Two weeks ago the unthinkable happened. My maternity leave finished. I know I know. It was inevitable though. In Ireland the state maternity leave is 26 weeks but I think you have this idea that 26 weeks is an infinite amount of time. But no, one minute you are pregnant, cleaning your house for the millionth time that day while you wait for the baby to arrive, and the next you are counting up the weeks since you left work completely convinced that it couldn’t have been 26 weeks ago. Someone has to have made a mistake right? Wrong.
That’s the thing you see. When you go on maternity leave, the last thing on your mind is returning to work. It’s almost impossible to imagine. The only thing consuming your thoughts is when you will go in to labour, whether you have enough nappies, and where your next piece of cake is coming from. It’s a really lovely time.
Then the baby arrives and it’s all go. Days turn in to weeks, weeks turn in to months, and in the blink of an eye you have a little turtle sitting on the leather sofa staring at you with a look that says “Mam, relax – life’s too short for cleaning”. I’m very good at reading Billy’s facial expressions as you can see.
And those are some of the best days. The days where you look after your little person and stay truly present. Babys force you to do that you know? Be mindful. If you are a planner like me (control freak) then just sitting down and going with the flow for the day can be a fairly alien concept. But having a baby has taught me the beauty of just letting it be. They say that God laughs at your plans. Well so do babies. They are very much in control. You can make all the plans you want – if the little man (or woman) has other plans, you will lose that battle. Trust me. Getting out of the house can be a bit of an event in itself. Having said that I like to get out most days, even if it’s just to walk to the shop and get a bit of fresh air. But I am also a huge fan of the ‘no day’.
A ‘no day’ is what I like to call a day where you have no plans. You wake up, feed yourself and the baby, dress the baby and proceed to spend the day watching him do his little thing. You play together, laugh together, walk around the house doing bits and bobs, and you just enjoy eachother. In the photo below Billy was watching a particularly riveting episode of Peppa Pig where there was a newborn baby who cried and cried unless there was some sort of loud noise (think hoover) present at all times. I watched my baby, watching the baby, and I relished in this hilariously ironic situation. He’s hanging on to Peppa’s every word.
BUT, I’ve learned that the novelty in these ‘no days’ is the fact that they are not every day. If you spend too much time at home, your life will become one massive oblivion of housework. I’m telling you. I have a theory, and it’s that the house actually magically looks cleaner and more organised when you leave it for a couple of hours. It’s true. Try it. If you spend the day at home you will notice everything that needs to be done. And there will be no end to it. There will pretty much never be a time where you’ve done absolutely everything. You’ll never feel like you are truly on top of things. Well, that’s my experience of the whole thing anyway. So I’ve actually learned to cut myself a bit of slack and stop obsessing over it.
I was a very house proud person before Billy arrived. Not OCD by any means, but I liked tidyness and order. But now I’ve sort of learned to live happily amongst the chaos. Baby toys, muslin cloths, babygrows (HOW do they go through so many clothes in a day?) baby bowls and spoons, nappies, sippy cups, bibs, towels, wipes, the list goes on. They’re everywhere. And as soon as you tidy them up, it’s like they multiply and when you come back in to the room they’re BACK. It’s definitely suspicious behaviour, but who am I to question it? So sometimes, nowadays, I give myself permission to just leave.
I wake up, shower and dress myself, wash and dress the babog, feed us both, and we leave. And we go places. Places where there are no dishes to be washed. Places that revolve around laughter and fun. We have a bit of a social life, and we love it.
This particular day we went to the Mammy/Baby cinema morning in Dundrum Cinema. It’s such a brilliant idea. We went on a Tuesday morning and saw the film “Standby”. It’s a slot that is specifically for mammys with babies. Imagine an entire cinema theatre filled with crying, snotting, pooping, shouty babies. It’s fantastic! As mothers/fathers/guardians we have all learned to hear above that sound, and it’s just something we are accustomed to now. So we all sit there, feeling ridiculous to be eating popcorn at 11am, and we watch a MOVIE. A real movie. A movie that’s only been released recently. How frickin’ cool is that? Thank you Movies At Dundrum. Myself and my friend Jennifer decided to just bring the slings on this trip, and they worked out very handy.
“It’s never too early for popcorn mam. This film is deadly”
Here we are heading out to our Mammy/Baby group last week. It’s only a 10 minute walk from my house but we loved the fresh air. It was a crisp wintery morning and we snuggled up and braved the elements. Billy was asleep before we even left the garden.
And we have many buggy adventures too. That’s what I call them. There might be a day where I need to pop out to the shop for milk and essentials (like tomorrow). Pre-baby this would just be a quick uneventful part of the day. But with a baby this pretty much IS the day. You get up and plan the time to leave depending on naps and feeding times, you pack the baby bag and prepare for all eventualities. You snuggle the baby up in his pram and set out for the adventure. It ends up being a nice walk, a saunter around the shops, and it may even require a pit-stop for a well-deserved coffee. You might be gone two full hours, and you feel refreshed. Your day has a bit of purpose. And you come back, and the house looks BETTER. Try it, it does.
So this is the group I go to on a Thursday. My PHN told me about it. It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s ran by Barnardos and it’s every Thursday in my local health centre. There are eight of us in the group altogether. We’ve been going for the past 9 weeks and it ends in 3 weeks. I can honestly say it’s been the highlight of my maternity leave. I’ve met some really lovely friends there. Friends who have babies. It’s just opened up a whole new world for me. We get visits from PHNs, Speech Therapist, Psychologists, and much more. We chat about our week, our fears, our successes and bad days. We drink tea and coffee and eat cake. It is fantastic. I really hope more of these types of groups pop up around Dublin, and everywhere, because this has been an instrumental part of my experience as a first time mother.
And you know what it’s thought me? I’m not alone. Being a mammy is the best job in the world, but it’s also a tough job at times. It’s reassuring when you realize that you are not the only girl in the area who is pacing the floors at 4am with a teething baby. It makes you feel part of something bigger.
Fundamentally you are the same person, but when you have a baby it changes you on a deeper level. You are a different version of yourself, almost. A better version. Life takes on a new meaning and your days are dictated by the needs of a little human who needs you. So why not give them the best of you? A happy mammy is a better mammy in my opinion. So get out of the house, go for a walk, go shopping, find a mammy/baby group, join a club, meet friends, and remember that the housework will always be there.
But in 20 years time will we remember the clean dishes and bathroom? Will we think fondly of the day we hoovered the stairs? Nope. We’ll remember the adventures, the fresh air, and the times we reminded ourselves that life is for LIVING.