Miscellany

Maternity leave isn’t a holiday. But…..

watermarked - out my kitchen window

I’ve been on maternity leave twice.  And both times, I experienced people who thought that my being on maternity leave was basically me having a holiday.  Sometimes it wasn’t said so blatantly as that.  Sometimes it was.

And this used to really get my goat.  Because being on maternity leave, or a stay-at-home parent for any length of time, is no holiday, as anyone who has done it will know.  Being at home with babies/small children is not a walk in the park, although you will often find yourself doing just that because sometimes it’s the only remedy for an unsettled child and a frazzled mother.  Looking after these little dependants is hard.  It’s monotonous, and isolating, and relentless, and I don’t know of any other job that can leave you as mentally, physically and emotionally annihilated all at once.  Anyone who claims that a mother on maternity leave is having a holiday, is a fool.

Now I am back at work, and work is tiring as well, but it’s not the same kind of tiring.  It’s tiring because my eyes are staring at a computer screen all day, under fluorescent lighting.  It’s tiring because the processes to get anything done involve a seemingly never-ending obstacle course of hoops and jumps.  It’s tiring because there’s a need to be strategic in everything you do, right down to the smallest email, it all requires thought and analysis.  But these issues go away at the end of the day, they’re only issues for as long as they’re right in front of me.  It’s tiring, but without the investment.

The parenting issues that make you tired, they don’t go away at the end of the day.  There is no end of the day!  And there are no quick solutions, it’s simply a state of being that you have to accept you will be in for the foreseeable future.  And that’s just the parenting piece of the pie, there’s all the other life stuff as well that needs to keep ticking over.  Housework.  Finances.  Appointments.  Relationships.  Obligations.  When you put all of this together, you have the full job description of “mother”.

Having now painted a bleak picture of the early days at home with baby, funnily enough, my last year of maternity leave was probably the best year of my life.  My first round of maternity leave?  No, not so much.  But this second round….I had the knowledge and appreciation that comes with having already had one child.  I had been relying on that to see me through, hoping that my previous child-rearing experience would be the key to ensuring that this time, it wouldn’t be as brutal.  And luckily for me, that was exactly the outcome.

Being able to side-step all the confusion, the unknowing, the shock to the system, and the lack of confidence that the first time brings, last year I was able to focus on what this time meant for myself, my baby, and my family as a whole.  I knew how fleeting a baby’s first year is, and I knew what was important.  Of course, there were moments.  Moments when I thought I would go mad, when I wanted to run away and leave it all behind for someone else to deal with.  But I had known those moments would come, and I was better able to deal with them when they did.  And I was also able to say to myself with certainty – “this too shall pass”.  It always passed, and when it did, I could once again focus on the little things that matter, on taking in every second and trying to hold it in my memory, on leaving all that mental debris behind so I could just watch.  Watch my little ones as they played, as they ate the food I prepared for them, as they looked at the world with curiosity and enthusiasm.  All the time, while I was juggling the ongoing demands of a household of four, I made sure to do so with mindfulness and integrity.  And I tried to pay more attention to my own mind and body, understanding what I needed at any given time, and providing it without guilt.

I was on maternity leave.  The busyness never stopped, and I worked harder than I think I ever have in my life.  It most certainly was no holiday.  But it fed my soul, and I never felt so content.

Linking up with The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and co., and the Weekly Wrap Up at Melting Moments

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Miscellany

To myself, 6 months from now

I will be heading back to work part-time in a couple of weeks, after being on maternity leave for 12 months. To be honest, I’m quite anxious about it. I know from past experience that it is a big adjustment returning to work from extended leave.  A lot can change in a workplace over the course of 12 months, and I know for a fact that a lot HAS changed at my work and in my own specific role. It’s easy to get swept up in all the projects, priorities and bureaucracy all over again, and I do tend to invest a lot of mental energy and time in my work, even when I’m not there.

So, after this past 12 months of taking life slowly, enjoying my family and the simpler things, seeking inspiration, and indulging in my own interests and self-care, these are some things I want myself to remember if I find I am becoming consumed by work:

i am capable

I am capable, I am worthy

Sometimes I feel like I can’t match up to others at work, because I don’t have a degree.  But I need to remember that I have skills, experience, and natural abilities, and they are worth something.

I am confident, my opinions matter

Kind of related to the point above.  Sometimes I have held back on voicing my opinion, because of the fear that what I have to say is stupid or not important, only to have someone else raise the same point later on and be praised for it.  I’m smarter than I give myself credit for.

I am in control of my own destiny

If I want something to change, I’m the only one who can change it.  And I CAN change it.

