While pregnant with Annabelle I read quite a bit about ‘what to expect on maternity leave’ – and I don’t mean the pay. I wanted to know how other Mum’s had found it, what they had wished they had known and what I could start mentally preparing for.
Let me start by saying that here in the UK I am appreciative of the fact that we get good maternity leave benefits; that I got 6 weeks full pay and get statutory maternity pay until 9 months. I know I am super fortunate and I honestly can’t get over the fact that the situation in the USA is so bad when it comes to maternity leave.
Having 9 whole months with our little girl (7 so far) has been one of the best experiences of my life. Our little moments, our morning snuggles and afternoon giggles, our silly faces and ridiculous dance routines – the lot of it- that’s what I’ll remember.
I also want to say that the views shared in this post are my own. I, in no way, want to assume, presume or anything else that these feelings are shared by everyone else. I just wanted to record my own thoughts and if they resonate, then great.
Before having Annabelle I dreaded maternity leave. I thought I would be stuck at home with a screaming baby, unable to do much and eagerly awaiting Laura’s return each day just to have some conversation. At the start there were definitely days like that. Rather than the crying though, it was the fact that Annabelle slept so much.
After a few weeks I got into the habit of using Annabelle’s sleeping time to tidy, clean and get stuff done. During particularly long naps I could even write a blog post. After figuring out how to keep Annabelle alive, this seemed a productive habit.
Then the naps got shorter. At 3 months, Annabelle was enforcing a routine – bed at 8pm, 2 or 3 night feeds, then waking up at 8/8.30am. Naps then followed every 2 – 2 1/2 hours after that. Naps were 30 – 45 minutes in length and all of a sudden my ‘productive’ nap times were over before they started. Bye-bye blog writing, hello racing around putting on washing, cleaning/tidying. With every wake up the to-do list seems to have grown rather than shrunk!
This to me ushered in the hardest part of my maternity leave. I wrote about the Sleep Situation here but the summary is this: at 4 months sleep regression HIT us. We all got way less sleep and we suddenly realised just how lucky we had been at the start.
The quicker naps, coupled with a baby who now needed entertaining, meant my initial feelings/worries about being bored disappeared. Bored! Now I don’t get 10 minutes to myself. I relate to the memes joking that Mum’s hide in the toilet…..although that’s not a safe zone as Bisbee likes to join. I don’t want to hide so much, I just want to check my phone.
Laura and I try our best not to be on our phones constantly around Annabelle. That’s why you’ll see us update our Instagram stories in one go after 8pm as Annabelle is in bed. However, despite our best efforts, the phone is still something Annabelle wants to get her hands on….as is the TV remote (anything that’s not a toy right?!) – but the phone when in the hands of Annabelle is subject to chewing and all other delights. So my ‘me’ time is my checking my phone time.
|Give me the phone…..|
The routine we have leaves no time for thinking about work or the outside world. I thought I would miss the daily chat and banter. I thought I would miss work and its challenges. I thought I would be lonely. And yet I don’t really miss of it and I am far from lonely!
That’s not to say I haven’t missed work on occasion. On my KIT days, when I am back in the swing of things, I feel like the old me. I enjoy it and feel reassured that I can still do it. I do miss the chats but I have great friends who constantly fill my WhatsApps (although I have gone from having work as my reason for not replying to having Annabelle – sorry!). But more than anything I have Laura. I have chats and banter with Laura that make me feel just as fulfilled. She listens to my ‘day’ updates with just as much, if not more, interest as she did when I when I came home with work news. The added bonus is that Laura and I now get more time together and that overcomes any feelings of loneliness that come up on the days when Annabelle just won’t nap or is having a hard day.
In addition, I am fortunate that our local church (less that 3 minutes walk away) has a playgroup on Tuesdays and Fridays (with no added religion) so if the weather is awful or we haven’t been out much we pop down there, mainly just to watch people and for Annabelle to play with different toys. I also have a development class on Thursdays and a few of the Mum’s and I have gone since our babies were tiny so it’s cute to see how they recognise each other.
I actually find by the weekend I am glad to have Laura to share tasks with as time in the weeks seems so busy. I almost feel naive that I thought I would be bored. Shopping trips take triple the time, a walk with Bisbee is at least double because the preparation is more involved, hell I can’t even pop to the garden without prepping. I mean when I do return to work my preparation skills will be much improved!
I know I am so lucky that my maternity leave has been nothing like I thought. I am not bored raising a baby – I am entertained, enamoured, slightly obsessed, totally in love, amused, impressed, shocked, proud and happy. I also get extra time with Bisbee and that always puts a smile on my face.
There are hard days but they are few and far between and even the bad days still have moments of pure joy.
Referring back to one of the articles I read before having Annabelle (it’s here) 30% of Mums feel the opposite to me – they enjoyed maternity leave LESS than they thought. 59% feel lonely and 49% feel obliged to be positive about maternity leave, even when they don’t feel it.
One thing that does resonate with me is the ‘sense of self’. Becoming a new Mum challenges that anyway and I have struggled with the ‘how am I meant to feel’ part. Ultimately I don’t feel different, I just have someone new to love. But then sat on a train heading to Bournemouth for a KIT day I am sent a picture of Annabelle, of a moment I am missing and the tears start. I’m not sad. I’m just sad that this is what being myself, my old self, involves. It involves leaving, even only for a short period. I struggle with what my new self will be, what my new sense of self will be. I know I’ll figure it out but my new self will definitely have to work on the tears!
As Annabelle gets older I know that the leaving will be different, not easier, just different. She’ll love nursery as she’ll get to play all day with kids her age and with new toys, it’ll be way more fun than Mummy and the same toys. She’ll have the space to run around and learn new things. We’ll have a new normal and we’ll all be thriving.
|Seriously such good entertainment though – right?!|