Maternity Leave Is Not A Holiday – thank you very much. Before I left work at the beginning of May, I heard a few passing remarks such as, “It’ll be great to have so much time off”, “You can relax. You deserve it,” “You’ll have a great time,” and “I’d love a few months off like you.” Well, I’d love the hot coffee, the long toilet breaks, the lazy wander around Pennys on my lunch hour and the adult conversation but you don’t hear me saying how easy you have it at the office now do you! No, maternity leave is not a holiday.
Had I decided to take the 26 weeks paid maternity leave, I would be going back to work in less than two weeks. Two weeks! I would have been suffering the over-exaggerated fear, the worry, and the heartache of leaving not one but two kids, the big kid and the baby. There may have been mild excitement at the prospect of returning to normal life filtering around me but the overriding feeling would be apprehension. And it would have hit two months ago as I counted down the weeks to my return to work.
But, this time, I have managed to stretch out my maternity leave with unpaid and parental leave to make my time out of work practically a full year. And thank God I did because, folks, I am not ready to go back. Despite it not feeling like a holiday. Despite it being tiring and overwhelming, this is where I want to be.
I don’t return to the nine to five grind until the end of April and as that’s well into the New Year, I’m not even contemplating it… yet. But I was there. I did the six months maternity leave and returned to work when A was five and a half months old.
Five and a half months. D is five months old now. I can not even imagine leaving her yet and I wonder how did I manage it three and a half years ago? How did I leave my first baby and return to work when she was so tiny? My heart breaks thinking about it now because I can’t bear the thought of leaving D for a full working day yet despite this maternity leave being an absolute rollercoaster. And not a holiday.
Yes I may be at home.
But it is by far an extended holiday. I’m not backpacking around Europe or dipping my toes into lukewarm shores. I’m not waking up late and spending a week at a time in my pjs. I’m not exploring our countryside or taking long walks on a sandy beach every week.
I’m living. Living a long year and trying to understand, grow with, and become accustomed to life with a baby again. I’m exhausted, worn out and alive as not one but two kids take control of every aspect of my life. Talk about having a boss! There’s no boss like a boss baby or two, am I right!
So as these two take over my bed every morning, kick me out and begin, almost immediately, to issue the demands of the day, I ask you, is this a holiday? Have I been graced with a year off work to “find myself” and explore life?
Well, firstly I’m perpetually exhausted. I’m so beyond tired that the tiredness doesn’t even register anymore. I am mombified – a mom zombie with dark eyes, a dull complexion and a slow gait as I try to keep the kids fed and watered.
I’ve spent the best part of four months, longer if I care to admit that it started before the baby was born, suffering through postnatal anxiety which I don’t need to tell you again has been incessantly uncontrollable and painful. I’m hoping the second part of my maternity leave will be anxiety free as I’m coming through this difficult time in my life.
I had a birth to recover from. And let me tell you that it takes a lot longer than the doctors recommendations of six weeks to recover from any kind of birth, both physically and emotionally. A C Section is not a walk in a park and the recovery is no joke. Five months later and I still have mild and awkward tingles that remind me of the surgery I underwent to have our baby.
There is no relaxing on maternity leave. For the first two weeks of Little Beans life I sat, attempted some sort of recovery while breathing in the faint whiff of baby which is somewhere between the smell of freshly washed clothes and regurgitated milk. Those weeks ended quickly and soon enough my days were filled with demands and my hiney only found a cushion to rest on when the two kids went to bed. By then I find I’m usually too exhausted to even ask B how his day was.
I’m lucky if I get to eat a full meal considering I usually graze throughout the day worse than the four year old. But I understand now how she manages to survive on grapes and cheese. Me, I live on Momma Bear fuel – thick cold coffee. But still, I’m hoping Santa brings me a pedometer for Christmas so I know how many miles I walk in a day, anything to justify my secret scoffing of the Halloween candy to keep me going at the 5pm slump. Because my day does not end at 5pm. I can’t walk out that door and say, “See you tomorrow”. Oh no, my day goes on. And when those two beautiful kids, who destroyed my home and attempted to beat down my spirit in less time it took you to complete a half days work, are happily snoozing in bed, my day does not end there. Because there is no clock out time on maternity leave. There are no contract hours and most certainly no annual leave or long weekends.
Being home with a brand new baby, watching her grow and jump through every development leap is amazing and exhausting. Throw in her four year old sister and we have a winning and draining team. But I wouldn’t change it and I wouldn’t like to be going back to work in two weeks. I’m not ready to leave these two.
An entire year off work is not a holiday. It is life. And even though some days are hard others are glorious.