I must admit that I had unrealistic expectations about postpartum life. I thought I'd bounce back to my pre-pregnancy self and live some perfect fantasy life where I would frequent the outside world, proudly showing off my prodigy. I didn't envision being bored or more tired than I could ever imagine. I didn't realize "dressing up" meant changing my spit-up covered shirt and scraping my hair into a ponytail. I definitely didn't know I wasn't alone in my thoughts and feelings. So when I asked moms to share the toughest part of maternity leave for them, I was somewhat relieved. Even if we make different parenting decisions, have different pregnancies, and take care of very different babies, there are some mom experiences that are simply universal. No one is an island entire unto themselves. Phew!
Now, don't get me wrong: I was very lucky and grateful and privileged to be able to enjoy six months of maternity leave before having to go back to work. That time at home with my newborn was crucial for a variety of reasons, including but certainly not limited to: healing from childbirth, bonding with my baby, and allowing my relationship with my husband to settle into parenthood. Having said that, the entire experience was, well, kind of disappointing. Thanks to unrealistic expectations and situations portrayed in the media, what I thought maternity leave was like versus reality was entirely, undoubtably, and painfully different. Adjusting to new-mom life proved to be more difficult than I could've imagined, and I was thrown for a loop.
So instead of venturing off into the world and showing off my baby, I worried about money and the future and felt like I wasn't contributing to the family. Sometimes it would get to 5:00 p.m. and I would feel like I hadn't achieved a whole lot. I felt anxious and unproductive, even though I was healing and keeping a baby alive. In other words, I wasn't kind to myself, when I absolutely should have been. After all, I was nurturing a demanding, helpless human life. During my maternity leave, that should have been enough.
So if you are currently on maternity leave and wondering where all the postpartum unicorns and rainbows are, you're not alone. Trust me and, well, the following moms: this sh*t is hard, you guys. Be kind to yourselves.
"The boredom! I was used to a busy work and social life and being home every day with a baby was so dull."
"That my friends thought I was on some sort of vacation. They used to say they were jealous I was 'on a break.' It blew my mind!"
"The worst thing was that my partner just didn't get it. He would ask me what I had been doing all day, like I was a teenager on summer break. It made me so mad."
"I compared myself a lot to other moms and thought they were doing more things and having more fun or giving their babies more enriching activities. I found the whole thing very stressful."
"I felt left out of work events. Things move quickly in the corporate world and I felt like they all forgot about me. My replacement felt like, well, a replacement, and I was jealous."
"I had twins so the first three months were just, like, a blur of survival. I had a lot of help, but my overriding feeling was of being overwhelmed. It didn't dissipate until I was back at work and the children were in daycare."
"That no one asks you about you anymore. Instead, it's all about the baby. I found that tough."
"I felt a bit invisable, like I didn't matter anymore because I was just a mom."
"All the other expectations. It wasn't just looking after the baby, you're also supposed to keep a beautiful home and look good because you don't have a job and people think you have all this free time."
"My family were the worst thing. I couldn't use my usual 'I am busy at work' excuse to avoid them, so I had to attend every get-together and they seemed to think I wanted company."
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