The myths of mat leave
When I first got pregnant, I wasn’t looking forward to mat leave. I was nervous about leaving work and being out of touch with the industry. Now, I couldn’t imagine anything less than having a full year with my constantly changing daughter. (Honestly, I’ve never felt more lucky to live in Canada. Reading all the online forums about going back to work at 8 weeks kills me… I don’t know how Americans do it!)
Once I got over the whole being on mat leave thing (a moment which coincided with the arrival of my little baby…like everyone said would happen), I got excited about the year ahead.
So much time! So many projects I can start and finish!
So not how it happened.
Now that I am halfway through my leave and totally killing motherhood (…well today at least), I thought I would use this nap time to bust a couple mat leave myths.
1. Your work will not be able to function without you. You are so valuable to your teams.
Not true… at all. They’re fine. They are killing it. They probably don’t even remember your name.
Okay, the last part isn’t true… But the rest of it is. When I was pregnant and discussing possibly taking a shorter mat leave with my mentor at work, she told me that they can always train someone to fill my position at work, but no one else would ever be able to fill my position as a mother.
Wow. Was that ever true. #truthbomb
2. You will have so much free time.
You can get so many projects completed. You can blog all the time. You might even start your own business!
Yeah. Freaking. Right.
Well, to be honest, at the beginning I did have a ton of free time because Harlow was sleeping so much. But I was busy… you know… healing from childbirth, figuring out how to nurse, catching up on sleep… all those necessary things to keep you and your baby alive. You know how it is.
Free time isn’t really a thing anymore. There are always groceries to buy, dishes to do, spit up to clean. I really hope my husband is okay living in filth once I go back to work. I honestly don’t know how I am going to do it all!
3. If you exercise properly, you will totally get a bounce-back bod.
Everything changes after birth. Everything. Not even my feet looked the same. And if you’re nursing… well, you know.
I started exercising right at 6 weeks postpartum because if anyone is going to have a bounceback bod, it’s going to be me! Well, fast-forward 4.5 months and I still have not lost one pound since giving birth. Which is not to say that I haven’t exchanged some fat for muscle along the way, but still not what I would consider bounce-back.
Give yourself a year… and then some. Hormones, nursing, lack of sleep, etc. make weight loss especially challenging after giving birth. Yes, I said it! Nursing does not always equate to weight-loss! All this mixed with a child who might not be loving dad at bedtime when you’re ready to go to the gym makes it a long road back.
Oh yeah, and that belly takes a while to go back down. ^^
4. You will need to hire a personal assistant to handle your calendar, because everyone will want to see you all the time.
When I was pregnant, my husband and I had a plan that he would manage the visitors’ schedule once the baby came, letting people know the best time to come, making sure we didn’t have too many visitors at once and ensuring everyone got their fair share of cuddles for the distance traveled to get to us (we live far).
We didn’t need this at all, and in fact, we still have a ton of friends who still haven’t met our daughter. It’s actually been the other way around. With our friends having more packed schedules than us, we are the ones trying to reach out and book time for them to meet her.
The reality is that not everyone gets excited about babies and some friendships do change once a baby comes along. But you will also meet some new mom friends who are on the same page, so it all works out in the end.
5. Your pets are still your first-borns. They will forever have all your love.
So many people told me this wasn’t true. So. Many.
Of course I didn’t believe it. My dog was our baby. He slept in our bed, cuddled with us on the couch, enjoyed all our love and attention all day, every day.
But alas, it is true. The love for your fur-children will definitely change, whether you like it or not. You just can’t split your time equally, no matter how hard you try. Your child’s needs just automatically outweigh theirs and forces them into second place on the love podium.
6. If you breastfeed properly, it doesn’t hurt at all.
It hurts! At least at first. Eventually it feels normal and you could do it in your sleep. (Many women do actually.)
But at the beginning, it sucks. No one is used to someone sucking on that much on your nipples. They get raw, they hurt if any type of fabric touches them, and you get really good at avoiding the spray from the showerhead when you get a quick moment to bathe.
It does eventually get better, but anyone who tells you it doesn’t hurt at all is flat-out lying to you.
7. Once the baby is here, dad will be just as important to the baby’s wellbeing as mom.
I was lucky. I didn’t have to change one diaper the first week of Harlow’s life. (Well, none of her diapers that is.)
But even the most attentive, loving, caring father still needs the guidance of mom to help when the baby is puking out her nose and having poonamis all over. It might seem a bit like the blind leading the blind at first, but there’s something to be said about the strength of a mother’s instinct.
There’s plenty of time for co-parenting later in life, because at the beginning it’s a whole lot of mom taking care of baby and a whole lot of dad taking care of mom.
8. Because you’re a mom now, you know the answers to everything.
Okay, this one is completely not true at all. And I don’t know what our moms did before the Internet.
Actually, I do know. They had friends and family to ask questions and get advice from. Which is exactly what every mom needs: a group of women who are also figuring shit out with you, a sounding board for advice, and just even someone who is also up feeding at 3 am. This is where you will find the answers and support.
Also, a lot of motherhood is just winging it. Try new things until something works.
So even there are a ton of myths out there about what motherhood involves and what mat leave is all about, the one thing I can promise you for sure is that you can never plan on anything. Except a lot of love.