Let me be clear- I am abundantly grateful for my maternity leave. It is amazing that I get to have this long, slow time with my blossoming daughter. But while I love maternity leave, there are some days that I have difficulty enjoying it. There are some days when it actually brings anxiety to my life. Imagine that for a moment. Paid time off to nourish and bond with my daughter brings me anxiety? How f-d up is that!?!
Let me explain…
- Today I took Jojo for a walk. We explored the park right outside of our apartment. I made loop after loop on the black paved path and we stopped along the way to inhale deeply and discuss the scents of different trees. We stopped in the sunshine and felt it on our faces and the tops of our heads. We stopped in the shade and felt the warm breeze kiss out cheeks. It was a perfect, lazy walk with my little one. Those are the moments I love.
- I don’t freak out when she can’t sleep at night and keeps me awake. Sure, I’d like some alone time, but for the most part it is no big deal. Do you know why it is no big deal? Because I can sleep in with her in the morning. I can take a nap with her in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter when she sleeps because I do not have a set schedule forcing me to sleep at certain times. That’s awesome.
- Jojo’s personality is just now starting to show (and it is an amazing personality). I am not the kind of mother who has an immediate squishy bond with my children. It deepens over time. Right now we are just starting to reach that caramelized, syrupy stage when everything she does melts my heart. I can not imagine working during this period. I would rather work directly postpartum and be home for these months. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose.
- Our breastfeeding relationship rocks. Feeding on demand is easy and stress free (for us). She is thriving and I get to be the laziest, most naked momma ever.
If that’s all so amazing, then what could be bad?
- Mom guilt. I usually don’t care much about what other people think of me or how I “should” be doing things. Yet, when it comes to raising kids, I am plagued by these deeply embedded societal expectations of what it means to be a mom. I constantly feel guilty, and although I know that guilt would not go away if I was working, I feel like maternity leave can amplify that guilt. Sometimes I feel like I am not taking advantage of this precious time with my daughter. I feel guilty when I put her in her walker and take some time to write a blog post or work on my book or if I get out my phone while I am breastfeeding. I feel like I should ONLY be a mom right now because so many moms would kill to be in my position.
- Money anxiety. I never realized how much I liked being in control of my own finances until I got married and suddenly, finances became a squishy, shared thing. (Those couples who still do split finances- I totally get that). I like knowing where my money is coming from and where it is going. I receive a pretty large chunk of money from the government (90% of my average pay over the past two years), but I lack the flexibility to simply work more to cover unexpected expenses. And, because I am not “working” I feel like the money isn’t mine to do with what I want. I catch myself much more often asking Nikola for 5 lev so I can go to a cafe these days. While I was working, I would just go. After all, I had earned that 5 lev, and if we needed it for something else, I could always put in a little extra work. So yeah, all of that money anxiety creeps up when I no longer have flexible earning potential.
- A complete disdain for housework. Those of you who know me will not be surprised when I say I hate housework. Laundry? Hate it. Dishes? Hate ’em. Picking up or tidying? Last thing I want to do. Vacuuming? Eh… that one is okay, but you have to do all of the other crap to get to it. My house regularly looks like a tornado hit it. Now, I hate clutter and a messy home but I also hate housework. When I was working full time, I didn’t feel bad about demanding a fair split of household chores. But now that I am home, I feel like all of the housework should fall on me. After all, what else am I going to do when she is asleep (I dunno, read a book, have an adult conversation, write a book, or sleep… maybe even take a shower). Nikola is still decent about this. If I ask him to, he will do some housework still. But for the most part, the housework somehow got wrapped up with my maternity leave and that part sucks.
So while I love my maternity leave, some minutes of some days I find myself hating it. I find myself thinking it would be better to go back to work. But it wouldn’t not really. Not with all those giggles and firsts I would miss.