Work is just work

Bigger picture here.  I tend to catastrophise when I’m feeling stressed.  But one thing I have learnt over this past year of slowing down, is the art of stopping and trying to see the situation logically before jumping to my instinctive response of panic and frustration.  The world isn’t going to stop turning if something goes wrong or if I have too much on my plate.  I just need to do my best, and at the end of the day when I step out of the office, leave work there where it belongs.

I am grateful for all I have

In today’s climate, I’m just grateful that I have a job.  One that pays me well, provides me with excellent conditions, and grants me the flexibility I need as a working mum of small children.  Double bonus that my job is pretty interesting too, and I work with some wonderful people.

The most important thing in my life is the love of my family

No matter what happens, I already have the greatest achievement of my life – my family.  You can’t do better than that.  As long as we’re happy, we’re doing ok.

Life isn’t over

Over the past few months, whenever I’ve remembered that work is looming, my heart has sunk.  I won’t be having any more babies, I won’t ever have this time again.  It feels like the end of an era.  And it is, that’s true.  But there is so much more to come.  We have so much more life to look forward to.  And I’m only going back part-time initially, so I’ll still have plenty of dedicated time to spend with the kids.

I’m sure I’ll cry on my first day back.  I can’t imagine not having Little R by my side all day every day.  But I’m trying to look at the positives of returning to work.  Like – no one screaming in my face (one would hope anyway), alone time in the car to listen to my music really loud, time to read my book over an uninterrupted and quiet lunch, adult conversation, etc.  I guess it’s what you make it!  Wish me luck!

Joining in with the Weekend Rewind at Life, Love & Hiccups

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Miscellany

The older child

It’s 1am, and I can’t sleep.  I’m not even close.  I’m thinking about my daughter, and how lately our relationship seems to have fallen apart, and I’m quietly berating myself for not being able to be the mother I really want to be for her.

There’s something I’ve already learnt about the older child, 7 months in to having more than one.  And that is how much added pressure you can suddenly and unintentionally find yourself placing on their little shoulders.  The pressure to find something to happily amuse themselves with.  The pressure to instinctively know right from wrong.  The pressure to be able to read you, when you are feeling stressed, busy or at wits end.  The pressure to just grow up.  She’s 4. So much pressure for a little one.

My daughter is a star, she shines so bright.  She is affectionate, caring and concerned, smart, funny, inquisitive, bubbly and loud, with never-ending energy and enthusiasm, and a good heart.  She loves unconditionally.  She is so beautiful that she takes my breath away.  She wants to do everything – all day long she constantly asks me, what are we doing next Mumma? Will you do something with me?  I want to do something with you.

watermarked - moose funny pose

But she hears no a lot.  No I can’t do something with you right now,  I have to [insert meaningless chore or task, or responsibility revolving around younger child, here].  No, don’t do that.  No, don’t touch that.  No you can’t.  No no no.  Some days I feel like I’m a hammer, banging away at that nail, until eventually it’s pushed all the way through and there’s no more banging to be done.  I’m scared of breaking her spirit.  Isn’t it strange that you can be saying words and yet knowing you shouldn’t be saying them, both in the same moment?  How do you learn to put yourself in between that, to pry it apart enough so that you have time to take action?

She’s 4.  She now has a younger sibling that she’s waited such a long time for, but he still can’t play with her yet.  She has been through so much change in the past year, we all have, and she has coped with it amazingly well.  We have asked a lot of this little girl already, and she hasn’t complained.  She is such a wonderful person, everything I could have wished for in my child.

But right now, I am everything I never thought I would be as a mother.  In fact, I despise my mother self.  I don’t want my daughter to remember me as this mother.  I want her memories of me to be of a  mother who was always there for her when she needed it, who would encourage her, who was interested in her, who was fun and would play.  And I am those things, all of the time on the inside, just not consistently on the outside.

I feel like I’ve been sitting around waiting for more energy, more motivation, more patience, to magically appear from somewhere.  But it doesn’t.  I desperately want to feel charged, full of life, ready for adventure and seeking opportunities to connect and laugh.  But I am so tired.  There are two of them now, and their demands and needs are constant, and every day is a marathon I’m running just to keep moderately on top of things, because if I stop for a moment then it will just resemble a 24-car pile up – the first car stops and the rest just continue smashing up in to each other.

I don’t know if this is post-natal depression.  I suffered with it for the year after Moose was born, but is it possible for it to come back in fits and starts, with 3 years in between, with the birth of another child in between?  It’s not like this all of the time, we have ebbs and flows.  But in these dark days, it permeates the very walls like a disease.

