Before I fell pregnant with my daughter, I had some pretty straightforward ideas on what I would do with my maternity leave. They went something like this…have a baby and keep said baby alive, fed, clean and happy. I would also be using this time to recover from the pregnancy/birth process, rest (ha!) and try to regain some semblance of normality to my new life. Reasonable, no?
I was really surprised therefore to be asked on many occasions by friends/relatives and sometimes total strangers what I would be doing with my maternity leave. “Umm, having a baby?” didn’t seem to cut it. “Yes but what will you be doing with all that spare time?” they would ask. At which point I would roll my eyes and divert the conversation to the usual ‘when will you pop’ guessing game they all loved to play.
Their questions got to me though. I started to feel guilty if my life wasn’t perfect, house wasn’t immaculate or even if I couldn’t put my makeup on or wash my hair that day. It wasn’t just those questions. I started to compare myself to other mums on social media who seemed to be holding down successful careers, enjoying exciting social lives whilst simultaneously posting happy family snaps on Instagram with #nofilter. It made me feel inferior. Those mums seemed to be able to do everything. What was wrong with me? Some days I didn’t even seem to have time to brush my hair.
One day when my baby was only 5 weeks old I was out running round after family members and I wasn’t home to feed my baby. My partner had to use an emergency bottle of formula. I’m not getting into the breast v bottle debate here and I don’t think there is any harm in formula but I had made a choice to breastfeed my baby so this really upset me. It was the turning point. I was so busy trying to do/be/have it all that I hadn’t even got the time to feed my new baby. The one job that I was supposed to be doing. I realised I had to change my priorities.
From then on I made a conscious decision to stop caring what other people thought or said about my “time off”. I am not going to miss out on these precious days with my daughter in order to meet the expectations of others and I have set some new goals for 2016; to feed and nourish my baby with my body and to enjoy every single day with her before I have to go back to work. I am going to wallow and delight in each sleep deprived, amazing milestone that comes along and be fully present in the moment with her. After all, I have created a life and that is surely the greatest achievement of all. So the next time someone asks me what else I will be doing with my maternity leave, I will proudly reply “absolutely nothing, I’m taking a baby break.”