Before my baby was born I was excited about having some time off from full time work to be with my little family. What a great vacation! I thought it would be an adjustment at first, but that I would bounce back quickly.
Ok parents out there, you can stop laughing at me… I admit I was optimistic about what my time off with a newborn would be like.
My baby boy is nearly seven months now and I can’t believe I am more than half way through his first year of life. It has been anything but a vacation! My time off has been a whirlwind. I’ve experienced many emotions and have changed a lot as a person.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned from the first half of my maternity leave:
1 // It takes time to bounce back (physically and mentally) from the experience of becoming a parent
As a young professional, I knew I wanted to continue developing my career while balancing family life. I had been working hard in a role I enjoyed at an organization that was doing good work. I planned to get back to full-time work after a shortened leave while my husband cared for our baby the remainder of the year. But as my return date inched closer I realized that I was still adjusting to my life as a new mom.
The waves of post partum emotions, the exhaustion from sleepless nights, the physical toll on my body from pregnancy, child birth, baby wearing, and breastfeeding – these are things that take time to recover from and adjust to. Although I was eager to bounce back, I respect what my body and mind were telling me: I needed more time.
2 // Energy is finite: use wisely
Interrupted sleep has been the hardest part about being a new parent. Nearly seven months in, I still have not gotten a full night’s rest (we’re working on it). This affects how much energy I have to do things that seemed effortless before having a baby. In my pre-baby life I was moving at such a fast pace and was used to packing my days. But now, I realize how much energy simple things like getting ready to go out or having an hour long conversation take. I have to choose wisely with regards to what I use my limited energy on. Because running on little sleep makes even the simple things in life harder! (Coffee helps).
3 // Redefine productivity: it’s all about the small victories
There were so many things I thought I would have time to do during my time off with my baby. I thought I would have time to visit tons of people, read, improve my cooking and photography skills, blog every week, watch the whole series of This Is Us (ok, that I actually did do!)… yeah, another reality check!
Slowing down the pace of life is hard, especially when you live in the city (and if you’re an ambitious person!). We move at a really fast pace that it’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind if you’re not doing something ‘productive’.
Now, I consider it a victory if I am able to care for my baby throughout the day, make him laugh, make his food, feed him, clean up his mess, take a walk, tidy the house, and cook (and eat) dinner. That’s what a productive day looks like for me at this point. Anything beyond that makes me superwoman, in my books at least!
4 // It still feels lonely at times
I expected to feel many things during my year off with my baby. Tired, overwhelmed, overjoyed, in love. But what I didn’t expect to feel was lonely. I have a loving, involved husband. I have a huge family on both sides, an amazing faith community, friends to call at any hour of the day and parents who visit weekly. But like most new parents, I am for the most part, on my own most of the day.
I’ve said this phrase a million times “it takes a village”. Its truth resonates even more during important transitions in our life. But no matter how many people you may have in your life, most of us do not have a true “village”. Our modern day North American society is not built in a way that supports communal living.
This makes the experience of new parenthood feel lonely at times. There are definitely things new parents can do to get connected, but that takes planning and intentionality. Otherwise, I think many of us feel we are doing the bulk of this parent life on our own.
5 // Small acts of love every day make a huge impact in the long run
When you’re changing diapers, cleaning baby food off the floor, and singing songs to your baby on repeat – it’s easy to feel like your life is insignificant. These small, mundane, and thankless tasks often go unseen except by your baby who is unable to express their gratitude.
When I see that my baby is healthy, happy and growing – I am reminded that it is the small acts of love, every day, that make a huge impact on a person’s life.
But all these little things…they matter a lot. All these small acts of love are laying the foundation for my baby’s life and for my life as a mom. In the process, it’s teaching me the importance of selfless love. When I see that my baby is healthy, happy and growing – I am reminded that it is the small acts of love, every day, that make a huge impact on a person’s life. I am grateful that I have time off from my other responsibilities to focus on this very important job.