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The Secret to Working Mom Success: Keep Your Mouth Shut

Photograph by turquoise image by Maxim Petrichuk from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

“Please, can you go to another room?” my colleague begged me over the phone. The baby's crying had pierced through the darkness into an early morning conference call.

I put the call on mute until the din died down and then had to stop myself from bragging into the phone that I was now breast-feeding, typing an email AND holding up my end of the call.

Later, in the office, I stifled one yawn after another, which made tears stream down my face.

My boss looked at me and stopped talking. “Everything OK over there?”

“Yup, sorry, just tired.”

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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 office.

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.

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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.

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