The reality of maternity leave…

Maternity leave.  It’s a holiday, right?  A year of coffee and cake.  Of taking it easy.  Of catching up with friends.  WRONG.  For many women, it’s very much a year ON.  Not a year OFF.

Lucky you.

Today I’ve embarked upon maternity leave.  For the third time.

‘You must be so excited,’ asks one.

‘A whole year off, lucky you,’ says another.

‘Do you think you’ll come back?’ probes someone else.

I should probably nod enthusiastically.  Gush about the imminent new arrival.  I am excited about what’s to come.  Or rather who.  I am lucky.  But for every measure of excitement, there’s another of hesitation.

Because I’ve been here before.  I know the crack.  The good.  The bad.  And the downright ugly.

Seven days of insanity.

Contrary to what the uninitiated may think, maternity leave is no picnic.  It’s not all coffee and cake.  Nattering and laughter.  It wasn’t like that first time round.  And it’s certainly not going to be like that this time, with two other kids to take care of.

I mean, I’m only 45 minutes into maternity leave and I’ve already had to deal with a glitter crisis, a toilet accident and a debate about pyjama shorts over nighties.  The euphoria of the leaving lunches, gifts and well-wishes has given way to something far less euphoric.  The reality of family life.

I’m already wondering.  Seven days of this.  Seven.  Can I do it?  Can I?  Where will I go for my sanity if not to work?

Maternity leave’s a holiday camp.

Daddy Pig is firmly in the ‘maternity leave’s a holiday’ camp.  Yes, apparently they have actual maternity leave holiday camps, didn’t you know?  

This is also how he views paternity leave.  Funnily enough.  When Godivy arrived in a cold January, he toyed with the idea of going snowboarding.  I say toyed.  He suggested it before seeing the murderous expression on my face then muttering something about how he was, ‘only joking.’  But I’m no fool.  If I’d given him the green light, he’d have been out of there quicker than a stinky, newborn nappy.

This time around, I can see he’s hoping the new baby’s arrival will coincide with the World Cup.  I always wondered why he’d pushed so hard (pardon the pun) for a summer baby.  Now I know why.  He’s possibly got ambitions to go to Brazil.  Or already bought a ticket.

One LONG weekend.

And he’s just congratulated me on ‘my lovely year off,’ before commenting that he’d be elated if he had a whole year off work.  I ask him to imagine a weekend with the kids, add a newborn then extend it into one LONG weekend of 365 days.  He suddenly goes quiet.  Very quiet.  Yes, I thought as much.

Because as every woman who has been on maternity leave knows, whether it’s your first, second, third or fourth, it is not a year OFF.  It is very much a year ON.  And lovely, small person aside it can be blooming tough.  Exhausting.  Lonely.  Uncertain.  A time when even the most intelligent, capable woman questions her decisions.  Her emotions.  Her very reason for being.

Don’t worry.  Be happy.  Chuck on a sarong.

I hope I navigate it better this time.  I certainly plan to.  Because it’s the last time I’m going to do it.  And I hope that this gives it some context.  That I find the ability to forget about the things I don’t need to worry about.  To ignore glitter infestations.  To let the girls wear dirty nighties to bed rather than clean pyjama shorts they have no interest in wearing.  To not worry about money, where my life is going or redecorating the house because suddenly everything in it drives me nuts.

Instead, I’m going to chuck on a sarong.  Get out the cocktail umbrellas.  And give that baby every second it deserves.  Because I know we’re lucky to even have the opportunity to spend a whole year together.  Not everyone does.

Plus, if Daddy Pig already thinks I’m on holiday, I may as well act like I am, right?

So.  Who’s coming round for a Mojito?

What is/was maternity leave like for you?  Best year of your life?  Most uncertain?  Share your comments below.  And then come on over to Surviving Life and Motherhood.  It’s one big holiday camp…

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