Maternity leave, a beautiful yet challenging time. With all the struggles or worries, sometimes it is enough to get this one smile that changes everything, smile from the little angel, even if it happens in the middle of the night.
Maternity leave (and this post) is not for women only. This precious time is important for mothers, fathers and also people around: grandparents, sisters, brothers, friends, uncles, aunts, colleagues, neighbors, among many. Each of us has a role in it. And many of us might wonder: is maternity leave – sometimes very long one – like an extended holiday? Or at least work vacation time?
MATERNITY LEAVE VS HOLIDAY
So let’s start with a quick comparison of maternity leave vs holiday. Have a look! 🙂
So wait a moment… isn’t it the same? So many elements and all perfectly matching! From participants, to cost and even sleepless nights! And for sure there are many more aspects of the overlap. Yes, that’s what also made me realize, maybe that’s why people might be – still – assuming and confusing maternity leave with extended holiday break!
Maternity leave ≠ extended holiday! And these are the words of someone just after 10.5 months of maternity leave. 1.5 month left!
Yes, the above info-graphics is just to emphasize the misinterpretation that might be there. To show that looking just from far – it might seem like a vacation time. It is also to make you smile a bit. And if you are still ahead of this journey, prepare you to take it easy (if possible at all!). 🙂
Maternity leave is completely different than holiday. These are two different leaves and time in ones’ life. And no matter how much we try to play with words or different elements of it, these two periods in our life are just not comparable. Yes, one is more magical (and intensive and challenging) than the other. That’s maternity leave!
MY MATERNITY LEAVE
My stories as usually… unusual 🙂
Do you still remember my post about pregnancy and staying fit? Yes, on 8th March 2019 I left for India, it was my 5th month of pregnancy. Earlier, we had decided to stay in Bangalore for the remaining months of the pregnancy. And then keeping our ‘base’ here during my maternity leave, travel often to our home in Poland and visit Asia. Yes, plan was to explore the nearby countries, benefiting from their proximity and my leave option.
Of course, our main focus has been family. Welcoming Our Little One who joined us on at the beginning of July and brought all new emotions, as a little daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, friend… My parents joined us after two weeks, on the ‘originally assumed’ due date, supporting and enjoying these life’s moments together for 1.5 month. So initial two months were always in the company – My Better Half and then parents. End of August: My Better Half in office, Our Bigger Angel at school, and parents back in Poland. Our Little One and I at home, time to start the party! 🙂
It’s important to highlight: Polish leave can be 12 months long! (plus pending holidays to be used) So I am super happy to benefit from one of the best leave options, among many countries in the world. I know that in different corners of the globe the leave duration is different, often below 6 months and rarely beyond 1 year. So the overall perception of maternity leave as extended holiday might be different as well.
Back to ‘party’ time! So our daily (and nightly) ‘parties’ continued. In September we got together on the domestic plane and started our travel journeys together, now 4 of us. By November end we managed to get on 9 domestic flights, both completing required documentation (it isn’t always so straightforward for dual nationality cases) and visiting incredible India. In December we went together to Poland. And I managed to enjoy my home city for a bit longer, returning later with Our Little One and my parents back to India. And when they were flying back home at the end of February this year, it was just days apart from the Indian and global lock-downs…
8th March: we were last time out – all 4 of us together. It seems that 8th/9th March became a ‘meaningful date’ for us. Many plans have changed. Already back in Feb, due to the situation in the other Asian countries, we decided to cancel 7 tickets to Thailand (psss… don’t remind My Better Half about these non refundable tickets). We were considering to spend Our Bigger Angel‘s March spring holidays in Australia and in Poland, together with Our Little One, I wanted to spend a bit of time in Poland again. And then travel again in June during summer holidays… As you can imagine, our plans have changed. But what hasn’t changed: maternity leave! It continues. So let me tell you a bit more about it. Read for the fairy tale vs fair tale?
FAIRY TALE VS FAIR TALE
This is a fairy tale shared as a fair tale!
Maybe you remember from my previous post that I loved my pregnancy too much. In the last month of it I was sad that it was going to get over. Really. And then Our Little One surprised us by arriving 11 days earlier! That’s when the real fairy tale started! 2019 was a year when many of my friends (hugs to all!) were also heading for a maternity leave. Great opportunity to share stories, advices and sometimes just to talk to someone who might understand you, in that moment, very well.
Time in hospital was very good. Our Little One with us, life’s miracle, small tiny creature. We were blessed to have great facilities and support at CloudNine Hospital. Living all together from the day 1, it makes a huge difference. Our Bigger Angel felt in love with her sister, already on day 1. First days, especially for new moms, are full of actual unknowns. No book nor workshop can prepare you for it. It is about having 200% of the norm of patience (when little one cries and you have no idea why, again), readiness to try things over and over again (feeding baby) and balancing overall baby needs vs own health and well-being. Luckily, I managed to recover on the same day but I know that sometimes it takes a while.
