Is it weird that I have no memory of my maternity leave expectations? The actual experience of it is now so permanently ingrained in my head so I cannot recall what I was anticipating. I know there were days when I hoped it would go on forever, and days when I was ready for maternity leave to be over. I'd say it was a roller coaster of emotions, but that feels kinda limiting. I think it would be more accurate to call it a log flume ride of feelings (because there was also fluid everywhere).
For me, maternity leave was a mix of quiet, slow moments of staring at my baby as he wiggled on his play mat; frustrated, tearful moments as we struggled (again) with his latch; and soft, snuggly moments drifting in and out of naps with my nose nuzzled in his soft hair. It's no secret that U.S. maternity leaves feel almost universally too short to all the moms who take them, but that doesn't mean that — in between the snuggles and squeezes — there aren't challenging moments and flashes of frustration that leave you wanting a change of pace. And for many of us, the most realistic change is that return to work. Here's a small sampling of the just what might trigger it:
When You Want Privacy In The Bathroom
To be fair, a 2-month-old doesn't really have much of a concept of what you're doing in the bathroom, but still. I knew what I was doing, and I knew that he could see me. We have a specific corner of the living room that’s visible from the bathroom. It was also where my baby’s play mat, his swing, his high chair, his play yard, and his bouncer all have lived (though not at the same time).
When You’re Missing A Regular Alarm Clock
It’s not that I don’t love getting woken up by shrill crying, it’s just that I don’t love it as much as getting woken up by something other than shrill crying.
When You Miss Wearing Adult Clothes
I considered dressing like a functioning member of society during my leave, but then I remembered that my son would probably spit up on whatever it was I was excited to wear. So, I didn’t.
When You’re Craving Adult interaction
My son was good about not judging me for my obsession with pop culture and outdated TV shows, however, he also couldn’t contribute to any conversations I wanted to have about them.
When You Want to Eat Out For Lunch Like It’s No Big Deal
One of the things I took for granted as a working adult was the ease in which I could pick up lunch that was made by other people. Never again will I take a styrofoam container of teriyaki, or a side of french fries, for granted.
When You Want to Worry About Something Other Than When To Feed Your Baby Next
Eventually, I used an app for tracking breastfeeding my baby. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it (I’d like to believe I’m not that connected to technology, but who am I kidding). But when it’s 4 a.m., and I otherwise can’t remember which side I last nursed on? Yeah, I'm going to be glad I saved that information.
When A Diaper Leaks Onto Your Clothes
I wish I could come up with something sentimental and sweet about how spilled poop is a gentle part of motherhood and a reminder that you're caring for a young life, but I can't bring myself to do so. Spilled poop is unpleasant no matter what and it makes you want to escape back to a world where your co-workers, for all their failings, at least manage to keep their literal sh*t away from you.
When You Have A Podcast Calling Your Name
...or, like my case, you don't have enough opportunity to listen to Bieber's "Sorry" on repeat during your regular day, so you need to re-visit your commute. (I know that song came out months ago, but I'm still into it like my son is intro trucks.)
When You Miss The Other Parts Of Your Commute
Until I didn't have it, I didn't realize how awesome it was to have a buffer in your day to help you transition in and out of work. I especially noticed the absence of my commute when the long newborn days started to feel like an endless cycle of sameness: feed, sleep, diaper, feed, sleep, diaper. What I wouldn't have given to be able to spend 20 minutes cruising down the freeway in between breastfeeding and diapers changes.
When You Want Access To Foofy Coffee
Perhaps it's my inner Seattleite, but a hot paper cup in my hand is an instant mood booster. Though, shlepping yourself and a 6-week old to a coffee shop for your own kicks is hard to justify. But a quick stop on your way to and from the office? Psh, easy.
When You Just Miss Your Independence
THIS IS NORMAL, YOU GUYS, WE’RE ALL NORMAL AND IT’S OK. I used to grit my teeth when people warned me how quickly it would all go, because when you're in the middle of it, you feel tethered to this tiny, squirmy creature,. However now that I’m through the newborn phase, I realize that all those slow yet stressful days and challenging nights were the making of something amazing, and they were my crash course into parenthood. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.