In the next few weeks, I’m going to be finishing 12 months of Maternity leave and heading back to work. So how do I feel about it? Oddly, I’m really looking forward to it. I know after about a week I’ll be pulling out my hair but even in this time of uncertainty, I think it’s what I need. It’s funny because before I went off, people joked that 12 months might be too long and I would be dying to come back and I didn’t get it at all. Why would I rather be at work than at home all day with my lovely baby?! I get it now.
Let me be real for a second, I have loved every single minute of being a stay at home mum and feel so lucky that I’m in a job that has allowed me to experience 12 months with my son. However, the last 12 months as life-changing as they have been, have been harder than any job I’ve ever done. Harder than any degree, harder than any exam I’ve ever sat. I have nothing but respect for mums who stay at home full time. I honestly think you should be paid more than anyone for what you do.
If you’re due to go off on Maternity leave soon, here is some advice based on what I’ve learnt;
Do not feel like you have to do something with baby every single day. Some days you’re going to be so exhausted that just getting out of bed and getting you both dressed is too much, let alone heading out to a baby class. Try and find a perfect balance. Yes activities like baby-classes and playdates are fun, but listen to your body and your baby and learn to rest at home when you both need it and know that it’s totally fine. There’s plenty of time for fun tomorrow.
Every phase passes
You’re going to hear this a lot from well-meaning mamas and you’ll probably think ‘yes I know but WHEN will it start to get better?!’ because there will be times when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I promise you, it really does pass. Take it day by day, because in that first year things with your baby can literally change by the day. They can be perfectly happy one day and teething the next. It’s all a phase. Just remember that as well as the bad phases, there’s also so many beautiful phases like when they learn their first word or how to crawl.
In the early days, your baby will sleep mostly during the day. It’s tempting during this time to scroll through your phone for some entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I do look back at my time and wish at times I would have felt more present, put my phone down and really enjoyed those cuddles. Because they really don’t last. Try allocating a period of time during the day where you leave your phone upstairs.
You are enough
You are going to doubt your abilities as a mum every single day, especially if it’s your first. But try not to put so much pressure on yourself. You’re both on this journey together and you’ll learn as you go along. You are 100% made for this. Some days it’s enough just to make sure baby is fed, warm and safe.
There are just some things that only other mums will understand. You may have lots of friends, but if you don’t have at least 1 close friend with children, you may struggle to connect with your circle the way you did before. Maternity leave is a great way to meet new people, especially ones with babies a similar age so you can experience those ‘firsts’ together. Baby classes or the Peanut app are a great way to connect with other mums. Trust me, they’ll become a lifeline at 2am. Politely steer clear of anyone who is too judgemental about somebody else’s parenting. But do open up to friends about your experience as it makes them want to open up too and create a bond that you can trust.
Ask for help
I’m so fortunate to live within 5 minutes of my family and I have a great support system of friends. However, I can count on one hand the amount of times I asked them or my husband for help when I needed it. As a mum, you’ll feel that all of the responsibilities naturally lie with you, especially if your partner works all day. It is physically impossible to do everything on your own. Some people may not know how to help you so it’s important that you ask for exactly what you need from them. It can be as little as asking your mum to babysit for an hour so you can enjoy a coffee in peace.
Happy mum, happy baby
There will be plenty of times when you feel like your whole life revolves around the baby, and you’re not important anymore. Remember this… the baby cannot survive without you. You are the most important part of this whole journey, and for baby to be happy and well looked after, you need to be happy and cared for first. Do 1 thing a day that makes you happy. Put a bit of makeup on if it helps you feel like yourself. Do a workout while baby naps if it makes you feel good. Do not neglect your own needs. Self-care is not selfish and it’s more important than ever now. Your baby is relying on you to be happy and sane.
No matter the weather, walking will be your saviour. It is the answer to every problem during your time off. Baby won’t sleep? Walk. Exhausted and need to clear your head? Walk. Need some happy hormones? Walk. Prioritise at least 1 walk a day for both of you, don’t look at your phone and just enjoy breathing in the fresh air and the sound of your sleeping baby.
It’s okay not to be okay
You are not going to enjoy every single minute of being with your child. It’s bliss, it’s life-changing, it’s incredible. But there are plenty of times when it’s not fun, it’s boring, it’s lonely and you’ll feel pretty shit. And that’s completely normal! Be honest and admit when you’re finding things hard. There might be someone who can help, or can relate to how you’re feeling and reassure you that you’re not alone, because you’re not. And it’s okay not to be okay, it doesn’t mean you’re failing at motherhood, it means you’re human.
Make sure you document this journey any way that you can because it will soon be a distant memory. Start a blog and write about your experiences, create an Instagram account or any other type of social media dedicated to connecting with other mums. Write a journal and document milestones. Take tonnes of pictures and print them off for a photo album. Write letters to your baby to open in the future telling them all about your adventures together in your first year.
You are about to embark on the most life-changing journey. They say that when a woman becomes a mother she is born again. And this couldn’t be more true. You are a brand new version of yourself. Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, use this time to create better habits and get rid of old ones. Journal during naptime and ask yourself questions about how you’re feeling. Think about your goals and dreams and how this new version of you aligns with this. Becoming a mum brings this new found level of confidence and you feel like you can do anything so make good use of this feeling. The ‘old’ you is still there, you’re just a more empowered version of yourself and you can really use this time to get to know yourself again and essentially reinvent who you are, what your values are and what you want out of life.
Above all, never forget that you are a BADASS. You grew a human and birthed them. Every single day you dedicate your life to keeping them alive and that makes you one amazing human with infinite potential.