She’s 4.  I’m 32.  I’m the one who needs to change this scenario, I’m the one who needs to be the bigger person, I’m the one who needs to man up and throw everything I’ve got in to this relationship.  Because my daughter is a beautiful miracle, and she is worth whatever it takes, at the expense of anything.

watermarked - sunny moose

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Miscellany

Winter / Nothing but time

Over the last couple of months, I’ve read a number of blog posts that have spoken of going slow during the colder weather.  Hibernating for the winter, retreating inside our cosy, warm homes.  Instead of rushing a-mile-a-minute, focussing on warming and nourishing food and drink, spending lazy time with our loved ones, reading, resting, and working on our own desires and projects.  A time to look inwards and care for ourselves, figuring out what we really want, and giving ourselves time.  Everything slowly.

watermarked - frosty grass

This theme has mirrored my winter outlook this year.  I’m usually the kind of person to actively seek out a challenge, to constantly be learning, looking for ways to be busy.  Not this year.  Over winter, I’ve taken this slowness under my wing.  There have been times where opportunities have risen in front of me, and I’ve been tempted to embrace them.  But instead I’ve stood back, looked them over, said “No thanks, not now” and walked away.  And it has felt really good, a real relief.

watermarked - frosty leaf

Instead I’ve been sleeping in until the last possible moment.  Lingering over my morning coffee and toast.  Staying in pyjamas until lunchtime.  Holding Little R and just looking at him, and talking to him.  Listening to the peace and quiet, or the wind, or the rain.  Teaching myself more knitting stitches and techniques, and knitting a new scarf.  Reading.  Tidying up the garden.  Baking with Moose.  Catching up on TV.  Writing in my journal.

watermarked - frosty railing

I’m on maternity leave and will be until May next year.  Right now, my only job is to look after my children, primarily Little R.  That is it.  I have no other obligations for that period of time.  My sole purpose is to be a Mum.  And it feels wholesome, it makes me happy.  And it gives me time to pursue the other little creative tidbits that I’ve longed to but hadn’t had the time to.  I won’t ever have this time again, not with Little R, not with any more babies because he is our last.  I have nothing but time, and I plan on embracing it.

watermarked - winter pinwheel

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Moments

In the middle of the night

3:58am. Little R is stirring in his bassinett. Although it’s completely dark in the room, I can picture him just by his noise – straining against the confines of his cotton swaddle, head moving from side to side, legs kicking out. Yep, I’ll have to get up and feed him this time, no getting out of it. He was fussing earlier in the night, about 1-something am. I didn’t get up then, he must have settled back down. Have I gone back to sleep since then? I can’t be sure, I don’t have that feeling of waking up from sleep. Perhaps I’ve been awake this whole time?

I turn the light on, and yes, one of his arms is out of his swaddle, flapping about uncontrollably. His eyes search the ceiling, until my face comes in to view, and for a moment when he spots me, he’s still. Then, I can see recognition in his eyes, and he smiles up at me. I smile back at him. “Hi there, little man“. Even though it’s the middle of the night, I’m happy to see him.

As we go about our feed-change-feed routine every night, quietly and calmly, I’m always amazed and relieved at how easy and enjoyable it is for both of us. Thankfully, so different to the last time. I didn’t know that babyhood could be like this. I’m so grateful to be experiencing this version of it. I’m content and peaceful, as I look down at Little R’s perfect face and stroke his whisper-soft hair while he feeds, and I try to memorise this beautiful moment for all time so I can always return. I know these moments of exclusive togetherness in the still and silence of the night will be gone someday soon, and while I might be appreciative of the extra sleep, I’ll miss them all the same.

He feeds, cradled warm against my tummy with a hand gripping my pyjama collar, his only sound the tiny glug-glug-glug of his drinking. The bedside lamp softly lights the room with a warm, dreamy ambience, and next to my chair the heating vent in the floor pumps out lovely hot air, drifting past my face. We are cosy inside against the freezing conditions on the other side of the wall.

I look up through a gap in the wooden slat blinds covering the window next to me, and I see through it a half-moon in an otherwise-blank sky. I think about all the sleeping people in my street, my suburb, my city, and I think about all the other Mums who are awake with their babes at this moment too. I know some of them will be feeling just as content and blissful as I am now. And I know others will be struggling, crying, screaming, not knowing what to do next or whether they’ll ever feel like a good mother, as I did once before. My heart goes out to all of them and I wish them strength and peace. Isolated under our own roofs, yet united in our purpose, under the watchful glow of a half-moon.

 

Linking up with The Weekend Rewind at Maxabella Loves

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