Sleep? One of my very good friends told me in advance not to worry. That the first 2 weeks will be easier when it comes to the sleep as body will produce a lot of hormones to help mothers stay vigilant, no matter the hour. And it was like this. Sleeping wasn’t an issue. Challenges were more in feeding, few nights of crying and many new things at once. My Better Half was with me all the time and so was Our Bigger Angel who got sick in the initial 10 days, so it was a bit more difficult. When having two children or more, one needs to be ready for double challenges as well, next to – more than double – love!
is raw and pure. It is fierce and gentle. It is up and down. It is magic and madness. Single days last forever and years fly by… Be gentle with yourself as you travel, dear mother. Don’t miss the scenery. Don’t miss the conversation with your traveling companions. Laugh at the bumps and say ‘ooh, aah!’ on the hairpin turns. Buckle your seat belt. You’re a mom!
Aviva Jill Romm
Then there was a period of 1.5 month when my parents joined us here in India. Some people might have more ongoing support, some might have no one around – it is individual’s situation. For us it is or ‘non stop’ help for some specific time or nothing at all. That support was useful, especially as My Better Half was returning to work. I was able to balance on missing sleep in the morning hours. And grandmothers’ advices are always very precious!
And then the ‘party time’ period started from the beginning of September. My Better Half away for 11-12 hours a day at work (including up to 3 hours in Bangalore’s traffic), Our Bigger Angel at school till 15:30. And me at home with Our Little One, super active girl. First, I had to reorganize my days completely. Understand what can I do when she is awake vs when she is sleeping. How to deal with ad hoc situations: if Our Little One is sleeping and suddenly it is me who needs to pick up Our Older Angel from the school bus. In summary: new pattern of the day and its activities. At the end, when one is on maternity leave, it isn’t only about maternity leave. Taking care of self, full family and house is there too, this doesn’t disappear.
Luckily, I knew I am not alone in it, my family is with me. In my view, partners should be contributing together – to the care of the baby, family and home too. It isn’t a gift for a woman that a man will ‘help’ with the baby. In fact, it shouldn’t be called as ‘help’. After a day of taking care of the baby, feeding, preparing food, changing diapers, playing together, making sure baby is safe (plus all the house work) – woman will be more tired at home than sitting in the A/C office and attending another call or meeting. No matter how strategic it is. It can’t be more strategic than new life.
So waking up in the morning and finding breakfast ready with a lovely note, having weekends ‘cooking-free’ or hearing ‘I will help Our Bigger Angel in homework’ is a great thing. Like every Saturday now, I know I can focus half day on my blog while the house deep cleaning is happening. That’s My Better Half.
There was one more potential challenge on my way: India isn’t my home country. And yes, it is different compared to Poland. And I didn’t want to spend all the time at home. So during weekdays, when alone at home, I was calling Uber, keeping Our Little One in the stroller with the car seat and enjoying our outings: mama and daughter time together. And it might not be common here to go out with a smaller baby but it was important for me. Even if it meant building a bit more muscles when carrying together Our Little One, stroller with car seat and my handbag (and on the return also some nice shopping :D).
Next months were passing by. 4 first months Our Little One was sleeping well, very well. And maybe I said it loud too fast and it all changed. It has been 6.5 months now that the maximum non stop sleeping is 3 hours. With 3 to nearly unlimited times waking up during the night. Doctor told us: she is so active that it might take longer, till she walks and is able to get really tired. So fingers cross.
Now I understand that sleeping twice: 2 hours and 3 hours can be enough to feel fresh. While sleeping with breaks every 30 minutes to 1 hour might be very challenging. Then I just grab my phone and stay online, ensuring I do not fall asleep when she is awake or when she is in my arms. Yet, I never complain in the morning. Remember? It is enough to get that one smile…
And then the lock-down happened, as Our Bigger Angel says: ‘Mr Coronavirus arrived’… and we are at home, all 4 of us together now. That’s a new dimension of maternity leave, long story! Another story is also how to grow together during maternity leave. Maybe that’s a good topic for another post.
PREPARE FOR MBA
Wondering why I am talking out of sudden about MBA? Wrong post?
No! Some tips to get more ready for Master of Baby’s Affairs (MBA). And if this is not useful for you now, maybe some inspirations for people around you. Great recommendations or gifts ideas!
‘The Montessori way to bring up confident, caring children. A practical parenting programme for the years from birth to six, this is the book to help you build a calm and happy home life with your child. Written by Tim Seldin, President of the Montessori Foundation, and based on proven methods used in Montessori schools, this is the most fully up-to-date guide on Montessori parenting.’
‘The movie follows four babies from birth around the world, two in affluent societies – USA and Japan, and two in rural poor locations – Mongolia and Namibia. The film savors the wonders of the first year of life.’
Flying with a baby might be stressful for parents, sometimes even just thinking about it or planning to fly with an infant, especially first time, might change the travel decision or impact the overall experience. These are unforgettable moments but how to turn them into positively unforgettable? Read my previous post!
‘Your personal child development guide, with 1200+ Play to learn activities created for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, by early childhood experts. KinderPass gives you 1200+ parent-child personalized developmental activities and ideas to do with 0-4 years old kids so you can be confident of giving your little one the best start in life.’
Moments that matter, no matter the leave.