This week I’ve been following the backlash in the US after an author implied that maternity leave is all about ‘me’ time and was envious of pregnant women. Whilst no-one is against a woman taking a career sabbatical, many were understandably upset that the author was implying that parental leave is some sort of holiday. Let me assure you – it is not! Reading these articles got me thinking though, I was lucky to have a longer run up during my maternity leave, despite knowing I might regret it when my maternity pay ran out earlier (I did).
A moment to breathe
So why did I decide to take a bit of extra time before Emma came along? I’m a workaholic. My work before Emma was short contracts of 6-12 months per job, and I was glad for the short stints rather than something permanent. It meant I could move companies quite easily and get to know lots of people in my field relatively quickly. However, the short term nature of the job meant the pressure was ramped up from start to finish, focussing on tight deadlines and an ever diminishing budget to get everything done (I think that’s universal to a lot of fields these days).
I put my heart and soul into my job and gave 120% every day. I loved it, the camaraderie and working with big teams who were at times hard to manage. But I got so sucked into my job that I just couldn’t switch off. I was a bit of a nightmare to go on holiday with as usually by the time I’d relaxed, it was time to come home. So I suppose these articles about ‘me’ time and single women wanting time for themselves to reflect upon their lives resonated with me. Because that was me, I didn’t stop from the moment I started working, often refusing to take a holiday so I could keep on top of everything. In fact, it was the news that Emma was growing in my belly to finally take stock that this was the next phase of our life as a couple.
It was scary
As my contract ended when I was 32 weeks pregnant, the decision was made for me. That was a scary moment – I was effectively now unemployed for the first time in my adult life and with a baby on the way, with no clue how I was going to cope as a mum. I tried not to think about it too much, as I knew that part would freak me out in an instant.
About 3 weeks into my maternity leave, I finally started to relax and just take it easy. It had taken 2 weeks to get everything cleared out of my flat in London (thanks Mum, sorry for insisting I needed to lie down while you did the heavy duty work!) but now I had a chance to breathe. And this was crucial for preparing me for what was to come, it allowed me to keep calm and spend time with my other half before our life with Emma began. I needed this time to myself, however selfish that might sound.
What I’ve learned is…
Everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for somebody else and the best advice I have ever been given is to run your own race. Never has that been truer than since becoming a mum. Other girls I know wanted to work up until their due date to take their mind off things, and others like me just need the time to take stock about everything that is happening.
We’re all amazing and doing a brilliant job, whether you’re a mum, a single mum or a professional just wanting that bit of time to restock. We need to build each other up, support each other and understand that we’re doing what is best for us and our family. I know that sounds cheesy but I really believe it – it’s such a positive decision to support and understand others around us, but one that makes a huge difference. Being true to yourself about how you are feeling in your pregnancy and what makes you happy, can only bring the best outcome for your family.
Did you need some ‘me’ time before your due date? I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments below.