For many new moms, it only takes a few minutes after their baby is finally in their arms for fear to set in. They worry about their baby, the world their baby has been born in, and going back to work. Yes, that's right: American maternity leave is so insufficient that returning to work is on a lot of moms' minds while they're still in the delivery room. One person in a position to help, though? Our partners. So I asked moms to share the special thing their partners did for them when they went back to work.
I must say that, by and large, I'm impressed. While very few of these answers demonstrated grand, sweeping gestures, the truth is that profound acts of Arthurian chivalry aren't required when a new mom returns to work. What I saw was a lot of co-parents recognizing their partner's emotions, addressing them head on, and/or taking concrete actions that said something along the lines of, "Hey girl. We're in this together and I'm all in."
That said, the most special thing my partner did for me when I went back to my job was a pretty big gesture: he left his job to be a stay-at-home dad. We decided that our goals (financial, family, and career) were better served by him training for a job in a new field while serving as the primary caregiver to our son for the first two years of our son's life.
I don't know how many of you have had a stay-at-home partner, but for those of you who haven't I will tell you this: it is no wonder men tried to keep women out of the workforce and in the home for so long. Honestly, having a stay-at-home partner is the bee's knees. That's not to say that I, as a working mom, didn't have a rough go of things, or that we as a family didn't face tremendous pressure as a one-income home. But not having one iota of worry as to whether my child was in the best possible hands, not to mention having someone at home to cook and do the majority of the household chores, was tremendous. It was a sacrifice for myself and my partner, but one, I believe, he ultimately bore the majority of.
Like I said, though, the good, helpful, and supportive things people do for the working mom in their life don't have to be grand, life-changing gestures. Instead they can be small actions that provide working moms with the knowledge that their feelings are valid. Like, you know, the following:
"The very first day he went into work late himself so he could help me get our three girls ready and saw me out the door. He also makes sure that my pump parts are cleaned when we get home and (usually) in my pump bag for me in the morning."
"When I was sobbing the night before going back, he told me I didn't have to go back to work if I didn't want to, that we would figure it out financially. In the long run, I ended up deciding that I preferred to work. But it meant a lot to me to know that he would have supported my decision not to work."
"Took a full month of paternity leave!"
"The first time? He became a stay-at-home-dad so I could continue my career without worrying about childcare. The second time? He had gone back to work while I was on maternity leave and couldn't help much with my transition back since he was so new to his role, but he didn't divorce me when I (and our home) was a mess trying to figure out the new life balance of two kids and two working adults. No idea what adding Number Three will hold, but he's planning on taking his three months of FMLA leave after I go back so we can keep little one home until at least six months."
"My husband cleaned, dried, and repacked the pump parts and bottles for me every night after dinner while I sat and nursed or cuddled our daughter. He knew it was absolutely the last thing in the world I wanted to do, and he did it without complaint. I think by the end of the first year he even knew all names of the pump parts."
"This might seem silly, but he bought me a one-a-day calendar for my desk."
''[My husband] had the school send me a lot more pictures than they would normally, and a video. They thought he said it was my birthday (definitely wasn't and he e said it was my "first day") so the videos and artwork I received all said 'Happy Birthday Mommy'."
"My partner sent me to work with a trio of framed pictures of our twin girls. Within an hour of arriving in the office I had a bouquet of flowers, and he ordered me lunch (which had required him to coordinate with my assistant to make sure I was actually around and didn't have existing lunch plans)."
"My wife stayed home and she sent me a new video every hour on the hour my first week back. It was so sweet."
"Nothing the first time around. I think he learned his lesson, though, because he's been really attentive during this maternity leave, so I'm hopeful."
"I went back to work on a Wednesday, so it was a short week, but it was tough. That Saturday I was sobbing about having to go back again, so when Sunday rolled around he made us breakfast and then planned a really beautiful family picnic in the park. It gave me the warm fuzzy feelings (and fresh collection of new baby pictures to look at while pumping) to keep me going for the rest of the week. We did that just about every Sunday until the weather got in the way. It was a really nice ritual to finish the weekend and begin the week. It made things easier."
"When I got home after my first day back I found dinner and a drink all ready for me. Our baby was wearing a shirt that said 'I love mommy.' I sobbed, but in a good way."
"He dressed our daughter in a little cheerleader costume (from his favorite football team, of course), so the baby 'cheered' me as I left and then again when I came home. My career is really important to me, and it was nice to know that he saw that and that we were already instilling in our daughter [the idea] that being a working mom is admirable."