couples

"Maternity leave is not a break."

There I was, looking forward to a bit of a rest.

Pre-sprog, I remember fantasising about taking a year off work.

In fact, I have friends who say, “I need a break. Maybe I should have a baby”. Now, while those friends are largely joking, I do understand where they’re coming from. Because, seriously, how hard can looking after a baby be? While I never subscribed to the (ignorant) belief that mat leave would be all about watching soaps and drinking G&Ts, I did think that taking a year out for “mummy time” might be nice.

And it is nice, but it’s not the chance to take a breath that I thought it might be.

7 things that I thought will happen while I’m on leave:

1. I will be tanned.

I remember thinking how lovely it will be to lie on the beach while on leave. Nowhere in my thoughts did I think about where the baby might be. I assume with me, but I didn’t think about the fact that 10 minutes in the sun would turn my lovely alabaster-skinned daughter into a lobster, nor did I think about the difficulty of putting up a beach hut. My hut seems to be six foot tall, I’m not much over five foot, you do the math. It’s a bit like watching a small child try to assemble a Billy Bookcase without an Allen key.

There was not a lot of this while I was on maternity leave.

2. I will finally get a chance to organise my photos/linen/garden etc.

You may get part of one of these done. For me, it was buying the photos albums. Yup, they’re there, sitting under my bed, judging me for not getting on with the task, asking me why I’m spending my free 10 minutes sitting in a chair and staring out into the courtyard instead of putting my cherished memories into some sort of tangible order.

3. I will catch up on all things HBO while breastfeeding.

Probably the biggest myth busted. Breastfeeding. Is. Hard. It’s really hard!  It looks easy, that’s the worst part. All these glowing mothers out in public who attach their kids with ease, while somehow being discreet about it, are making the rest of us feel bad.  Meanwhile, the reality entails lots of changing of positions, assisting of heads, controlling of bodies and exposed flesh while trying to relax so milk will flow freely.

Forget TV, the act of trying to have a glass of water was near impossible for the first couple of months!

I didn't quite get round to organising my photos.

4. I’m going to be completely up-to-date on my professional development.

Career? Work? Oh sure. You’ve always put your career first and though you’re completely prepared for the fact you are now putting your child first, you’ll still have time to keep up-to-date with your industry. Bahaha! Kudos to those who manage it, because I know some who do, but for me reading the paper was intellectually challenging while sleep-deprived – anything else was simply impossible.

ADVERTISEMENT

Any flirtation I had with online university courses lay dormant while I trawled the internet, searching for cures for cradle cap, day sleep woes and nappy rash.

5. I will read so many books!

First of all, see previous section. My brain was porridge. I made the mistake of starting a rather high-brow book the moment my little darling was born. Five months later, it sits on my bedside table, mocking me. I have, however, managed to read a couple of chick-lit books (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) for 15 minutes or so before passing out in a sleep-deprived coma.

Reading? Not so much.

6. I will take leisurely walks to the market, pick up fresh produce and try exquisite new recipes.

I’m still not sure what happened here. Somehow, dinner is cooked each night, by either myself or my lovely husband. That in itself is a massive achievement given little miss chooses to have her daily tantrum at about 5.30pm before demanding one or both of us rock her to sleep for up to two hours at some point in the evening. Sure, we never get to eat a meal together, but dinner is on the table. But that home-made sushi I was planning on making after bubs was born? Forget about it. It’s about ease … and teamwork, so much teamwork!

7. I will get bored.

About eight weeks into this parenting gig I thought to myself, “I need to go back to work”. I felt I was missing the mental stimulation of work. I missed the strategic thinking required. Of course, this was a blip. There is no time to get bored!  And strategic thinking? You try finding a way to balance mothers’ group, doctor’s appointments, immunisations, play dates, Gran visits, seeing Daddy for lunch and music classes, that takes some good strategising – there is no social butterfly brighter than a baby! I’m now starting to think that work might be where I get my break!

I acknowledge that no two experiences are the same – home-made sushi just might be around the corner for you. If it is, save me some!

What was your biggest misconception about maternity leave?

Want more? Try these:

The pregnancy path isn’t a Hallmark card. At all.

“Don’t judge me but… I don’t find my pregnant wife sexy. At all.”

00:00 / ???