I know this will not be well received.
I also know I’m not alone. So, I’ll say it anyway:
Maternity leave is not for me.
I’ve done it twice now. And despite occurring under very different circumstances, neither was as cuddly and peaceful and rewarding as I’d imagined.
With my first son, I had nine months to prepare for the six weeks I planned to take off from work. I had everything I needed. Crib. Blankets. Toys. What could go wrong?
In short: colic.
My son was a difficult newborn. Or as Dr. Sears puts it: high needs. He screamed all. the. time. I’m not talking about typical newborn cries, either. In fact, I ended up taking 12 weeks off to better manage his health. Not to mention, I had severe postpartum depression that made everything a dark blur.
Two years later, that blur didn’t seem so bad. So when our foster care worker asked if we wanted to accept placement of a newborn baby, I said “YES!”
This was my chance for maternity leave redemption.
Instead of nine months, I had only 12 hours to prepare. But, this time would be different. I didn’t give birth. It had to be better.
You know what I’m about to say, right? It wasn’t.
And I soon realized it’s not because of the constant crying or sleepless nights. It’s simply because I’m not cut out for this.
I’m a creature of habit. I thrive on routine. I have to be DOING something.
On maternity leave, I find myself holed up in the bedroom, binge watching crappy television shows and forgetting to change out of my pajamas.
I’m exhausted. Lonely. And, all cuddled out.
The truth is: isolation is part of maternity leave.
Yes, we can leave the house. But, it’s not easy. With a baby who wants to eat every two hours, all errands must be timed perfectly to avoid meltdowns. And by the time you feed the baby, change him, and get him in the car, you only have a few minutes to get to the store, grab your things, and speed home.
And since both of my sickly newborns wanted to be held 24/7, it turns into a cycle:
Hold baby. Change baby. Make bottle. Feed bottle. Hold baby. Change baby. Make bottle. Feed bottle. Hold baby…
Don’t get me wrong. I love my children.
And maybe I should be able to find self-worth in these 6-12 weeks of one-on-one care I am blessed to provide. I know some people don’t even get the opportunity.
But, for someone who loves to work, it’s not easy to let it go.
I work full-time, have a side job, write for two publications, and run this blog. Staying busy is my oxygen.
So, I will cherish the last few days of this break. I will enjoy all the snuggles. I’ll finish a series or two on Netflix. I’ll bond, play, and nurture.
But, I won’t pretend that I’m not at least a little bit excited to talk to adults every day, return to my routine, and get back to my corporate desk.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I think it’s just scary to say it out loud. You fear judgement. Your maternal instincts tell you to keep quiet. You feel guilty because you have friends who may never experience this season of life.
It’s okay if you’re not in love with maternity leave. You’re not any less of a mother. You’re just as strong. Just as loving. Just as cut out for this parenting gig as anyone else.
The truth is: the early days are really, really hard. And, it’s about time we admit it.