For me, maternity leave was bittersweet. I was hormonal, sore, sleep-deprived, and depressed. I couldn't seem to lose the baby weight, struggled with breastfeeding, and was so unmotivated. However, despite the many WTF moments I experienced, there were awesome parts, too. I loved the private moments I don't wan't to forget, and the guilty pleasures that come with caring for a newborn. In my conversations with other moms, I've learned that most of them had a secret favorite part of maternity leave, too. Most involved binge-watching Netflix and not having to wear pants, which proves that new moms know how to live their best lives. For real, pants are so overrated.
Recovering from childbirth is no joke, and if you are fortunate enough to get maternity leave, you learn that there's really no wrong way to do it and no shame in doing what you need to do to make it through the newborn phase. Some of us cherished spending our days snuggling with baby and seeing if we could watch all 13 seasons of Grey's Anatomy in one sitting (guilty as charged). Others enjoyed having extra free time to read, work out, and figure out how to be a mom without having to juggle the responsibilities of work, too. For others the best part of maternity leave was being able to get some needed perspective about motherhood, their careers, and their relationships. Well, at least as much as they could between feedings and diaper changes.
A few moms agreed to go on the record and share their favorite parts of maternity leave. Read on, but only if you promise not to tell anyone (especially the part about no pants).
"There were no clothing expectations. I wore yoga pants all day, every day. At the time, I worked for a large high-end clothing retailer. It was a mental relief to not have to care if I matched or was accessorized."
"There was something magical about my 3:00 a.m. short conversations with my husband, while caring for our daughter."
"My grandmother would cook anything I asked for. I don't think I made a single dinner for the first two months. I just got to mom all day, and sit down to a hot meal. So awesome."
"The bit where you're only getting yelled at by one tiny power crazed dickhead instead of several."
"The occasional glass of wine before 5:00 p.m."
"I love my students, but it was so nice to only be in charge of one small human every day, instead of 175."
"It was the middle of the nights moments with just me and my little, with no worries about waking up to the alarm and knowing I could sneak a quick nap later."
"With my first, it was sitting on the couch watching M*A*S*H for hours while he ate and slept. My second was born about five weeks before the end of school, and it was great to be able to stick her in a sling and actually go to all of my son's end-of-year activities that otherwise I would have struggled to attend or missed entirely because of work."
"Staying up all night nursing the baby, and reading smut novels."
"I was so lazy. I didn't really clean, I just napped, went for walks, and cooked. It was amazing. Even with two C-section recoveries, it was just so nice not to feel obligated to anything but care for my family. My job isn't even particularly stressful, but I normally take it home with me, and I could just let it go."
"Mornings. In my career, I go to work before the sun is up every day, and on the weekends my toddler is there wrecking havoc from 5:30 a.m. on. During the week on maternity leave, the simple act of letting the dog out or walking to the mailbox, with the quiet morning sun shining down, is like a dose of free medication."
"The best part was being with my husband. We had been doing a race against the (uterine) clock remodeling and finished with about two weeks to spare, before [our daughter] came early. Playing cards at the table was by far my favorite moment. It was so surreal and exactly what we had done when we were dating. It was such a cool flashback for us to think back how far we had come."
"Completely unnecessary trips to Target for 'baby things,' which we all know is code for coffee and more yoga pants."
"Having a really great excuse to not wear pants or a bra, shave, or wash my hair. I also really enjoyed bailing on plans due to having 'a rough night.' I may or may not still do this."
"Wearing leggings every day, people bringing you meals, and of course, baby snuggles."
"With my first baby, I was too anxious to enjoy too much of anything, but it was nice to be able to go to bed without an alarm clock, because baby would wake us when he needed to. I slept with peaceful nature sounds instead of a shrill beep. It rocked. It has been a lot harder to juggle with my second, unless my older [child] is at daycare. When he goes, I nap when the little guy naps, binge-watch Netflix shows, and stay in my comfy clothes all day. I'm totally one of those people who needs to go back to work, but I'm actually enjoying my time off this time and sad that it will end soon."
"Being able to have some alone time at home to not be dressed up. The pressure to immediately 'get your body back,' fix your hair and makeup, and just look presentable immediately after having a baby is intense. I enjoyed being able to wear my pajamas, and a dirty ponytail, and snuggle my baby."
"Shh, don't tell her, but the best part was my mother-in-law. She came for two weeks when each baby was a week old, and did all the cooking and cleaning so I could just concentrate on baby and myself. I'd lost a lot of blood with both births, and I don't know how I would've had the energy to do everything without her."
"My secret favorite part was seeing my (now ex) husband with fresh eyes. Maybe it was the eyes of a mom, or maybe it was three uninterrupted weeks together. He got a decent amount of paternity leave from his company, and I had delusions of this magical time as a family. Instead he played video games the entire time. He said I was milking my recovery, that I 'had only had a baby, I wasn't an invalid' when I asked for help. He put insurmountable pressure on me to make breastfeeding work, because he wanted nothing but the best for 'his baby.' We separated a few months later."
"Netflix. I got to watch what I wanted, when I wanted, with no snide comments from my husband about the quality of the shows I choose to watch."
"Delivery food. My hyperemesis was finally gone, and I now had two kids to wrangle. My husband got way less judgmental about my takeout spending, since I was finally able to eat again."
"Knowing that various projects at work are turning into an absolute dumpster fire, because they completely overworked me and relied on me for way too much, to the detriment of my health at times. I know I'm starting a new job when I go back to work, so I'm not worried about returning to fix the mess."
"Hours on end of just feeling [my daughter's] little body laying on me. Smelling her head, feeling her breathe, and touching her baby soft skin. The newborn stage was really special to me. Also, going out for breakfast on a weekday always felt so luxurious to me."
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries: