Having a baby is such a joyous time, but for expectant mothers (and their partners) in 2022, it’s hard not to be faced with questions that simply wouldn’t have been asked of our grandmothers.
The question of “when will you return to work” from friends, family, and colleagues isn’t always a welcome one, and something I would find upsetting myself when pregnant with our son. It became especially frequent after my year of optional Maternity Leave officially ended too.
The following etiquette and encouragement question was submitted from a Mother to Be. I hope it might be useful to you too if you find this line of questioning awkward to navigate.
What to say to those who ask if you’ll return to work after having a baby.
Dear Mrs Darling,
I am currently 15 weeks pregnant, and all I want is to be a mother and a housewife, yet so far all I’ve been asked by people is whether I have considered nurseries, and how long I plan on taking for maternity leave.
The moment I respond back to tell them I don’t think I’ll be returning to work, people laugh and say “of course you will”, and “you won’t want to just be at home”.
It’s beyond infuriating, and then I see pages like “pregnant then screwed”, and I understand the work they are doing and how important childcare is for most people, but it’s like working is constantly being pushed down my throat and is the most important thing in the world!
How should I respond, and do you have any advice for me?
Dear Mrs Barnes,
I’m so sorry to hear this, but unfortunately it’s not an uncommon question in this modern world. Many people are “wired” to work outside the home. They project this common expectation on others because working after having children is what women are supposed to want (even if just a little bit), even if it’s to the detriment of their family life.
Do also consider that with the rising costs of living, it’s not a luxury many can afford, and thus a secondary expectation to work is based on a financial assumption of your circumstances. If they couldn’t afford it, how can you?
The work of the housewife and stay-at-home mother is largely unseen, and because there is no financial remuneration it’s not considered as work per se. I suspect you and I know that the hours put in would far exceed those of a childless woman who works outside of the home, but there is no use arguing over this point.
Instead I would like to encourage you to strengthen your reply with a few words that offer no recourse. An intelligent “statement of fact”, rather than an emotional or whimsical one.
For example, I learned to say: “Mr Darling and I have decided that I am going to stay at home with our babies until they are of school age, and then we’ll revisit our situation when the time comes”.
It demonstrates that you’ve thought about it, considered the impact on your family, and planned your finances accordingly - more importantly, you have reached a decision that’s best for all members of your family.
Using language such as “we are/will/then” as opposed to “we think/would like to” offers no invitation to pry or debate further. Nor does it rely on an answer that may cause upset to your audience such as “we think it’s best for a mother to remain home with her children”, which could be considered judgmental.
You could also take a very lighthearted approach such as “I’m sure I’ll have my hands full for a while, but you never know what the future holds”...
Please remember, we live in times that are not complimentary to those that hold traditional family values, and this is not the fault of the individual, but instead a collective media, economy, and government that have decided that it’s far nicer for their pockets for women to go to work to be taxed, and have a lot more disposable income to spend!
Congratulations on your pregnancy, and I’m so happy that you are fortunate to stay home. Your family is blessed indeed.
Dear Mrs Darling - your questions answered...
If you’d like to submit a question, please do so via my contact page. Please note that not all questions will be answered, and that they will be replied to via a blog post as opposed to individually.
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Illustrations by John Gannam, sourced from Pinterest.