Why Maternity Leave Is No Holiday

By Sofie Jacobs

Babies sleep up to 16 -18 hours a day. They only feed every three hours and the average amount of nappy changes in the day? Around 8-10. Those numbers sound doable right? No wonder maternity leave is often envisaged by mums and their families as an extended holiday with a cute new best friend to hang out with.

Not so

Let’s be real. Maternity leave is never going to be a walk through the park (or a session on a sunlounger for that matter!). But a lot of first time mums I meet have expectations about what they will be doing during their maternity leave, from learning an extra language to writing a novel, traveling the country or catching up with friends over endless coffees and cakes or simply chilling out. It’s not quite the same in reality. As soon as you have brought your new bundle home, you start a new 24 hour job which involves keeping your new baby and yourself alive whilst also remembering to still be your partner’s partner and your friends’ friend and you do all that whilst being sleep deprived. I think it’s fair to say that very quickly, the holiday idea comes firmly to an end.

When you’ve never done something before, it’s hard to really know what to expect and that’s especially true for new motherhood. So to tell it like it is, here’s just a few reasons why maternity leave (as amazing as it is in so many ways) is absolutely no holiday!

You’re constantly busy

Decent holidays involve plenty of time off just for you. Where you can pick what you do with your time. There’s often the expectation that on mat leave you will have time spare to watch those Netflix series you never got around to or read that list of classic novels you’ve been meaning to tackle, but life with a baby rarely offers up periods of uninterrupted time.

While new borns sleep a fair amount in the day there’s a very high chance your nights are going to be more hard core than your misguided youth, with multiple wake-up calls and fewer hours sleep than fingers on one hand.

Any moments of sleepy time during the day, are taken up with catching up with all those jobs and things you can’t even begin to think about when baby is awake, and only if you’re lucky, you might get a chance to sleep when they sleep. Except that sleep will usually be light and coupled with a sense of unease – because mum has to be ready for baby at any time.

You’re not in charge

One of the best things about holidays pre baby? You are totally in charge of your schedule. What you fancy doing is priority number one. A lie-in followed by a swim and a gym session? Coffee with friends and a nice walk to the shops? Simply doing nothing?

You’ll soon find out that babies don’t care about what you’d like to do, or how you feel. In fact, they’re about as selfish as the Devil Wears Prada (times a million). They are your (cute, tiny and sometimes demonic) boss now, and in the early months, you work exclusively for them 24/7.

Recharge and relax?

Holidays make you feel refreshed, alert and reenergised. They give you a chance to recharge those batteries and hit the ground running at work with a new zest for life. Maternity leave doesn’t work the same way. For a start maternity leave is simply the beginning of a very intense new job one where you’ve had no experience and are thrown into the deep end and expected to know all the answers. From day one your work is cut out for you whether it’s burping, washing, researching symptoms on the internet, grappling with breastfeeding or sterilising bottles, there’s always something that demands attention. However, it’s not the job from hell, anything but – cuddling, soothing, kissing and adoring and falling in love with your baby are also part of the job and equally as important as practical stuff.

A new sense of adventure 

Adventure is often one of the best parts of a holiday discovering a new place is always exciting. On maternity leave however, you may not even leave the house for days. You may find the days and weeks merge together into a blur of tears, milk and nappies. But there’s definitely still an adventure to be had. You’re adventuring into unknown territories as a mum, getting to know your baby and getting into your stride as a mother. That’s probably the best adventure of all

Lots of LOLs

Holidays are usually spent with people we love, taking photos, making memories and having fun, and while maternity leave is a great opportunity for mummy baby selfies and comedy photos – the reality is that it can feel quite lonely at times. It’s quite normal to feel isolated or lonely as a new mum, so make meeting people a priority – you won’t regret it.

Why can’t it be simple?

As much as you may have the intention that your baby is not going to run your life and insist that are going to just have to fit into it – things rarely work out like this. Maternity leave is an amazing and special time that’s filled with great memories – much like a holiday! – except that you’re working flat out as a mum. It’s no wonder that many first time mums imagine they will have more time to themselves, after all, if this is your first baby, it’s hard to really know what it’s going to be like. No matter how much unlike a holiday maternity leave is I promise you’ll enjoy it for all the right reasons for being there for your baby through all the special and challenging moments, strengthening your bond and embracing your new identity as mum’.

For regular expert and peer support in navigating pregnancy, early parenthood and work, join the HATCH community now.

Photo credit: Kayla Gonzales

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