I had to trawl through my blogs to figure out if I’d written this blog before. I hadn’t. I’m a bit annoyed with myself – obviously this would have been much easier to write when I was in the moment. However, knowing what I do now about different babies, and other people’s experiences, might make this a little more of an interesting read.
So, what prompted this blog?
Today I had brunch with some longtime friends. Wonderful friends. We were chatting about life, and one of us talked about a stay-at-home mum of two whose husband works a lot, and how he doesn’t tend to do a lot around the house. OK, nothing. He does nothing.
“Well, it’s a bit much to ask when he works full time, isn’t it?” Someone said. I stopped momentarily to pick my jaw up off the floor, before I came to the realisation that until you have kids that’s exactly what you think. You think maternity leave is a break (see my blog on MEternity leave), that you’ll be out for coffee all day, rocking your active wear from all your exercise and perhaps even become fluent in French (these are all very real ambitions I had). And so it is that I write this blog in the effort to educate those who are pure hearted, but slightly ignorant.
I started by outlining what a day can look like for a mum of a newborn baby.
Life with a newborn
“Don’t they just sleep all day?” a friend asked! The first thing is there are many different types of baby. Yes, my baby slept a lot (it still wasn’t a break, but I’ll get to that), but not all of them do. I have a friend currently on maternity leave who has a baby with such horrific reflux that he has to be held upright for one hour after a feed. That’s a lot of time when you might want to, I dunno, eat, go to the toilet, let alone vacuum the floor and cook dinner. Imagine doing that seven times a day. That’s seven hours. That doesn’t include the, let’s be conservative, 30 minutes of feeding time. That’s 10.5 hours. Oh, and the 10 nappies a day at 10 minutes a nappy (that’s if there isn’t a change required or being pissed on). Then maybe 5 hours of sleep a night (oh, that’s right – If. You’re. Lucky.). Add some showering, eating, toileting. Where is she meant to get the energy to clean the whole house and cook meals, ready and waiting so partner can put his feet up after working full time? Doesn’t happen. Oh, and imagine that with two kids. The battle is real.
Alright. That’s extreme. But even with the “sleepers” it’s pretty tough. It’s feeding, burping, changing, bathing. Most days I would forget to eat. My husband would come home from work and cook me the only meal I would eat in the day (sometimes I would cook, we still did everything 50/50). Then I would say goodnight at 8.30pm before getting up again at 11pm to feed the baby. I would spend any time I had washing tiny baby clothes perhaps. You wouldn’t catch me near a vacuum cleaner (god forbid I wake the baby). And then when she finally got to solids, I spent my days making purees so the freezer was stocked with ready meals for little miss. Unless hubby was eating purees there was no way dinner was on the table.
Don’t get me wrong. Some days you get it right. On those days, the day where you managed to get dinner cooked, and maybe had a shower (washing hair might be a stretch) you feel like an absolute super hero. And some days did have coffee and a walk, sure. Those are the winning days. But that’s not the norm.
I did start my blog while on leave, but that had more to do with me needing some distraction to stop me from going insane (I needed something to stimulate my brain) than from having time on my hands. In fact, most of those early blogs took me 15 minutes to write. Those that didn’t still languish in my drafts folder never to be completed.
What about later?
I’m back at work now so “the easy days” are over. I have one day off a week with my daughter. I thought that would mean I’d have plenty of time to catch up with friends, and maybe it would mean I could do my chores so that the weekend was about family. It doesn’t work like that.
Now, with no naps almost a constant, little miss is awake the entire day. Now, this is where it depends on the kid again. Some people have those kids who can play by themselves. Mine does not. Oh, sure, she’s capable of it, but why do that when mumma can play. Or, if mumma won’t play, maybe we can “help” mumma with whatever she is doing (have you ever tried to clean windows with a toddler? Go on, try it). So no, nothing gets done. We manage to cook dinner each Thursday for a family dinner, but even that’s a battle.
And so it is that every Saturday morning hubby and I get up and do our chores (yup, still 50/50), and comment how we wish we were loaded – and not prone to middle class guilt – so we could hire a cleaner. We split everything 50/50 because we both know how hard it is. How being a parent isn’t a full-time job, it’s your life. How work can feel like a break. When I was on maternity leave I envied my husband going to work. And since we both experienced four-days weeks we both appreciate how much of a break going to work can be (I’m not saying working isn’t hard, but it’s a different hard). And then we’re also there for each other when work is shit. Because that happens too.
So, to answer my friend’s question, “Well, it’s a bit much to ask when he works full time, isn’t it?” No, not it isn’t. Imagine a day when you have been shit on, vomited on, screamed at, you’re dirty, you’re tired, your boobs are leaking, you’re hungry. Now imagine you’re sitting a desk, you’re drinking a coffee, nobody is pulling at your clothes, your clothes are clean. Yes, your boss is being a pain in the arse, but you get to walk away from them. You go out to lunch when you want, eat what you want, don’t have to share it. Then you come home. The least you can do is take half the load for the person who has had what can only be described as a day of relentless demands. And that is regardless of who that is, mumma or dadda.
Anyway, that’s my little taste of maternity leave. I could go on forever, but if I did some people may never have children!
Next up: Trialling the five-minute play