I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to maternity leave a few weeks ago. My job can be stressful with constant balls in the air to juggle, and I'm the type of employee, colleague, and leader who doesn't like to leave anything or anyone hanging at the end of the day. Throw in taking four months off with no replacement, I was feeling the pressure of riding off into the maternity leave sunset with all my to-dos checked off and my mind clear. That did basically happen, thankfully, but only after several weeks of working my ass off to get there. I was excited for all the "free time" I'd be inheriting into my daily schedule when I didn't have eight or more jam packed hours of multiple projects to juggle, staff to manage, emails to answer, and tasks to complete.
I geared up for a very productive few months because I should have So.Much.Time.
You'd think by now, four kids in, I'd have learned, remembered, understood that these first few weeks are a whirlwind. "I wrote a book on time management", my cocky self thought. I'm going to get so much done and I'm starting right away-like even in the hospital. And I did.
I didn't indulge in reality TV (too much) during my four day stay. I read. I wrote. I napped. Yes-self care was part of my goals I set for myself during maternity leave! It felt good to get off to a good start.
Most days I'm able to do 50% of what I'd intended. One or two days, I've done more. Some days, I've done almost nothing on my list because I'm blessed to have a baby who breastfeeds and wants to eat nonstop. I will take it, and ice my sore chest during the 15 minutes of reprieve I get in between nursing. This is my last baby I'll have and my first baby I've been able to breastfeed. I am so grateful amidst the pain and challenges nursing has presented.
But maternity leave, no matter how you slice it, isn't easy and it sure as hell isn't a vacation. And if you're a working mom, even though you're not "working" your formal job, you sure as hell are working, probably a lot fucking harder too with no manager telling you what a great job you're doing or bonus to reward you for that amazing goal you hit when your newborn was cluster feeding and you stayed up all night.
Here's why you definitely shouldn't call maternity leave a vacation.
A. It isn't.
B. It's work. Harder work than I was used to doing when I was working and momming all at once.
C. It's guilt that I'm not giving everyone enough attention or feeding my baby enough to get back to his birthweight at the rate Google says.
D. It's (un)productivity in some of my personal goals to what I thought I'd be able to do, but can't because I need to keep myself and my household healthy and thriving.
E. It's lack of routine because a two week old is determining your schedule.
F. It's healing and pain, at least right now it is. Where the fuck is the Advil?!
G. It's gray hair and unmanicured nails-two things I would NEVER have while on a real vacation.
Even though it's not vacation. Even though it's not glamorous. Even though it's painful and hard at times. Even though emotions are exaggerated-eff you, hormones. And even though some days feel like I'm failing on so many levels. I would not trade these days for anything. As I write this post, I have 7.2 lbs of love on my chest, a loud house of healthy and vivacious boys, dirty dishes piled in the sink, and legos in all the places legos shouldn't be, and I am so grateful I get to be here, inhaling all the goodness of what this fleeting time brings, no matter how hard or different or unplanned it seems to be.