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Girl Talk: Getting Back to Business

Q. I've just come back to work after maternity leave. My coworkers call "urgent" meetings when I'm pumping or rushing out to relieve the sitter. How can I get them to be more sensitive?

A. Not to be cynical, but the first concern for most workers is their own work -- how to finish it, avoid it, take credit for it, excuse it. Considering your schedule or your feelings doesn't fit into that picture, particularly for colleagues who don't have kids or painfully engorged breasts. Convincing them to walk a mile in your shoes is about as easy as fitting into your prepregnancy pumps.

Instead of trying to make them considerate of you, say that you'd like to be considerate of them. Tell your boss that you want to make things easy for everyone by working out specific times to pump. That way, they'll never be surprised by your absence. Add that if you have no choice but to miss a meeting, you'll go directly to him for the minutes. (This alone may do the trick.)

Then talk to your other coworkers. Don't take people to lunch or plop down in their offices to discuss "something important." Just casually mention when you'll be pumping and leaving each day -- and that you can try to adjust the timing to fit their needs. (Don't say "I'm sorry." Apologies will be accepted -- as will your reputation as an absentee employee.) This bit of reverse psychology can help you move forward.

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