Three months off!
Hours cuddling with an adorable baby (or two or three).
They sleep 18 hours a day!
The playroom will finally look like this!
My basement will look like this!
My husband will come home to meals like this.
I’ll do activities with my older kids like this!
I’ll check in at work to show them how very dedicated and together I am!
And other fallacies of maternity leave.
I remember my first maternity leave, five years ago. I was completely unprepared for how much time nursing an infant would require. I’d sit there in my glider making mental lists of all the things I absolutely needed to get done as soon as this baby was fed. And burped. And changed. And asleep for those alleged 18 hours a day.
But when I’d finally find myself with a free moment, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what was on the list.
(Believe it or not, five years ago we didn’t have the plethora of to-do apps we now have for reeling in our monkey minds. In fact, I think I had a Blackberry that could barely access the web.)
The ADD inherent with sleep deprivation and constant interruptions made me crazy. I’m a Capricorn! I need something to show for my day!
And the ever present cloud of work stress never quite cleared — or I never allowed myself to release it. I ended up going back to work when Isaiah was six weeks old. A mistake I wouldn’t make with my second and third pregnancies.
One day it occurred to me: all of my angst came from trying to get things done other than caring for my baby. Sure, my mom can care for him all day, have the floors sparkling, scrub the fridge, and whip up a roast for dinner. But then again, she probably had a good night sleep.
If I could just surrender and let myself sit and nurse, or sit and play with my baby, he was happy. But the mental vice of my to-lists and fantasies of maternity leave put up a good fight.
(Do I really want my child to think I’m available all day to him? What about the women who work in the fields? They aren’t on the floor all day playing peek a boo. I’m bored as hell with peek a boo!)
It’s just so hard to let go.
Being strapped to a Boppy pillow (or in my case this time around, a double “My Breast Friend”) for hours a day gives a girl a lot of time to look around the room and see what needs to be done. Plus I think postpartum hormones tip my natural organizing fantasies into overdrive.
Meanwhile, I’m reading a book called Large Family Logistics (because, well, yeah), and in it the author mentions being in Newborn Mode. In Newborn Mode, she explains, the only thing you try to keep up with are the dishes and the laundry. As long as those are done, all is well.
But we’re home all day! For three months at least! There’s so much to do! What about my closet? What about the entryway? What about that rainbow cake I saw on Pinterest??
It all comes back to surrender.
Fortunately this time around, I don’t have the pressure of client demands hanging over my head. But I do have two older children (3 1/2 and 5 years old), and a house with an overstuffed basement and attic, and personal interests I’d love to pursue with all this time off.
And see, there it is.
Maternity leave is not “time off.”
Maternity leave is taking care of an infant (or two or three) 24 hours a day. For me, it’s also feeding these little people from my boobs. Which means feeding me a hell of a lot in order to make enough milk for them. Maternity leave is spending enough time with your older kids so they don’t think you’ve replaced them with poopy creatures who cry a lot.
Maternity leave is about focusing on your family. It’s not necessarily for planning your work comeback, executing your dreams of a perfect home, running a summer camp for your older kids, or performing culinary acrobatics.
And hey, if any of that extra stuff gets done, it’s just icing on the cake.
Now, if I could only put this in action…