When I was pregnant, I fervently supported the formerly pregnant people who claimed they didn't have the time to get anything done during maternity leave. I guess, for some people, taking care of a newborn was just too much. But for me? Ha. No way. I was going to be different. I was going to be the parent that got all the things done. And as you might've already guessed, the only thing I actually did was successfully create a list of plans I had for maternity leave that didn't happen. Humility, my friends. Humility is a powerful, necessary, useful thing.
When I went on maternity leave after my first child was born, I had just finished a three year graduate degree, a clinical internship in rape trauma, experienced a home foreclosure, and thought I knew everything there was to know about the pains of being busy. So if I'm being honest, I have to admit that I wasn't just excited to meet this new person I had been growing inside my body for 40, more or less, weeks. I was also really excited to have some free time, and assumed maternity leave would allow me the opportunity to relax, recharge, and get back to neutral. I was going to catch up on non-academic reading, sleep, and all the television shows I wasn't able to enjoy over the last four years. And since my leave was also unpaid, as most U.S. mothers' are, I intended to make the most of those six weeks.
Yes. I know, I know. You can laugh. I mean, if I was you I'd be laughing my ass off right now. But let me explain! I was young! I was naive! I had no idea that the other parents who didn't get anything done during maternity leave weren't just being dramatic! So when I didn't get the following things done during my first maternity leave, I went much easier on myself the next two times around.
Shower Every Day
I'm not super proud to admit that during graduate school it wasn't uncommon for me to go days without showering. I felt sure I'd be able to catch up on a daily clean-up practice once my baby was born, though.
On the contrary, I don't think I've ever been, and remained, so dirty for such a long period of time in my life.
Catch Up On Sleep
Because, like, I get to sleep when the baby sleeps, right? That was my plan, at least. But, no! This child never slept more than 30 minutes at a time.
Now it's eight years later and I'm still running on an eight year sleep deficit.
Catch Up On My Reading
Graduate school is so full of reading you have to do, that it squelched the reading-for-fun that I used to do. I couldn't wait to delve deep into a good, pointless-yet-witty novel. Ha, Turns out, a fussy nipple-denying newborn does not take too kindly to a paperback on its head.
Spend Some Time With My Partner
For most of graduate school my partner of seven years and I lived in different states. After that, he spent most of the time on the road for his job. So when he quit his job to become a stay-at-home dad I thought maternity leave would be a great opportunity to spend some much-needed quality time as a couple.
Yeah, that never happened. Unless you count an infinite number of hours yelling over a screaming, colicky baby trying to decipher the perfect "shushing" noise to induce slumber. But I don't exactly count that.
Become An Expert In Breastfeeding
Yeah, there's no such thing.
"But I know there are experts," you might say. "I myself talked to a lactation consultant!"
A pox on your advice, random imaginary person! I talked to every lactation consultant available to me. By my count that was four consultants in six weeks. I never became an expert. I felt a tremendous amount of shame for not being able to feed my baby, and they completely refused the breast when I went back to work at six weeks.
Get A Massage
Oh, God! Did I ever want and need a massage! I'm still bitter about not getting one, to be honest.
Ha. Hahahahahahahahahaha! Ha. Ha. Ha.
Finally Start My Garden
I had hoped to start a garden shortly after my first child was born. I had visions of contentedly moving about a beautiful garden, carrying a sleeping baby around in one of those fancy wraps, running my fingers over beautiful flowers and eyeing fresh vegetables I'd inevitably prepare for dinner.
My baby hated those wraps, you guys. And bending and lifting constantly while baby carrying? Yeah, not so freaking easy.
Watch A Movie
OK. Well, this one actually did happen. Believe it or not, I watched a ton of movies while sleeping, breastfeeding, and generally being exhausted trying to figure this baby-having stuff out. But I kind of thought I might have time for a theater movie, you know? I don't know what I was thinking. It, like everything else on my maternity leave list, didn't happen.
Since I didn't accomplish a single thing on my maternity leave list, I was exhausted, anxious, and pretty down on myself when I went back to work six weeks postpartum. But here's the good news: because this list was nothing more than fodder for my trash can meant I was a lot gentler on myself the next two times I went on maternity leave. Sure, I still made the list, you know, just in case, but I always forgave myself for doing none of it.
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