Nothing complicates a new mom’s feelings like an intense countdown. Say what you will about maternity leave, but I’d venture to say that many of us (lucky enough to even have it) found the expiring time frame to be an extra stress during an already stressful time. Thankfully, I had a supportive partner and family members around me when I was on maternity leave, who helped in a number of crucial ways. I can’t speak for everyone, but I felt like I needed to have a certain level of comfort with my role as a mom before I officially became a "working mom," a level of comfort that was pretty much impossible for me to achieve by myself. So, not only are was I a new mom attempting to adjust to, well, motherhood, I was a new mom "on the clock," and the learning curve prior to my maternity leave's expiration date was unkind, at best.
For me, maternity leave was one long, caffeine-fueled, bleary-eyed family bonding experience. Not only did I have family members coming and going constantly, but I had my partner pretty much around at all times. He's a school teacher, and summer break coincided with my maternity leave. I mean, for this new mother, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.
However, don’t fret if the timing of your maternity leave doesn't pan out the way I did. Trust me when I say that your partner doesn't need to be on vacation to help you adjust to new motherhood before you go back to work. In fact, there’s plenty of ways to support a mom on maternity leave, including but not limited to:
I've had mom friends who couldn't wait to go back to the office. I've had mom friends who wanted more than anything not to return to work. I'm pretty sure some of them simply alternated between feelings, depending on the day. There's no right or wrong way to feel about working, and a good partner understands this.
By "support and encouragement," I mean "constant reassurance that I'm not ruining this child's life."
Every household is different, of course, so perhaps a clear divide of parenting duties works for you and yours. But for the rest of us, I was over the moon whenever my partner changed a diaper, or when my own mom gave our son a bottle.
Trust me, it's about four thousands times easier for anyone else to swing by the store than it would be for you to drag yourself (and your newborn) to one.
Parenting is challenging and frustrating and wonderful and amazing all at the same time. This alone is requires patience, but when you partner the influx of experiences and struggles with a partner who's recovering from childbirth? Yeah, patience helps.
Unless, of course, you're into it right now. Just in case you're not, though, your boundaries should definitely be respected (and not just on maternity leave, but all the freakin' time because consent is awesome and necessary).
Speaking of bodies, loved ones should be encouraging and compassionate when it comes to the healing of yours. If you happen to go to that six-week check-up only to hear your doctor say, "Oh yeah, you're definitely not ready yet," (*cough*) no one should make you feel bad about it.
It doesn't matter what form a break takes for you. I mean, mine may or may not have involved laying face down on the carpet. What matters is that you get the break at all.