The day I left work to begin my first maternity leave was the best. Not only was I about to meet my baby after many months of waiting, but I also had loads of time off work to look forward to. Just like the beginning of a long holiday, I was filled with anticipation and excitement about what lay ahead and what I could do with all that lovely time to myself.
Someone told me new babies slept for 16 hours a day, so I imagined big blocks of time for me to do whatever I pleased while my baby napped. There were so many projects I could finally get started on. That novel I’d always planned. Or a blog. I could sort out all my photos and put them into photo books. Maybe I’d finally get round to sorting out the boring admin stuff I’d put off for months because it was too big a job for a regular weekend.
When I brought my new baby home I discovered my expectations were a little off. Turns out maternity leave wasn’t like a holiday at all. I was ready for bucket loads of free time for completing personal projects and relaxing in the sun with my new baby, but I was in for a big shock. Suddenly, I had a tiny little bundle who slept for most of the day but was taking up ALL OF MY TIME. A couple of weeks into motherhood and I knew for certain that I wouldn’t be starting any novel during my maternity leave. In fact, I’d be lucky to get a regular shower in.
No, maternity leave was nothing like a holiday. It was amazing, wonderful and full of adventure – say like a trek through the Amazon would be – but a relaxing holiday it was NOT.
Here are 5 ways maternity leave kind of laughed in my face:
1. There was no sleep
On holidays, you get to sleep, whenever you like. You can nap in the day, go to bed whenever you like and rise from your bed when you’re ready. When you have a baby, sleep as you know it becomes a distant memory, and is controlled by a tiny person. You sleep when your baby lets you, and even then, it’s not very relaxing, unless you find falling asleep on the nursery floor because your baby refuses to sleep without you, relaxing. Or nodding off mid conversation with your partner. While sitting upright.
2. The lack of social life
Holidays tend to be spent with other people or making friends with others staying in the same resort as you. Plans get made to meet for drinks and dinner, and your calendar is filled with fun appointments to hang with other cool folk and talk about everything under the sun. When you have a baby, your calendar ends up full of appointments, and you do get to meet new people, but you’re so sleep deprived that making conversation is completely beyond you. In fact, making plans to meet up with someone requires energy you simply no longer have.
3. The new ‘me time’
I was ready to catch up on some quality ‘me time’ when I started maternity leave, which I figured I could fit quite easily around a baby, who would only need me for a feed every three hours and a few nappy changes. Boy, was I wrong. That baby needed me around the clock and I could barely leave the room to pee without him crying out for me. If I’m honest I kind of hated being apart from him too. No one warned me about the angst that comes with separating from your new baby, which made me forget all about the stuff I wanted to do for myself. The new ‘me time’ became less about getting out for a facial and more about sneaking in a few minutes on social media while I put the rubbish out once a day. This did NOT resemble the holiday I had in mind … but I was kind of okay with it.
4. The missing cocktails
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t holidays come with sunset drinks and a poolside bar? Okay, so I knew that drinking opportunities would be pretty limited once bub arrived, but I thought I’d be able to squeeze in a holiday drink here and there. A celebratory champagne maybe? Little did I realise that with breastfeeding and complete exhaustion, the last thing I could be bothered with was alcohol. Plus I was deathly afraid of parenting with a hangover.
5. The sheer hard work
Having a baby is less like a relaxing vacation and more like starting a new, high-stress job. It comes with no manual, requires you to train on the job and the learning curve is STEEP. Becoming a mum was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done and yet it was also the best time of my life, which I guess the most meaningful experiences in life usually are. Again, being faced with the 24/7 demands of a tiny person was nothing like being on a holiday, but to be honest, spending all that time getting to know the little person I made was way more fun and invigorating than any poolside vacation I’ve had.