On The End Of Maternity Leave

13 Dec 2022

On The End Of Maternity Leave


As I write this, my baby boy (less baby these days if we’re being honest) is doing his first official day at nursery. For the majority of this year, I have thought of this moment as the one where Things Change. This is technically true but as is the way with these things, the day itself feels a tad anticlimactic. You hand him over, the lovely staff say ‘see you later’ and then you’re stood on the snowy street feeling slightly weightless without a pram to push. So now I’m sat in CaffĂ© Nero, drinking a chai latte (latest addiction) and typing on my laptop like it’s pre-baby times and not a big deal. It’s weird. It’s kinda… nice? 


Sitting in a cafĂ© writing is one of my favourite things to do and I haven’t had the opportunity for twelve months. I’m gonna hold my hands up and say I was a tad naive about how intense this year was going to be. I really thought – bearing in mind our boy is nearly one – we would have been able to leave him for at least a full day but probably overnight by now. *Insert sarcastic laughter here*. His disinterest in food, refusal to take a bottle and heavy reliance on milk, whilst all perfectly normal, have meant that I have barely been able to leave him for a matter of hours, let alone overnight. Unfortunately, where I go, my boobs come with me. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasised about being able to leave them behind (there’s a mental image for you). I am not going to moan. We are incredibly lucky. It’s just been very intense with very little let up and I’m ready for change now. 


From January, I will be back at work and if I’m completely honest, I am looking forward to it. Huge amounts of new respect for stay-at-home parents because right now, the idea of sitting at my desk and doing a full-day’s work feels like it will be a day off in comparison. I am obviously slightly glamourising work after a year ‘off’ and I know it’s going to be A Juggle, but I do think this new stage will bring more balance to our lives. The scales are currently all tipped firmly in one direction, and I feel that the combination of having some childcare, the ability to finally being able to leave baby with other people for longer periods and the return of using my brain for things other than nursery rhymes and nappy changes will make life feel more evenly weighted. We can’t afford full-time childcare (discovering the cost of childcare was a thoroughly unwelcome education) so I will be going back to work part-time but, despite the pay-cut, I am looking forward to a mix of work and time with my little man. 


A few months into my maternity leave, I saw one of those little text Instagram posts which said ‘maternity leave is the most busy-bored, happy-sad you’ll ever be whilst also the most tired you’ve ever been. It’s the farthest thing from a vacation and the closest thing to a mental breakdown. IDK how else to describe it. It’s a weird time.’ Everyone will experience maternity leave differently of course but this is honestly the best description I have seen of my experience of being on mat leave. Hard relate, as the kids say. Nothing could have prepared me for the rollercoaster of emotions of 2022 nor of the profound effect of prolonged sleep deprivation on my physical and mental health. It has been so hard at times. And yet, so joyous. Because, equally, nothing could have prepared me for the delight of raising a mini human, of watching him grow and learn. 


Having a baby has felt a little like having a very cute bomb go off in the centre of our lives with the first year spent trying to put all the pieces back together, only the pieces are now different shapes and sizes. It’s bewildering and exciting, exhausting and full of delirious laughter. A lot of people tell you that there comes a point where you feel like you are turning a corner and I finally feel it. I think a moment comes where you no longer feel like ‘new parents’ and simply just parents. Where you feel more relaxed, more accepting, and more like this is your life rather than some weird out-of-body experience. 


I’ve spent most of this year living one-day-at-a-time and now I’m excited and planning for the future, and I feel very relieved to be here. Unsolicited advice on parenting is so irritating but if I could say one thing to any new parent, it would be to respect your own timeline. You and your baby are unique and you can only move at your own pace. You may be technically out of the newborn stage but that doesn’t mean you should suddenly feel less shellshocked or have all your shit together. It’s okay not to love the experience straight away even if everyone else appears to (no matter how much you love your child, I think asking people to enjoy no sleep and vaginal tears is asking too much quite frankly). Keep putting one foot in front of the other and try not to punch people when they tell you it will get better. It will of course, but it takes however long it takes, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that certain things will go away – I am unfortunately still outrageously sleep deprived nearly a year in – but you find that the fog slowly begins to lift and one day you realise you can see clearly again.


It's been one hell of a year. The first year of the best boy I know, but I have no shame in admitting that I am so ready for the next chapter.  


Comments

  1. Ach, all of this. Every last bit of it. I really hope that transition back into work has been everything you hoped it might be, it's another weird right of passage in the whole motherhood thing that one. I went back at 6 months and straight into full time and it was BRUTAL!! Only now - a full year later - am I starting to get a bit more of the balance between working and mumming right for me. And I'm finally loving it!

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