He looked mildly sympathetic, so I continued, “I think the
baby’s teething. We were up all night,” I said.
There was a second of silence and he turned back to the
group to continue talking.
My initial return to work felt triumphant. I was no longer
the pregnant lady waddling around with people asking how I felt. I had spent three months figuring out the newborn thing, and it seemed to be under control. I
even negotiated a perfect schedule to split my work day between home and
But returning to work also meant exiting my little bubble
that involved only family and home. It
was my official entrance back into a world that didn’t care about my baby as
much as I do.
I sensed resentment when I rolled into work at noon and departed at 6 on the dot.
As the workload piled up, I realized there was no space for
my exhaustion. People stopped gathering around my desk to coo at photos, and no
one asked anymore how many times I had been up the night before.
I began reminiscing about maternity leave, which had become
a wistful, hazy memory of sweet baby cuddles and hours of TV. But I couldn’t talk about that at work. Colleagues
were still recovering from the workload they had to absorb in my absence, and there
were occasional jokes about my three month “vacation.”
I sensed resentment when I rolled into work at noon and
departed at 6 on the dot. But it sounded overly defensive when I tried to
explain I had already put in hours of work that morning, or had been up late
into the night with my laptop while the baby slept.
There was no magic solution, but I quickly figured out the
right answer: keep my mouth shut.
No one needs to know about the chaos of juggling work and
poopy diapers, as long as my assignments get done. No one cares about my baby’s
ailments or achievements the way I do—unless he’s deathly ill or applying to
Harvard. It shouldn’t impact my work.
And in the end, if you’re doing your job right, it should look
easy. And no one on the outside has to be the wiser.