Maternity leave is one of those things that you need to experience firsthand before you can really understand what it entails. Even then, every baby is different so it’s difficult to compare from one person to another. However, many people (who haven’t had a baby) see it as an extended holiday…with the minor addition of a new little human in the house.
Ha. They couldn’t be more wrong.
No matter how long you manage to get off work for your maternity leave, there are some key realisations that’ll probably dawn on you once the time comes. While maternity leave is guaranteed to be a life-changing experience, it’ll also bring some new challenges around the corner!
Here are 6 things that might surprise you about maternity leave:
1. It may be harder work than work
Looking forward to the break from the busyness of corporate life, or long meetings, or impending deadlines or whatever else you job entails? You’ll be faced with different challenges during maternity leave. That on top of sleep deprivation, an ever-growing mound of laundry to wash and nappies to change, and the overwhelming realisation that a tiny little baby totally depends on you for their life – it’s a different type of hard. But rest assured, you’ll learn. Things I found rough or time-consuming at first, now come as second nature! At the time though, don’t be ashamed to get plenty of help!
2. How little time you’ll get to yourself
Were you planning on doing a kitchen renovation, redecorating the house or learning a new language while on maternity leave? Might need to park those ideas for a little while, particularly in the first few postpartum months. Your baby will probably need almost constant care and attention, and when they are in someone else’s hands or napping, you’ll probably just want to sleep. Trust me on that one.
However, it’s still important to try and get some super valuable “me time” into each day.
3. You’ll develop and strengthen new (and unexpected) skills
Don’t worry about not learning that new language, or renovating the house, or your occupation-related skills. Guaranteed, you’ll be developing a whole new range of skills that are super practical and relevant to your new role as a mama! From being accustomed to doing everything with one hand, to learning a million different baby development facts, to becoming ultra organised – there are loads of things you’ll quickly become a pro at. Multi-tasking will probably become a breeze too, and this is something that’s useful in all walks of life!
4. How much you’ll look forward to your partner coming home at the end of the day
The sound of their car in the driveway or their keys in the front door – you’ll be surprised at the relief you’ll feel when you hear these at the end of a long day. Like, more so than just looking forward to some extra company. After spending a full day (and probably overnight) with your newborn, it’s okay to want a little bit of space, even if it’s just to take an uninterrupted shower! Also, it’s important for your partner to get some bonding time with your baby too.
5. You’ll spend most of it being awake
By awake, I mean, not asleep. Definitely not your peak mental state or maximum alertness. You’ll seriously question whoever made up the phrase “sleeping like a baby” because surely that wasn’t meant to mean sleeping in half hour blocks, while being cradled or fed. Sleep deprivation is real, so follow these tips to maximise your sleep with a newborn.
6. It’ll be over before you know it
This was one of the biggest surprises I had by the end of my maternity leave. Even though I took 7 months off work, by the time it started wrapping up I was shocked by how quickly it had all happened. It didn’t really feel like I’d been away from the office for that many months, and I couldn’t believe how big my tiny little bubby had become already! Time flies when you’re having fun?
Basically my advice is this: If there are are tough times, know that the end is probably nearer than you think. And for the happy times, enjoy every moment while it lasts. Take photos, capture memories, be kind to yourself.
What surprised you most during your maternity leave? Can you relate to any of the above? Leave a comment below!