Oh, the plans I had for maternity leave pre- baby. What WASN’T I going to conquer?! I was going to start my own business making kitch yet on-trend baby cot mobiles, try my hand at being a novelist, maybe even start revising for a professional exam a year in advance. I was definitely going to master yoga, and try out a new cake recipe every week without breaking a sweat. How else was I going to fill the months ahead?
I want go back and give that painfully optimistic girl a big cuddle followed by a sobering slap. To date I have cooked 6 evening meals since Pickle arrived (she’s now 7 months old), made one no-bake fridge cake that tasted like evil, and I don’t even know where my yoga mat is. I’m not sure where the baby was in these heady dreams. I definitely appreciated they’d be present, just maybe not quite SO present…and utterly absorbing…like a tiny perfect swirling black hole of time. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely don’t mind that I haven’t had the opportunity to dominate the small business market or take the literary world by storm. It’s just amazing how you cannot possibly comprehend how much time even the simplest task takes with a little one in tow.
Take feeding for example. I probably estimated this would take 20 minutes, tops, then we’d be off into town, buying fresh bread and stopping off at coffee shops. Wrong. Totally wrong. Pickle as a new born would take 45 minutes to feed, 5-10 minutes to burp and then 20 minutes to change both of our outfits and scrub the sofa and carpet clean after the obligatory vom fest that would ensue. That’s over an hour gone- she used to feed every 2 hours. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Dont even get me started with leaving the house. It’s a logistical and physical nightmare that needs 3 hours notice, military precision style planning and a support crew. And then it starts raining, which sometimes makes you want to cry. But you haven’t the heart to unload everything off the pram which now resembles Buckaroo, and get them out of the 18 layers you’ve spent half an hour putting them in. So, you head out into the storm, after the obligatory 20 minute fight with the sodding rain cover, of course.
I met up with work friends when Pickle was about 3 months old and was asked: “So, what have you done with all your time off so far?” My response was simple: “Keeping her alive.” They smiled, nodding as if to say “aaaaand?” So I added: “And both of us fairly, if not entirely clean.” That was the sum of my achievements. But you know what? It felt like a record breaking, monumental achievement! Because this little person was growing in front of me, and I was actually facilitating that process, which is pretty amazing really. It doesn’t matter that they need an extra outfit change because they’ve shat through their sleep suit, or that it takes 2 hours to get them off to sodding sleep (although it really DOES matter at the time). When they look at you and beam, you get it all back with a million percent interest. And that’ll ding-dang-do for me.
So if I could go back in time and have a little tete-a-tete with pre-baby me, I’d give myself two pieces of advice:
- Stop referring to maternity leave as your ‘year off’ as you will literally have no time to call your own for the next 18 years
- Watching them grow, develop and learn is more than enough. It really is. Just enjoy being a mum. But bear in mind that gin may help from time to time…
Photo credit: Mommypoints