Why Maternity Leave is not like a Gap Year

Coming into my seventh month of maternity leave, I have likened my new role to a high intense career change where the training is completely on the job. The skills I have acquired or expanded upon should take pride of place on my resume to be rolled out in future.
For those of you I have lost already, you may have been under the impression that being a stay at home parent is like a gap year from work, likened to a holiday. You may think the time you get to be away from your full time job will allow you to take on all of the many hobbies you have wanted to try.  You may have all of these day trips and lunch catch ups planned.  Your list of anticipated accomplishments on your maternity leave is probably long.  I smile at you and my heart warms at the thought you still get sleep ins and can leave the house with only one bag – because eight months ago I was you.

Instead of maternity leave being like a gap year, it is unequivocally my new, life long, high intense job.

My new job involves early starts, late nights and immediate on call. However there may also be down times of afternoon rests to use at your leisure  (read: more appropriately to get to house chores).

I have acquired a number of useful life skills such as:
– Negotiator
– Policy maker
– Problem solver
– Finder of all things that get lost on an hourly basis (this may also include my sanity for a moment)
– Unqualified Nurse
– Educator
– Cleaner
– Personal Assistant
– Chef / Nutritionist
– Physical therapist
– Entertainer
– Fashion stylist
– O H & S officer; and
– Proficient in another language of baby babble

All the while, I carry out my job with the following personal attributes:

  • Being Alert and Attentive at all times
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Careful
  • Cooperative within the two part executive team (with my husband)
  • Dedicated
  • Dependable
  • Energetic
  • Flexible
  • Innovative
  • Motivated
  • Optimistic
  • Organized
  • Patient
  • Practical
  • Productive
  • Realistic
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Responsible
  • Versatile

There is no union to plead my case when conditions change and no OH & S committee to assess and make recommendations when I almost break myself and the furniture dodging toys.  There aren’t any awards for employee of the month or end of year bonuses.
There aren’t any sick days, rest days / mental health days or holiday leave or running late showing up. For those days there are cold and flu tablets, tea and coffee and coffee and how about a soup bowl size coffee.

The rewards in this job are simple.

The smiles and the giggles.

The cuddles and the playtime.

Watching her play because she has learned how.

Watching her eat – because she has learned how to chew.

Watching her interact with others.

Watching her learn to crawl and how proud she is of herself!

Watching her stand!

 

Like every job we take on, our attitude may be the determining factor in how manageable a stressful task may pan out.  Just like a bad mood or attitude can rub off on a colleague, so too can it affect the mood of your baby or any task you are attempting to complete making everything seem virtually impossible.  And in those tough moments, it is helpful to remember that nothing bad lasts forever and sometimes it’s about focusing on five minutes at a time…

 

~ F.P

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