A recent Huffington Post article,“5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents,” has gone totally viral… and we totally get why. We all know that keeping up friendships after your buddy has a baby can be tough for new parents and their kid-free friends alike. But we’ve been thinking specifically about those young professionals (YPs) who have recently taken the leap from the working world to the land of binkies and Bumbos, and about how maintaining relationships with their kid-less colleagues must be particularly hard. It doesn’t help that when coworkers take off on parental leave, those of us left on the job tend to make some ignorant assumptions about our now-absent comrades, so let’s give them a break by trying to avoid these few:
1. Don’t assume they won’t be back
Just because new parents tend to disappear for a couple months, making contact solely via baby pics on Facebook and sporadic texts about their lack of time to text, don’t assume that they have been sucked into the baby vortex for good. And just because your colleague appears to be enjoying parental leave so much, constantly spewing the joys of being off work, don’t assume that “Mommy” or “Daddy” is to become their new exclusive job title. Though currently engulfed in domestic duty, most YP parents still identify as YPs, and simply view their new “parent” designation as an additional accreditation. After a few months, your parent pals will likely reemerge, battle-scarred and barfed on, with hilarious stories of snot attacks and sleep deprivation, and will undoubtedly be dying for some adult talk. Be patient with them, and just be sure to save their spot in the coffee room and stool up at the bar.
2. Don’t assume they’ll be behind
For sure things can change rapidly in any workplace over the span of a few months. New policies, strategies, hierarchies, can come into play while your coworker is away on Mission: Mommy. But while we, the kid-less, may feel we’re learning and progressing so much during this period, we can’t just assume that our father friend is shut off from the real world, down some rabbit hole of cartoons and cheerios. New parents may be incredibly occupied, but they’re not imprisoned. They still have Internet access, still communicate with the outside world, and they are still using and developing many of their YP skills. Hello, caring for another living being is a pretty big job – like the most important one ever. Don’t underestimate the new talents that YP parents are packing.
3. Don’t assume they will return
On the other hand, don’t assume that your office bff will come back to work. They may have been the most task-focused, independent, successful pro in the biz, but having children can change priorities for even the most hardcore YP. For some, staying home with the kids does in fact become their preferred position in life, or it may lead to new interests and job paths. The question of whether a parent will return to work is a supremely personal one. So really, the assumption that we need to be trumping here is that any of us are even in a position to ask or judge about something so private.
4. Don’t assume they’re not working
As one YP-turned-mom-turned-YP/mom put it: “Don’t assume that because there is a Pack and Play in the corner and diapers in the waste basket, that this isn’t a real office.” Many YP parents are now opting to continue on with work while magically, simultaneously, fulfilling the role of stay-at-home-parent. Thanks to online communication, no longer can we assume that one is not able to be both super dad and successful YP.
5. Don’t assume that Happy Hour is over
Whether your kid-consumed colleague is away from the office temporarily or for good, don’t assume that after-work events are off the table for them. Sure, parent pals may continuously turn down invites to happy hour gatherings or coworkers’ birthday soirees, but don’t stop asking. YP parents still want to be included, and by the fourth time they might just say yes.