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The Rudest Things You Can Say To Someone Who Just Got Back From Maternity Leave

Coming back to work after maternity leave can be a big transition.

“For me and for many of my coaching clients, there was a complex mix of emotions during this time,” said Becca Carnahan, a career coach who works with mothers.

“Anxiety around leaving your newborn, exhaustion from parenting a newborn, excitement about getting back into your routine, guilt for being excited about getting back into your routine, the list goes on.

“That’s why support from co-workers is so important to ease the transition and help parents be successful in the paid workforce.”

Ideally, colleagues can help make it a smooth reentry. Unfortunately, awkward, insensitive and downright rude comments from co-workers are all too common. Even the most well-meaning peers can say something that backfires.

We asked experts to share the most common kinds of remarks you should avoid, if you want to be a better colleague to someone who just got back from maternity leave. Here’s their advice:

1. “Must have been a nice vacation”

Carnahan said many of her clients and friends have been welcomed back to work with a version of this insensitive comment.

Going on parental leave is certainly not a relaxing break, and common remarks like “how was your vacation?” are problematic, said Amy Beacom, the founder and CEO of the Center for Parental Leave Leadership.

“All new parents are learning what their child needs for food, sleep, diapers, etc. ― all with so little sleep it can be classified as torture. It is in no way a restorative vacation!” Beacom said.

Childbirth is an intense physical experience, and for birthing and non-birthing parents alike, what happens after the birth of a baby isn’t a vacation either, Carnahan points out.

“There are sleepless nights, hormonal changes, significant changes to family dynamics, and numerous doctor’s visits,” Carnahan said.

“Comparing maternity leave to vacation devalues the health of the parent and important work of raising children. If you wouldn’t ask about a co-worker’s ‘vacation’ after back surgery, don’t refer to maternity leave as a vacation, either.”

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