Confession: when friends and colleagues have announced their pregnancies, I’ve found myself wondering what they'd decide about work. Would she continue working? Would she take a long-term break? Would she leave the workforce completely? Would she find some kind of blend that suits her and her family and, honestly, is it really my business at all? I get that people are going to wonder about the future when women announce their lives are going to change. Still, when people tell a new mom they’re "surprised" she’s back at work, that’s a little different than genuinely wondering. That’s more like admitting your subtly and silently judging her for a choice she's already made.
I’m sure my coworkers wondered when I announced my own pregnancy back in 2013, and I don’t blame them one bit. I even had a colleague blatantly admit they were surprised that I had made the choice to return to work (spoiler alert: I didn’t stay long before transitioning to a brief stint as a stay-at-home, then landing on being a work-at-home mom, which I currently still am). While it's difficult for me to say what my colleagues true intentions were when they said they were "surprised," I can say that I didn’t really know what to say to them in response. It just sounded, well, off-putting.
For any other moms who might be in a similar position, and who may be struggling to come up with an appropriate response, let’s consider what the other person might mean when they say such a thing: