I count my blessings every day that I was able to take the full year of maternity leave allowed to parents here in the UK. I know that I was incredibly lucky.
But was maternity leave everything I had hoped for?
I wrote about maternity back in September last year, and I do still stand by what I said back then. Maternity leave isn’t an extended holiday, it isn’t a break. I’ve probably worked harder in the last year than I have in my entire working life.
The perception of maternity leave is sleepy mornings curled up in bed with this tiny new life. Play dates every other day surrounded by little ones of varying ages, mums sharing their sleepless night anecdotes. Having time to spend on all those creative projects you always wanted to do but never had the time for before, like learning a new skill. All whilst having the perfectly kept home and having dinner on the table for your partner.
And yes, some of my last year has consisted of this. We’ve cuddled in bed, and had naps together til lunchtime. We’ve done play dates. We’ve gone to play group. We go swimming every week. I’ve worked on my blog and worked on my photography as well as my social media. I’ve cleaned the house from top to bottom and had dinner on the table for 6pm on a fairly regular basis.
But I’ve also had days where I haven’t gotten out of pjs all day. Scratch that, make that a couple of days. Or haven’t left the house all week. The wash basket has gotten to the over-flowing stage more than once. Some days the most I’ve managed to do is feed Henry and keep him alive, and that was a pretty solid accomplishment.
There’s many things I thought I would achieve in my year away from work, that quite honestly, I just didn’t. I wanted to write a book – I’ve always wanted to be an author – and thought this year would be the perfect opportunity. It didn’t happen. Sure I have more of an idea for a book, but that’s as far as that has gotten. I thought I’d be part of a mum gang and Henry and I would be out and about on the daily. Sure we’ve been out and about, and we’ve got a couple of groups we go to, and I have my online mama blogger friends to talk to when I need them but it’s no where near the extent I imagined.
I thought I’d have my stuff together and be the uber mum, and some days I do, and other days not so much.
And that’s the thing about maternity leave. It’s a learning situation. I think I’ve learnt more about myself in this last year than in any other time of my life about the person that I am.
It’s been a year that has been amazing, and for that I wouldn’t change a thing.
You can have all the expectations that you like, but your maternity leave is just that, yours. And I’m happy and grateful for this year spent with my favourite little boy, who’s helped make me feel like me and given me the best year of my life.