A Foot Squeeze Away – My Year on Mat Leave

51

October 17, 2013 by Katia

The best part of my day is being ten minutes away from the ability to squeeze my kids’ feet at any given time. You don’t understand how huge this is, especially since I am normally a feet-o-phobe. A disliker of the human foot, except for when it comes to my kids. Their human feet are awesome. What made the foot squeeze available to me was the fact that I got to spend a year at home with 1 Year Old on mat leave.

September 2013 081

Naming the advantages of mat leave is a no brainer. Kind of a ‘duh-huh‘ moment really, but I’m going to do it anyway, because mat leave, you’ve been freaking awesome.

During this year I was able to let 4 Year Old stay home from school when he got sick without having to select my guilt of choice: work or child-related. I was able to be physically present. During this year I was able to attend every school concert and ravine walk and to give my full undivided attention to the really important stuff in life like choosing the right hat for Crazy Hat Day, not forgetting to put the library book in the name-tagged ziploc every Thursday and serving as a Show and Share consultant. I was mentally present.

I got approached last week by Credit Card Insider’s editor. The website’s blog recently featured a piece on mat leave finances. The editor was asking me an interesting question. If I could offer one piece of advice, any advice, to moms going on mat leave, what would it be. My often indecisive self knew right away what to say. It’s like I’ve been waiting to be asked this question.

Before going on mat leave, I worked as a Recruiter. I used to LOVE preparing candidates for their job interviews. After we’ve sat down for half an hour, sometimes longer, covered and exhausted every possible aspect of the interview I would usually offer one last piece of advice – expect the unexpected. Expect to be surprised. Assume that things may not go according to your expectations and don’t be thrown off if instead of a panel you’re being interviewed by one person, if the interviewer is not responding the way you think they should, or if the interview starts twenty minutes later. I don’t know if saying that actually helped anyone, but I thought it was the kind of thing that would help me, so I did.

Would it help you, new mom, if I told you to expect the unexpected on your mat leave? I know many of us are big on reading parenting books in preparation for parenting, nursing books in preparation for breastfeeding and sleep training books in preparation for sleep deprivation. I am not saying we shouldn’t be reading books. Read them but know that there’s always a third, thirtieth, three-hundredth scenario that is not in the books. And don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if that scenario you can’t find anywhere is you.

I know most of us don’t get a year off, but do you have a To Do list with projects you were putting off and planning to finish while you’re off work? Like reading the pile of books on the floor by your bed, replacing Martha Stewart as the world’s leading crafting authority or simply taking your baby to classes every day? Make that list, baby, dream big and small, but accept that you may only get to cross off one item. If you’re lucky.

After spending a year off with my first child, I fancied myself a mat leave veteran when I was starting my second one, yet untrue to my own advice here I did not completely abolish expectations. In fact, I had some clearly defined ones on how I was going to spend my downtime and they included Netflix, take away food and a sleeping baby in a bouncy chair, because been there, done that – that’s why mat leave rocked the first time around! I never realized that baby number two may not want to nap in a bouncy chair preferring instead to be carried around in a Baby Bjorn where he napped, strolled and cohabitated with me for the first six months.

Babies have plans of their own and accepting that is conducive to minimizing your mat leave frustrations. Your baby will surprise you in ways that will make you want to pull your hair out, but here’s the thing they’ll also surprise you when they laugh for the first time at 8 weeks before they ever smiled and restore your faith in their sense of humour and your faith in surprises.

 

What is the one thing that worked or didn’t work for you on mat leave and what one piece of advice would you give other moms?

***

IMPORTANT STUFF:

* Thanks so much to everyone joining for the first time since the Freshly Pressed post. Your comments made my day.

* This is not a sponsored post. Credit Card Insider asked for my assistance with research for their next post. Please be advised that by answering the question posed at the end of the post you will be contributing to that end.

*This post has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. My favourite writing prompt on the web. This week’s topic was: My favourite part of the day… Please make sure to visit the hosts:

Stephanie at Mommy, For Real

Kristi at Finding Ninee

Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?

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51 thoughts on “A Foot Squeeze Away – My Year on Mat Leave

  1. I have to say the best part was that I got to spend unlimited time with my baby. Even though she had colic and would cry for hours on end, she still was all mine and that time was something I knew was precious and would never get back. So, I tried my best to remember that even when things got crazy (which they did). Loved this post so much and thank you Katia for sharing with us!!

  2. I just love that – the image of squeezing a soft, chubby little foot! What a poignant piece, Katia.

  3. Jean says:

    There was something about the finite timeline that made me appreciate every day a little more. I had 9 weeks with my first child and 4 months with my second. I savored as much as I could given the circumstances and the mourned away the last week and month respectively.

  4. Yes. Expect the Unexpected. Perfect and beautiful advice. Love.

  5. Sarah says:

    Great advice! I also had so many plans of things I would get done around the house during my leaves… and either the time or the energy just wouldn’t be there!!
    I’m so glad you enjoyed your maternity leaves.

  6. Robbie says:

    Expect that you might miss work & the adult contact.

  7. lenavh says:

    Laundry, dirty dishes can wait and un-fed husband can take care of themselves. But the days spent with your baby alone 24/7 are counted. So make ‘em count! Also – keep a diary or something like that to keep those memories.

