navigating.
Share your war stories.
Finally, you can support a new working mom by sharing your war stories. If you’re a working mom, find a way to let her know you’ve been where she is and that you understand.
Be careful with delivery, of course. You don’t want to be flippant or dismissive of her feelings and experiences. But, sharing your common experiences may help her feel less alone.
Let her know about the times you felt like you were failing, too, or the days you couldn’t catch a break. This working mom stuff can be hard, and she needs to know there’s a tribe out there who understands.
It may get easier or it may get harder, but it will help her to know she has your support.