I haven’t been to work for 292 days. Aside from the few freelance assignments I’ve taken on since Christmas, I haven’t (truly) engaged my brain for 292 days. Even seeing that in writing looks insane.
And I won’t be going back to work for another 112 days.
Aren’t I lucky? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all sunshine and butterflies.
Maternity leave has been the most precious, yet possibly conflicted, year of my life. I remember being daunted by it. As my pregnancy progressed, I came ever-closer to that entire year off from work. I knew it was a gift, and one that I should be grateful for living in a country – and working for a company – with decent maternity law and policy, but it scared the hell out of me.
I love my job, but I certainly don’t live to work. And I love the travel opportunities that my job gives me. But I love my friends and family more. I could certainly cope with a year without checking emails, a year without packing my suitcase every month or so, and I relished the prospect of a year without press releases or finance reports. But a year without London, a year without after-work drinks, a year without office giggles. Now that was something to panic about.
It’s amazing how quickly I grew accustomed to not going to work. I certainly haven’t missed my 5.30am alarm, or the M25 or the Bakerloo line in rush-hour. And I certainly haven’t missed the budget meetings or the print deadlines.
As ridiculous as it sounds, though, those budget meetings weren’t nearly as stressful as trying to get Wilbur to eat a lunch that has the tiniest of lumps in it.
And my new and much cuter alarm clock may not wake me until sometime between 7.30 and 8.30 every morning, yet somehow, when I crawl into bed at night, I’m totally exhausted. I guess building 234 plastic cup towers, and re-stacking coloured wooden rings 452 times a day will do that to you.
Since July 5th 2015, I’ve been a mummy. And a housewife. I don’t really remembering applying for this role, and I’m not sure how my CV got me the job, but here I am.
Maternity leave is as unpredictable as it is predictable. Sometimes I’m high, sometimes I’m low. Mostly I’m high. High on the incredible human that I’m bringing up.
Sadly, Stel went back to work in January and three became two – at least Monday to Friday. Major sadface.
Fats and I spend a lot of time together, and the boys very quickly learnt to adore each other. If I try and imagine maternity leave without Fats and Stel, I shudder.
Sometimes, Fats and I chat away the afternoon over tea and cake, and we feel like little pigs in (chocolate brownie) sh*t. Those days we are the pigeons. Other times, we text from our respective sofas sharing stories of yet more baby sick, revolting nappies, and mindless baby entertainment. Those days we are the statues. But hey, at least our statues stand side by side.
Sunshine helps. Walking with the prams in the sun, looking at the boys’ little pink cheeks and big blue eyes peeking out from under their bobble hats, as they giggle at yet another round of peek-a-boo is too cute. The key to a happy maternity leave, in my humble opinion, is getting out and doing stuff. Shopping, baby cinema, swimming, walks, lunches, coffees…so many lunches, so many coffees. I have never lunched so much in my whole life.
But I miss my grown-up life. I miss the office, and I miss my independence and ability to go for a spontaneous drink as and when I want. If I’m being totally honest, I even miss being able to pop to the supermarket without having to pack up all of Wilbur’s change bag, and the pram, and the car seat, and the baby.
‘Popping’ to the shop requires a full-on military operation. It’s beyond a joke. Sometimes I’ve taken my chances, and just packed my purse and the baby. I was a classic fool. Ten minutes later, I’d curse myself as I balance a hyper-active flapping giggling babe on my left hip, with no muslin to wipe away the sick dripping down his chin onto my shoulder, and repeatedly dropping the bread and milk from under my right arm, as I realise my purse is still in the car. Shopping, even for basic groceries, without a pram and changing bag is a pipe dream ladies. Let it go.
Last week was Fats’ birthday and the school Easter holidays, meaning that Stel, Betsy and Auntie Jen were able to join Fats and I on a birthday day out. We went for lunch and bellinis in Birmingham followed by an afternoon at the Sea Life Centre.
The babies loved every minute, and the looks on their faces as they watched the fish and turtles and rays, was priceless.
Same goes for Aunt Jen, she loves an aquarium! And on days like that I don’t want maternity leave to ever end. I want to spend every day with my little man. And I want to spend every day drinking bellinis and hanging out with my best friends… as pigeons in the aquarium.
But all good things must come to an end, so the saying goes. So I look to July with a heavy heart, but also with hope. I’ll get to pick up my love affair with London again, and I’ll be hopping on a plane to Vegas for a conference two weeks later (it’s work really, I promise). I’ll be an Editor again, but more importantly, I’ll still be a mummy. Hopefully less of a house-wife, I’ll be busy enough without all that jazz!
And as I sit in those budget meetings, my head hurting with all those excel formulas, I’ll dream of that day in the aquarium, and all those lunches, and all those coffees, and I’ll wonder why I ever felt like a pigeon.
I have three months of maternity leave left, so this pigeon is going to make the most of them. Disneyland, anyone?