The idea of maternity leave is a dream. Nine months off work? Pyjamas all day? No conference calls or meetings?
Almost five months in, and this is what maternity leave really looks like, versus the expectations I had pre-baby.
Expectation: become a baking goddess
I had this vision of me in the kitchen, apron on, whipping up incredible creations and blogging about them. Obvs. At the end of the year I’d have a cult following and a book deal.
HA. I can’t bake. The last time I baked I attempted ginger biscuits in an array of festive shapes (trees, reindeer, snowmen) and they all came out as indiscriminate blobs. I have, however, learned a lot of baking THEORY thanks to binge-watching Bake Off on Netflix (and binge-eating biscuits at the same time).
Expectation: become a Mumpreneur
Disclaimer: the word ‘mumpreneur’ makes me want to hurt people. Surely maternity leave is the perfect time to start a business? All that time and drive? Have a cursory scroll through Instagram (or listen to literally any podcast) and you’ll hear stories of women starting businesses, moving into a whitewashed house in the countryside and making six-figure incomes.
HA. I consider doing the laundry and making a trip to the supermarket an achievement. A word of caution – don’t take these Instagram accounts/podcasts too seriously. They’re selling a dream and making money from it. And they’ll just make you feel like crap. Being at home with a baby is a full-time job, and if you don’t start a six-figure business on the side? Well, that’s fine. Incredibly normal, in fact.
Expectation: read all the books
Baby snoozing, cup of steaming tea and a well worn copy of Pride and Prejudice to sink into? Sounds idyllic, right?
HA. Baby naps, telly goes on. Bake Off is a fave (see above), as is Frasier (I love Niles and I want to be his BFF), any property show (hating Baby Boomers who *need* a five-bedroom house for their retirement is my new passion) and the occasional period drama. But generally, the more brainless the better.
Expectation: embrace minimalism
Minimalism is the new black. Apparently. Again, a five-minute scroll through Instagram will show you nurseries with no colour and living rooms that look as though a baby has never been in them.
HA. Walk into my lounge and it’s an obstacle course of tat. If it’s multi-coloured and plastic, you *will* fall over it. Because babies have zero taste. And so, by default, neither do you.
Expectation: become a health nut
“When the baby arrives we’ll start eating less crap and start eating more whole foods.” Organic, home made, unprocessed, you know the drill.
HA. A giant bowl of Weetos is the only thing that gets me going in the morning. And a mid-morning hot cross bun keeps me going. We have a ‘box of shame’ in the living room full of chocolate, sweets and crisps. As Mae grows, the box will simply move higher and higher. And I might have to start eating my Weetos in the loo. “Eat what I say, not what I eat” will be our family motto, I suspect.
Does all this sound familiar? Great. It’s easy to think that every new mother is starting businesses and reinventing themselves on maternity leave. They’re not. Most of them are sitting in their stretchy pants, watching telly and eating crap. And looking after their baby, which, don’t forget, is an epic achievement in itself.