I went back to working from an office today after a year of working from home. I read dozens of blogs, books and forum discussions about how to handle the transition without too many tears. We got up earlier than usual this morning, we were out the door only 15 minutes later than planned, and I’ve managed not to cry — yet.
Since then, friends, family and co-workers have all sent well wishes and bits of advice. And while I appreciate the sentiment behind it all, sometimes it is what you say, not just how you say it. Consider the following alternatives to common things said to working women, a public service announcement.
“She’ll be so busy, she won’t notice you’re gone.” — Maybe, but I’ll know, and that’s the hardest part.
Try instead: I’m sure she’ll have fun being around kids her age.
“It’s good that you’re teaching her about being a strong woman.” — Strong women aren’t just the ones who work, or the ones who work outside the home. For our family, a year working from home was perfect. Now, there’s a good opportunity for me outside the home, and I’m going to go for it. That doesn’t make me any “stronger” of woman today than I was six months ago when my days consisted of writing articles during nap time, then having dance parties in the living room a few hours later.
Try instead: I’m sure when she’s old enough, she’ll look up to you knowing you did what was best for your family.
“Are you sure you want someone else raising your daughter?” — First of all, my daycare provider is not “raising” my daughter any more than a fourth-grade teacher is raising his or her 10-year-old students. Secondly, this one stings, it’s a bit too judgey to feel at all “well-intended.”
Try instead: It’s great that you found someone you’re comfortable with to care for her.
“Won’t you miss being off?” — Stay-at-home parents are not “off” and work-at-home parents are certainly not. Honestly, some days when I was home, I longed for the structure of an office, for the banter of co-workers and for someone else to comfort my crying baby.
Try instead: It’s great to have you here.