At the end of the year I will officially be on maternity leave.
Mat leave is such a wonderful and funny thing. I’m very grateful for it. As a new parent (whether it is your first or third), you need to make some adjustments. You don’t sleep well with a newborn, you’re on a new schedule and if you’ve just given birth your body needs to heal. And if you’re breastfeeding, you are on call 24/7.
Despite what some non-parents think, maternity leave is not a vacation.
When I went on my first one, I thought maybe it would be. I’ve been working and going to school since I was 14. I had never not worked and the thought of not having to go into an office and work seemed so appealing.
What would I do with all my free time? I had big plans to stick baby in a carrier and do some travelling. I thought about picking up a second language or taking some more online courses to further my career.
I looked around my house at possible renovations that I could tackle myself. It seemed like there was so much I could do. I wouldn’t have to get up in the morning, look presentable, do a commute and head into an office for eight-plus hours. I wasn’t going to be on a set schedule with someone telling me what to do. I wasn’t going to be working for “the man.”
Or so I thought. Turned out, I was working for a much smaller human being. I could not have been more wrong about what maternity leave entailed.
Maybe I didn’t have to always put on real pants but I was working more than I was pre-baby. I was on a schedule, it was just a very chaotic one run by someone who couldn’t properly communicate.
Where was HR? My new boss thought sleep was overrated and was very demanding of my time. I had never worked for someone like this before. I didn’t do much travel (unless you count going to my mom’s house) and I didn’t learn French and I most certainly did not do any renovations.
When my year was up, I wondered what I did the whole time? It seemed like I hadn’t accomplished anything. But I did. I healed from a c-section, I got the hang of breastfeeding, I bonded with my baby, I learned how to get poop stains out of tiny white onesies, I learned that white is a terrible colour for a baby, and I discovered how to be a mom.
Now that I am about to embark on my third leave, I know better. Maternity leave is about taking care of yourself and your babies. It is an opportunity to try and get to know your new little human being and probably and more importantly, get to know the new you and how this new baby will change your life…. what kind of parent you want to be… what you want and what you don’t want to give up in your quest to raise a quality human being.
My expectations are lower this time. I”m going to try and go with the flow and not get frustrated about the things I’m not getting done. We are lucky to get this time in Canada. A lot of countries don’t allow for months of maternity leave.
But it is also not for everyone. And don’t beat yourself up if you are dying to get back to work in the real world. Everyone’s situation is different. I know a lot of moms who became better moms when they went back to work right away.
And I know a lot of moms who are betters mom because they didn’t.
Being a parent is a tough job and maternity leave is still work.