3 Lessons I Learned from my First Business Lunch after a Maternity Break

  • Ujwala
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  • Back to Work, Weekend Reads
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  • 20 Apr 2018


I remember at an interview that I gave years ago,  I was asked to think of an adjective that describes me best- something outside of the professional gamut, something fun that not many people know of.

I hesitated at first, because, why would I give away something that I didn't want people to know! But, I said it. 

"Butter Fingers."

Yup. That’s me. Buttery, slippery fingers.  All. The. Time.  Phones.  Spoons. Water-bottles. Utensils (Glassware? Of course). Nail colors. Medicine bottles. Milk Carton. Soap. Food. You name it. I have spilled/broken/strewn/torn/splattered it all.  I'm the kind of person who goes to pick up the pencil I dropped and drops it again!

Take this particular business lunch, for instance. It was 2012. The year my baby was born. The year I got back to work after a maternity break of nearly a year. 

A fancy business lunch at a five-star restaurant operated by world-famous chef, Alain Ducasse.

This is where I'd like to quote Charles Dickens' famous line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 

Best, because, which newcomer isn't thrilled about a fancy business lunch with the bigwigs of the company? Worst, because, "Why me?"

Anyway. Day of fancy business lunch arrives.

I walk into the restaurant. My legs turn to jelly. I wobble to the table. The sofa is fairly large and I’d have to have powers of Elastigirl from the Incredibles to be able to reach out to the cutlery on the table. I pray.

I'm slightly intimidated by the menu, considering I am strictly vegetarian.

“I’ll have the spinach and cheese quiche, and the salad, please," I say merrily.

Five minutes later I’m staring at the large quiche and lettuce salad. I pray. I pick up the fork and knife and reach for the salad.


One big lettuce leaf is hanging out from between my teeth. One big lettuce leaf is stuck on the fork in my left hand. The vinaigrette is on the knife in my right hand.  

(Awkward moment continues).

The knife slips out of my hand. There's vinaigrette EVERYWHERE. One big lettuce leaf is still hanging out desperately from between my teeth.  Fork with lettuce leaf also slips out of hand.  


Fork falls to the ground with loud “cliiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnkkkkkkkk,” and ends up under the table next to ours.

I panic. "Any chance nobody saw that?" 

I still have the quiche to go! I can do this. Without breaking or spilling anything. Yes. I can.

I pull myself together. I grab a new set of fork and knife ready to jab the quiche in the middle and get it over with. poke and the said quiche falls apart.  It’s now a splattering of spinach and cheese and all. "What a mess!"

I need a spoon. Yes. "Can I get a spoon, please?" 

The spoon arrives. I am confident. Nothing can go wrong now.  I sweep the contents of the plate, and slowly, very slowly I bring the food to my mouth. Not bad at all. I’ll just continue at this pace and be finished with it in no time!

And I did. And I even went to finish my dessert in a civilized manner. 

And then there's a voice in my head: 

"Butter Fingers did a good deal of damage today."

Not really. Here are 3 important lessons I learned from that rather awkward lunch:

1) Make the effort to know the people you work with.

It was a new job, a new role, and a sea of unknown faces. Intimidating? Yes, of course. Nervous? Yes, as hell. Giving up? No way. 

Although it took me a month to settle in, I was glad I made the effort in getting to know my co-workers AND my manager a little better. Either through casual chats during coffee breaks, discussions at meetings, or simply just giving them my opinion when I felt the need. 

I didn't know if it made any impact on them, but it certainly boosted my confidence levels.

Five months later, I'm invited to a business lunch. 

That's something. Right?

 2) Focus on the positive. Always.

Had I not braved those awkward moments, I would have never known I was capable of handling embarrassing situations. And turns out, no one at that lunch table really cared about it. The meeting progressed smoothly unmindful of the spills and thrills (except when the fork landed underneath someone else's table). 

Although I wanted to throw everything and run, I ate, and I spoke, and I finished the lunch AND the meeting on a high note.  

3) Learn to laugh at yourself.

No one's perfect. Let's get that straight. You don't need to do it all. You don't need to be dressed to the nines all the time. You don't need to have your work organized ALL the time.

You're allowed to make mistakes. Even better if you can laugh off the silly ones.

Of course, the entire team was calling me Butter Fingers for months after. But all I did was to smile and say, "I'm not clumsy. The floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, and the wall gets in the way." 

Have YOU been letting your little insecurities get in the way of your career restart? It's time for you to flush out the negativity. Be proud of who you are - clumsy or not. In the end, what matters is how far you've come from where you were. 

Restart your career NOW. SIGN UP here, and WE will see you through it.


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