Monday, 20 January 2014

My Experience of Maternity Leave

My day 5 selfie - tired but ecstatic 
Generally I keep this blog fairly light hearted but I recently read another blog article and felt that I wanted to give another perspective. I am referring here to the maternity leave following my first daughter's birth. As you know I didn't return to work after having the twins, because some people don't!

My husband returned to work after the usual two weeks paternity leave. I can't say that I spent a single day in pj's, but then I think if you've not done that before having a baby you're probably not about to start. For me getting up and getting dressed, however basic my effort, makes me feel more prepared to tackle the day's challenges.

I tried a lot of the usual maternity activities, swimming classes, music classes, NCT meet ups, coffee mornings, buggy walks, baby cinema etc and I am under no illusion that that was for me, to keep me sane, get me out the house etc. I also found the company and conversation of other mothers going through the same things as me greatly reassuring. I was never kidding myself that I was increasing my daughter's IQ. I do think it made me a good mother though, because it made me happy, and as we all know: Happy Mummy = Happy Baby!

Yes having a baby is expensive and obviously you're on a reduced income but you don't have to spend a fortune to keep yourself occupied. We did the swimming lessons at the local leisure centre which were a fraction of the price of the classes run by the leading baby swimming company. If your baby doesn't take to something then call it quits and find something to do that you both enjoy (or one of you can sleep through). To be honest I never had any problems as my daughter was a contented baby but a lot of baby classes offer trial sessions so you can find out if this is something you want to commit your purse to.

I've met some lovely people through having babies. In all walks of life you're going to find competitive people and people who just generally aren't your cup of tea. You don't have to continue a relationship with them. Single out the people who seem to follow your approach to motherhood and get to know them better. I have to say I have been lucky enough not to have met any fiercely competitive mothers or anyone that I found it necessary to avoid, through having a baby. Perhaps it's because I just think many people are enthusiastic about their children and want to talk about them. It doesn't necessarily mean they are competitive.

I've so often heard the advice to ignore the housework and enjoy your baby. This is lovely but come on, no one is going to not do any housework for a whole year, unless they already have a cleaner (I wish). Slings are great but eventually your baby is going to get too heavy to make this practical. Some people may frown on them but when she was old enough to sit my daughter used to sit in our travel cot with a bunch of toys and books for 10 minutes while I had a shower. As I say, I am just one of these people who at least needs to be dressed (nevermind make up), with clean hair (albeit wet) to tackle the day.

I did read a few self help books, before and after my daughter was born. I found them to be like most reference or self help books, something from which you take a list of pointers that will work for you and then you leave the parts which you deem to not be helpful. So if the book suggests that I eat my breakfast at 8am and I don't want to, then I won't - simple. It doesn't mean there won't be other parts that will work for me. I actually found a getting into routine the thing has allowed me to be the best that I can be as a mother, especially when the twins came along. It doesn't suit everyone but it definitely helps lots of people and is worth considering.

Definitely there were times when I thought "I can't do this", especially when the twins were tiny. But they were only fleeting moments because the reality is that "I have to do this". Unless Supernanny is about to be choppered in you haven't got a lot of choice, but that's ok because it's one less decision to make! I have been bored and lonely but honestly I have not felt that way often and I have never felt unfulfilled. I have craved my old life but not very often. I know that many women need to work and that as I have Memories Gro I am not quite a non working mother but I reject the idea that I cannot use my 'intelligent brain' because I don't have paid employment. I think I use my brain everyday for the logistics of looking after three small children, my husband and organising our life. Plus I have not let go of my interests or creative drive, those thoughts and ideas are always with me, ticking over and developing.

I love being a mother, it is just as I always hoped it would be, the most fulfilling thing I have ever done and something which I know will have enriched me beyond any other experience.

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