There is a huge misconception, mainly held by men, those without kids or even pregnant women themselves, that maternity leave is a ‘break’ from work.
Bullshit. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
I know where these people are coming from though. Pre-kids, when I was pregnant and working 12 hour days, I often thought that once I had the baby I’d get a ‘break’. I was used to a high stress role and thought once I got into the swing of things with my baby I might get a bit of time to relax. Sleep, even.
I even had visions of making fabulous-fellow-new-mummy-friends that I’d have looooong fancy well-dressed lunches with as we admired our cooing babies. Or heading to the beach to lie on the sand reading a book for hours.
Ok, maybe I didn’t take those fantasies THAT far. But I did imagine I’d have spare time on my hands.
'Relaxing on the beach is not possible!' Image supplied.
It’s like we think that maternity leave is this magical time where we nurture our beautiful new baby and are free to relinquish the manic reality of full time work. The time would be used to fix up the house, recover, sleep, and accomplish all those ‘to-do’ tasks that we’ve wracked up since entering the workforce.
Not so much. There was a small time there, when our first-born was around six months and sleeping really well (and we had a cleaner, oh the joys!) that I did have the odd half an hour here and there where I was wondering what to do. I would watch reality TV. And then, having formerly worked in PR and media, I started a blog to keep my mind occupied and to ‘not lose touch’ with my writing skills. As you do.
But suddenly, we had the six-month sleep regression from hell. Then the manic teething and no sleep.
A sleeping baby is a thing of beauty. Image supplied.
As for ‘lunches with the ladies’, that has literally never happened because our bub was in a routine which meant he slept from midday every day. And he slept best in his cot. I was a stickler for this routine and stressed about it non stop.
Also, that's the time when the large majority of mums, no matter what age their kids are, have some down time before cleaning and clearing up.
At no other time in my life have I ever felt more stress and upheaval as I did when I became a mum.
Having gone from a full time career, and someone who was not used to kids AT ALL, to being a stay at home mum, I had a huge identity crisis. Who was I? And also, what the heck do I do with this pooping, crying, hungry, unsettled but very lovely and wondorous bundle of joy?
I Googled like a mad woman, read every advice book there is, and generally drove myself and my husband crazy stressing about whether what we were doing was right (note, the second time around recently with our baby girl – not so much! The joys of having ‘been there done that’).
Siobhan pregnant with her second baby. Image supplied.
Every stage of your child’s development brings with it a unique set of challenges and you very much learn on the job.
Is maternity leave a walk in the park? No. Is motherhood the hardest job in the world? Most likely. But is it the best thing ever? YES.
More mythbusting; the seven things we *really* think while giving birth.