Keep Calm And Carry On: How To Handle Tricky Working Mum Scenarios

by Alex Davies |
Published on

From last-minute childcare issues to overdoing the baby talk, get a grip on and navigate awkward work situations

A ‘tricky work situation’ before you had a baby was probably an email rant accidentally sent to the wrong person (*tummy-churn moment*) or a colleague never doing the tea run.

Now you’re a parent, other issues can crop up in work and leave you wondering just how to handle them in the best way.

The answer? Keep calm, put them into perspective – and follow these tips.

You need to go home during the day

The nanny’s ill. Your baby’s inconsolable. His nursery needs to close. Whatever the reason, it’s 11am and you have to leave.

‘Talk to your manager and try not to draw too much attention or be overly apologetic,’ says Jessica Chivers, author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House UK £10.99) and part of our Working Mums Panel.

‘Explain that you need to deal with something and – unless whatever has happened is an emergency, obviously – that you can reschedule that meeting for tomorrow or take a conference call that afternoon. Basically try and offer a solution.’

If you’re in a senior position, handling this scenario with confidence and honesty will create a good example.

You’re presenting – with puree on your dress

Quite simply, don’t dwell on it. ‘It’s really not an issue and doesn’t affect how you do your job, so there’s no need to mention it,’ says Jessica.

‘If your colleagues are mums too and would appreciate something like that, perhaps you can make a joke of it, but if not, then ignore it – it’s just about gauging the tone of the meeting.’ Then just grab a handy baby wipe once your handbag’s in reach.

A colleague seems resentful

Perhaps you can’t stay late or need to swap a shift because of a childcare issue. ‘The key is to be clear on when you are available, and if you can’t do something, try and help in another way – can you can contribute ahead of that late meeting?’ says Jessica.

The key is to be clear on when you are available, and if you can’t do something, try and help in another way

But also make sure you are on the right track. Perhaps ask someone you trust if they’ve noticed an attitude from the person in question – or if it’s just in your head.

‘If you do feel a need to say something, keep it casual. Take the person aside and say you feel your working relationship seems a bit unsettled at the moment and to let you know if there’s anything you can do to make things smoother,’ says Jessica.

He or she may not have any options there and then, but it opens the door.

You’re overdo-ing baby talk

You want to dissect last night’s Homeland, you really do – but first you have to talk tantrums with your desk neighbour. Baby talk is great, but where do you draw the line at work?

‘Take the lead from your colleagues – if they’re asking you about your child, by all means tell them,’ says Jessica. ‘But if not, perhaps keep it to a few minutes in the morning or as you leave work together to keep things professional and relevant.’

What are the situations you find tricky to handle as a mum in the workplace? Let us know below.

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