Recently I overheard a pregnant woman telling her friend she couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep at night. She said she couldn't wait to have her baby so she could get some sleep. Honestly, I laughed so hard coffee came out of my nose. Then again, I remember being that naive before I navigated my own maternity leave and life with a newborn. In fact, there were more than a few plans I made before going on maternity leave, that went right out the window once my baby was born.
Even though I knew I would have an infant to care for and a slew of new responsibilities that go along with that insurmountable care, I thought I would be able to do other things in conjunction. I really did view my maternity leave as a time to slow down and, I must admit, I even thought of it as a holiday from my "normal life". I was able to take six months off work, and that amount of time seemed like a luxurious break from the day-to-day grind of working and teaching and commuting. Oh poor, pre-baby me. What I didn't know about the realities of being home with a newborn could have filled a library.
So many of my well-intentioned plans for maternity leave went completely unfulfilled, like all of the following:
I'd Start A Blog
I thought without the distractions of work, I would finally be able to start a blog, finish up the first draft of my novel, and generally find my stride in my creative pursuits.
However, my baby had other ideas. He expected — no, he demanded — my full and undivided attention. Yeah, he got it.
I'd Take A Class
I imagined that when the baby slept I would have time to take some online courses and get certified in a new area.
Little did I know that during the postpartum period I, for the most part, couldn't concentrate enough to even read a short email. When the baby slept, I was either asleep or taking a much needed shower or just, you know, surviving until he woke up.
I'd Learn A New Skill
I actually thought maternity leave would be the perfect time to learn to knit or take up water color painting. Ha ha. Ha. Ha.
I'd Exercise Regularly
I imagined long, daily walks in which I'd be pushing my baby in the stroller, or maybe even rollerblading (even though I've never worn rollerblades in my life).
I did go skating on the frozen canal once, but breastfeeding took so much of my energy, that I really didn't feel I had enough leftover to work out.
I'd Polish My Resume
I thought I would be able to take this time away from work to finesse my resume and qualifications. I imagined I would network and reach out to new contacts, improving my future work prospects.
However, what usually happens is that your absence from work creates a distance that can be hard to shrink when you're ready to return to work.
I'd Budget And Save Money
I was on a reduced income and had a new baby to budget for. However, I imagined that, without eating lunch out each day and buying work clothes, I would have lots more expendable income. I didn't. Moral of the story: babies are expensive.
I'd Bake And Make Homemade Dinners
I really like to cook, so I thought without the strains of working full-time I would be able to make elaborate meals each and every night.
After all the frozen meals that loved ones had made ran out, I spent a few weeks living off sandwiches and toast. I eventually got my cooking mojo back but, honestly, it took a while.
I'd Keep The House Clean
Before I had a baby I was a teacher and, during my summer vacations, my home was always incredibly clean. Having all that time during the day, without work, made it so easy to keep the place spick and span.
Add in a baby and it was almost impossible to keep up with household chores and, really and truly, who cares?
I'd Go To Coffee Shops
I did take my little one to the coffee shop most weeks. It was a chance to get out and about, grab some java, and show my baby off a little.
However, it was never as care-free as I had envisioned. Breastfeeding in public presented some challenges. My baby always seemed to cry just as I lifted my coffee to my lips. Then, when it was time to go, I would have to try and squeeze the stroller into the bathroom stall with me so I could pee before taking off.
Basically, until I experienced it myself, I had no idea what life with a new baby was going to be like. Which is why most of my plans were totally unrealistic.