Cake

Liz is a new mother starting her first day back at work after maternity leave. She drops her son, Daniel, off at the daycare center Kidz Rezort and experiences intense anxiety and guilt for “abandoning” him there. When she gets to her desk at work, she is struck by how little the office has changed in her absence, and the only hint of passing time is the different date on the calendar. Her coworkers Caroline, Stella, and Julie welcome her back by asking questions about the baby and sharing their own maternity leave experiences, which Tim and Dave react to with disdain. The women experienced intense boredom while staying home and expect Liz to share similar horror stories of monotony and midnight feeding. Liz, on the other hand, points out that she actually enjoyed staying home and feels unable to relate to them.

Liz reads an informational pamphlet for new mothers about returning to work that emphasizes the relief most women feel when they leave home and return to work again, but Liz feels anxious and miserable. She calls Kidz Rezort to check on Daniel, only to be informed by the attendant that her 18-month-old son is riding a tricycle, and it becomes obvious that the attendant is not even watching him. Julie then asks Liz if she can contribute three dollars to a morning tea celebration, where there will be cake to celebrate a birthday and Liz’s return to work. Liz takes a five dollar note out of her bag and glimpses a photo of Daniel in the process. She also finds a note that she left to her replacement emphasizing the importance of copies and invoices, which makes her realize how meaningless she finds her work.

Later that day, Caroline, Stella, and Julie take Liz out for lunch and cake at an Italian restaurant, where Liz notices the lasagna is store-bought. The women ask Liz if Daniel is doing anything cute these days, and when she Liz tries to imitate him she sees that she is not entertaining her peers. She becomes angry when the women start discussing the importance of early weaning. Later, Liz becomes emotional when her boss, Frank, asks her how she feels about an upcoming meeting, and she mistakes his question for one about leaving Daniel at childcare. Embarrassed, Liz counts the moments until she can leave work and pick up her son.

That night, when Liz arrives home and tells her husband, Andrew, how difficult her day was, he responds unsympathetically and reminds her that she wanted to go back to work so that they could pay off their mortgage. He also presents her with cake he bought to celebrate her first day back. Liz takes Daniel into the bedroom and takes off her work clothes to begin feeding him with a bottle. He motions towards her chest and she is overcome with guilt and exhaustion. She finally begins to feel better about her day when she gives in and breastfeeds him. When he is asleep, she takes off her watch and decides to look at the mortgage again to see if there is any way she can continue to stay home.