Maternity Leave: Expectation vs Reality
I worked up till a week before my due date, in the height of summer, so I was more than ready to start my maternity leave. I was looking forward to having more time to spend on me, baby and those projects I have been putting off. I had no close mummy friends yet for the “real” experience so phrases like ‘Bet you can’t wait to be on holiday for a year’ just fuelled my excitement. Oh the naivety!
Expectation: Regular meet up with friends
Reality: Leaving the house became a monumental task. On the rare occasion I made it on time, I felt I deserved a medal. In the premises, there’s no space for a pram so there’s awkward chair/table shuffling. The rest of the ladies have makeup on but I had just about enough time to put a brush through my hair after I parking. Then it’s time to leave and the faff restarts in reverse.
Expectation: Freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want
Reality: I could watch boxsets, read books, start the projects I had been putting off for a while. Errrr, no! I had a new boss with very different working hours – 24/7. I got short breaks when he slept but that was not always guaranteed. These breaks were initially spent tidying, washing, eating – anything but sitting down really. Later on, that all changed as you can read below!
Expectation: I’ll become a domestic goddess
Reality: After spending the first few months trying to keep on top of the chores and the cooking, I gave in and accepted my situation. Take aways and easy food became the norm. No matter how much tidying I did, the mess always reappeared. Any clanking woke him anyway and when awake he just got in the way. Anyone inviting themselves round would be greeted with ‘Excuse the mess’.
Expectation: Daily fun mummy-son activities
Reality: Every baby-related activity was stressful. Baby was either crying, wanting food or not just interested. I had dreams of swimming and music lessons but with very little sleep just going for a walk was enough for me!
Expectation: I’ll be back at work after 6 months
Reality: After the whirlwind fun with the baby, I thought I would be ready for some adulting about 6 months in. But even with the lack of sleep and all that babies come with, I could not do it. I couldn’t imagine not seeing him everyday, his smiles and missing his “firsts”. I managed to push it to 10 months but even then, it was hard. It may not have been a holiday but it was an amazing bonding time.
I am sure I had other plans for maternity leave but with number 2 due soon, my brain has gone all sieve-like. I have set my expectations for my second leave very low. In fact non-existent. Keeping 2 kids alive is my main goal followed by maintaining my sanity however I can and trying to hold on to the happy moments because those are the memories that keep me going!