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12 life lessons you learn during maternity leave.

Lucy and Harry.

My maternity leave ends today. Bam! Just like that. No longer will life be entirely divided into feed/play/sleep intervals.

It’s been ten months since our little boy Harry was born. Ten months since I started learning how to be a mum.

But it’s time to go back to work and see what happens on ‘the other side’. But before that, I wanted to share some of the best things I have learned since becoming a mum for the first time.

1. Babies bring families together.

A new baby has an amazing ability to unite and heal; they personify vulnerability, beauty, hope, innocence, joy and wonder all at once. Family, including extended family, move front of mind. You see them more. Many times I’ve watched in complicit awe as a room full of grown-ups has become mesmerised by Harry doing little more than rub his eyes.

“Before Harry, my last recorded visit to a community library was circa 1992.”

2. Hello, library. 

Before Harry, my last recorded visit to a community library was circa 1992. Rediscovering libraries through our local branch has been one of my favourite things about maternity leave. Libraries are THE BEST. (Plus, these days, they text or email three days before the books are due. Lifesaver!)

3. Goals become smaller, dreams are greater. 

Days are filled to the brim with achieving tiny goals – feeding, sleeping, changing, washing. But dreams become bigger. There’s a compelling feeling to make the world (and yourself) better.

4. Neighbours mean much more. 

Confession: I used to avoid speaking to my neighbours. I was too busy/pregnant/tired/shy. Imagine how bloody terrible I felt the day Harry came home from hospital and there were cards and presents from the same people I had tried to avoid? Now, it’s often the chat with the lady across the street that has cheered me up on those really bad days.

5. I met myself in the raw.

Motherhood has helped me shed a skin – a really old, smelly skin that saw me quick to reprimand and judge myself, and probably others. The many hours spent on my own – during the day, feeding in the small hours, changing nappies or settling Harry has been enlightening. Learning to love my own company has brought some really powerful insights.

“There is a YouTube/online video tutorial FOR EVERYTHING.”

6. There is a YouTube/online video tutorial FOR EVERYTHING.

 Here’s just some of the stuff I’ve looked at: How to breastfeed lying downWhat happens at a Tressillian centre. How to use Velcro rollers, How to burp a colicky babyHow to use concealerHow to make spinach filo pie (without the damn filo folding in on itself), How many [more] calories you can consume while breastfeedingHow to arrange a freezer (SO YOU CAN FIND THINGS WITHOUT THEM FALLING OUT AND WAKING THE BABY YOU TOOK THREE HOURS TO GET TO SLEEP).

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7. Fresh food takes on new importance.

I needed to learn to cook better – and beyond just cake and soups! This has become especially true in the last couple of months as we started solid foods on Harry. Of course, some days it does feel like I live in the kitchen.

8. There are some very kind people in this world. 

I’ve found babies bring out the best in strangers. I’ve been helped down stairs, chatted to and a stranger even helped navigate my teary self to my forgotten car space after a particularly harrowing solo Christmas shop with a 2.5 moth old baby who was barely sleeping three hours in a row. M.A.R.A.T.H.O.N.

9. You’re on your own, kid… 

Motherhood has shown me how wonderful it is to be a woman and have female friends. The loyalty, companionship and empathy of friends are priceless but won’t ‘fix’ things for you. I can talk through issues and ideas but all decisions are mine to make. Only I can decide how to be a mum and manage my new family life.

10. Striving to do it all leads to misery. 

“Doing it all” has had a number of different definitions for me this year. In the first month it meant having a shower and washing and drying my hair! Then the more sleep I started to get, the more I wanted to do. Some nights instead of sleeping between the 1am and 3am feed I seriously considered getting up and sending emails, doing a yoga video or cleaning the bathroom.  Exhausting. The more I let go, the easier things became.

There is nothing a walk in the sunshine can’t fix.

11. There is nothing a walk in the sunshine can’t fix. 

I am the worst behaved sleep-deprived person in the WORLD. I desperately needed to find a quick endorphin fix that fitted in with Harry’s routine and I did – walking. As soon as I felt grumpy, I grabbed shoes, pram and bub and started walking anywhere.

And then the rain came. The first rainy day I took Harry out; I drowned my iPhone after wedging it in a ‘puddle’ at the top of the pram. On rainy days I now walk in the undercover car park of our local supermarket. 

12. Blink and you’ll miss it. 

I am staggered to find myself back at work. Already. Time really does fly. Whatever the struggles I found they really did pass – all I needed to do was keep going. Then in a blink of an eye, I am back to work, wondering where the time went. I know I said no parenting advice but: Mums everywhere – enjoy the experience for what it is – especially whatever it is for you.

Are you heading back to work soon? What will your best memories of the time you’ve had at home?

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