Before leaving work last year on my very long awaited maternity leave (which I had to start a month early- doctor’s orders!), a colleague said to me “It’ll be like a year long holiday.” (In hindsight, I would now not take that comment so lightly).
Foolishly, I believed them. I couldn’t wait to spend my days in what I thought would be a tidy house, filled with fresh flowers, my nails perfectly manicured while cradling my content twins.
Well… My house is a tip, I currently only have my thumbnails and one forefinger painted because Bonnie and Isla had other plans, and yes, luckily I have two very happy babies, but it’s hard work ensuring they are happy.
I imagined spending days out of the house attending wonderful baby groups together, going for lunch, going on shopping trips and coming home for dinner, bath and bed. Simple, right?
We manage the baby groups, but it takes two hours to get out of the house. We go for lunch with fellow mummy friends Hollie and Victoria, but we need a game plan before we even get there; where is baby friendly? Is one of the four babies due a nap? Where is accepting enough of screaming babies (just in case)?
Basically… Maternity leave is not how I imagined it!!
Paddy (husband) will arrive home and asked what we did that day. Often I answer with; “we went to mums and tots, then did the groceries, then met Hollie and Victoria for coffee with their babies, then called in with grandparents, then came home.”
That sounds like a blissful day to a husband who is helping to run a company and be present in the office and out on the jobs at the same time. Initially, when someone asks what you got up to you tend to leave out the screaming tantrums, the one twin who has fought sleep all day, the shit-up-the-back nappies, the puke-down-your-clean(ish)-top, or the meltdown you had in the supermarket over the formula you NEED being out of stock.
I find myself then listing all of the things that seem to have went wrong that day, purely in order to justify that my day has not been all roses, which contradicts the answer to Paddy’s question on what we did that day. I find myself trying to justify (to everyone) that maternity leave is as much work, if not in fact more, than a full time job.
So recently, when I stumbled upon ‘another mum’ (not a fan of defining myself constantly as a mum, we are much more than that), who described maternity leave as ‘complete bliss’, I had to stop her in her tracks and ask her to explain how maternity leave was so much fun for her. What was she doing that I wasn’t? Am I the only one who has bad days with good days? Or is she just not human?
“Well…” She began, “I have a three year old and a newborn who is a complete dream, on a Wednesday and Thursday my mum takes the three year old and on a Friday I get a day off. I get my nails done and I get the house sitting perfect for the weekend…”
I had to tune her out, I watched as her lips moved and I didn’t listen to a word of it. Good for her to admit that she has the help, but when one mum refers to maternity leave as complete bliss, and suggest that it’s a time for fun and games, they’re forgetting that there are many new mums that may see her and wonder why they’re struggling day-to-day. They’ll wonder why maternity leave isn’t what people had suggested it would be.
There are days I get help, and there are sometimes days (few and far between) I get completely baby free for a few hours. But that isn’t my time to portray a perfect life, that’s time to cherish with myself.
C’mon ladies, maybe it’s time to generalise a little, one mums maternity leave could be a holiday, but there are other mums who don’t find it that way. Let’s not make them feel as though they need to sit and justify how getting a nice cup of coffee with friends wasn’t all roses because it was followed by a screaming baby in public for a solid twenty minutes.
I’m not saying we should be martyrs, I just think maternity leave should not be painted as a pretty still life oil painting. If you have it as ‘easy’ as you portray, then I salute you, but please think about us mums who have had their struggles and are made to feel like we’re doing it wrong when we hear how much fun you’re finding it.