Going on maternity leave can be a very strange experience, at least in the beginning. Before you have a baby, you really have no idea what those weeks off will entail. I mean, you think you know, but unless you have a baby of your own, you don't. Trust me. Our collective misconception about maternity leave and what it consists of is probably why there are so many things moms on maternity leave are tired of hearing from non-mom friends, because they most definitely do not fully understand what's involved in taking care of a newborn and, honestly, it's not their fault. Maternity leave has been packaged as a "vacation" when it's anything but, and unless you're a mother who has experience maternity leave first hand, you probably just don't know any better.
I know there are plenty of childless people out there who are sick of hearing that they don't understand what it's like to be a parent, and rightfully so, but I find myself having to repeat that sentiment over and over and over again. I'm sorry, but people without kids really have no idea what it's like. It's not like having a new puppy. It's not like babysitting. It's not like being an aunt or uncle. It's non-stop, put-yourself-and-your-needs-last, sleep-deprivation insanity. Sure, it's filled with love and excitement and joy because you're created a new life that is half you and half someone else, but that doesn't make it easy. There may be days when things feel easier, but there are many more days when all you want to do is hand over the baby when your partner gets home and just walk away, so you can recover.
So, when I tell someone that I have been or I'm on maternity leave and they start talk about alone time, or loudly wonder how I could possibly fill my days when all I have to do is take care of my newborn, I feel the instant urge to scream and then run to avoid potentially violent activity. Maternity leave isn't a vacation; Maternity leave isn't easy; Maternity leave isn't anything other than essential, for so many women, because an adjustment and bonding and healing need to happen. So, with that in mind, here are seven things moms on maternity leave are tired of hearing from non-mom friends.
"I'd Sure Love To Have Some Time Off From Work"
Yes, because what I'm thinking at 3:37 in the freakin' morning as I'm trying to wrangle my newborn into a fresh diaper before there's pee everywhere, or when I'm struggling with breastfeeding, is how much I'm enjoying my time off work. Being a new mom is way harder than my day job, so I don't consider it "time off."
"What Do You Do All Day?"
Do we really have to do this? OK. I feed my baby about six times, with each time taking at least 20 minutes, and often up to 40 minutes. I change about eight diapers. I bathe my baby. I try to get my baby to sleep several times a day, which may or may not go well. I probably also need to do a load of laundry, or possibly more than one because vomit and pee and poop and leaks happen. During all of that, I might get to feed myself, and I probably won't have time to shower. I'll also need to make dinner, since I'm already home and my partner is probably at work so that we can pay our bills while I'm off from work taking care of our newborn.
"It Must Be Nice To Have All That Time To Yourself"
Yes, my favorite thing in the world while I'm on maternity leave is to just sit and meditate, while ignoring my baby because, eh, this is just "time for myself." Also, I love having zero adult interaction for 10 hours a day!
"I'd Better Not Hear About Any Vacations You Take!"
While I'm sure that some parents take "matcations" (a vacation while you're on maternity leave), most simply can't afford to spend extra money while they're down to just one income. To be fair, I think more Canadians do this than Americans, but that's because we get a full year of maternity leave.
"You Probably Won't Come Back, Will You?"
For some reason, people without kids just assume that once you have some of your own, you're done with your respective job. I guess that can be true for some moms, but for a lot of us, that just isn't our reality. Some of us want to continue working because we love our careers, and yes, you can have a career you love and a family you love. Of course, on the other side of things, some of us have to keep working because we just can't afford not to.
"You'd Better Hope I Don't Take Your Job While You're Gone! Ha Ha."
That sort of statement is creepy to hear, mostly because it's sadistic and rude but also because it, sadly, happens a little too often. It amazes me how many companies manage to "restructure" in a way that leaves new moms in a lower job role once they come back from maternity leave. This happened to me, and I know several others this has happened to, as well.
"You're Taking An Awfully Long Time Off Work"
Do you know what I love? I love it when people who can't possibly fathom the reality of my situation judge me. Eight weeks away from work, so I can be with my newborn, is a drop in the bucket when I stop and think about time and my baby's life and how long I will have with them. Even 12 weeks is nothing, in the grand scheme of things. Canadians take a full 52 weeks of maternity leave. One. Full. Year. So, please, don't pressure any new mom to get back to work at the 8- or 12-week mark.