    • Katia says:

      Wonderful advice. Agree with every word. I haven’t always been consistent with the diary, but one of my four-year-old’s absolute favourite things is listening to stories about himself when he was “little” and the diary is so great for that!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Love, love, love squeezing chubby baby feet!! I have no experience with mat leave, as I was let-go, downsized, fired, whatever you want to call it while I was 5 months pregnant with #1 and I never went back to work. I do love being home and being able to be both physically and mentally present. I have been in this full-time Mom role for 3.5 years now, and as I am easing my way into freelance work, I do feel things slipping past me, just like those library books or the forgotten lunch drink in the fridge. I am not 100% mentally present. This is a new juggling act that needs a little practice before it runs smoothly. But I’d never trade my 3 years at home full-time for anything in the world, even if I am now a bit rusty with things like professional meetings and walking in heels!

    • Katia says:

      Your professional life and heels (HAHA) can always catch up, friend, and it won’t come back to you in fifteen years and talk about feeling neglected, right? I think it’s great for your kids that you were able to do that and thank you so much for commenting!

  9. Ah, Maternity leave…. I’d say that Mums should be prepared to find out more about themselves -and be surprised. In my case, it was deciding that I didn’t want to go back to working in a lego-free environment :-) I ended up stopping teaching and setting up as a child minder for five years, then going freelance and translating from home. Although I don’t bring in as much money or have much stability for my work load, I’m available for my children and can organise my work as I wish…

    • Katia says:

      Couldn’t agree more. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your first sentence. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that we didn’t really know ourselves, all of ourselves – that is, until we had children or whether it’s getting to know a new self that emerges with childbirth, but you are totally and completely right and I am so glad for you you were able to stay in a Lego-rich environment. :-)

  10. Okay, First, love you Katia! :) Mat leave. Hmm what can I say that might actually be beneficial to others. In the beginning I thought I would only have 6 weeks, but I was given 12. I was thankful for that, but it wasn’t enough time. I went back only part time and was able to work part of the part time from home. Ha! That was awesome! But I ended up leaving work.. because guess what? THE UNEXPECTED.. HAPPENED! It always does. So it’s perfect advice Katia!! However, to expand, my advice would be: to be patient and kind to yourself. Work on self compassion. As a new mom or new mom to two, we learn things about our strength and inner core.. we never knew or thought we could do. We change. Our bodies change. And
    so much more. But mostly we are hard on ourselves with expectations. And we need to learn to be kind to ourselves during the process. – Thanks Katia. _ <3 Georgia

    • Katia says:

      Oh my gosh, Georgia, SO important, be kind and forgiving to ourselves. SO so so true. Don’t expect ourselves to be perfect. We had no previous training in this whole parenting gig, right? Thanks so much for adding that, my dear friend!

  11. The advice I always give is, don’t hesitate to ask someone for help. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed to seek support. Also, if you don’t have family nearby, find another mom/dad that you trust and arrange for baby-sitting swaps. This is a great way to get some guilt-free time away.

    I also love to squeeze their feet… and nibble their ears!

    • Katia says:

      I love that advice. I often find it hard to ask for help as it is and it is that much harder when things are further complicated by what we perceive as “what they will think of our parenting skills” but what we don’t realize is that we moms have so much in common and we’ll understand each other’s state of overwhelmed-ness like no one else :-) Totally cool to ask for help.

  12. Awesome and so perfectly written. Maternity leave is a very special time, but certainly, it was not at all what I expected it to be either. However, the feet squeezing is a pretty awesome time of day!!

  13. Whitney says:

    Lady, I am also a foot-a-phobe. What is it about feet!? Right now, my little one is still little enough that they’re cute (albeit stinky). Oy, when does it change?

    • Katia says:

      Don’t know, they’re just so ewy (I’m pretty sure that’s not how you spell Ew-y, but oh well) when you’re a grown up and pretty darn cute when you’re not.

  14. Sarah says:

    This sort of fits in with my post. Expect that even if you own and love your choice to stay home, you’ll still need self-time. Babies are lovable and demanding. :)
    BTW, I am also not a foot person..except for my babies. I love to kiss their little tootsies.

  15. sandinmytoestk says:

    I agree with the ‘expecting the unexpected’ part. There’s so much I had in mind for after my baby was born and now I have to look for that list lost somewhere in my brain! #FTSF

  16. Dana says:

    I still squeeze my babies’ feet, which are bigger than mine – but only when they are freshly showered! I resigned from my jobs both times I had a baby, so I didn’t have the clock ticking on maternity leave. But your “expect the unexpected” advice works for anything parenting related. Or life-related, really.

    • Katia says:

      You are a very wise woman, Dana, and not (only) because you’re agreeing with me ;-) I completely agree that “expect the unexpected” can and should be extrapolated to every other area of life. Makes life much easier.

  17. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    Oh the end of my maternity leave was a bittersweet experience! Mine were sadly much shorter but I ached when they were over. I think it’s fantastic that you are able to share your wisdom with other moms who are experiencing that transition. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Woo-hoo! You so deserve it!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you, my friend! As I am responding to these comments my four-year-old said he had a secret. His secret was a kiss, his next one was a hug and then the words I love you. As I kissed and hugged him back he said “I love you” again and on the same breath “never go to work”. Whoa. Mini heartbreak, right there.

  18. Sandra from It's Tidy Time says:

    I despise human feet in a way that only my siblings can fully appreciate, as they tortured me with their grotesque appendages my whole life.
    HOWEVER, my two babies’ feet? I could chew on them, they’re so sweet. There really is something about squeezing that little block of chub that they patter around on. And even now, mine are 6 & 8 and they still have a little squish left in ‘em and it’s so darling I can’t stand it. I can totally relate. You make me feel like maybe I’m not so weird after all :)
    (Still jealous of my Canadian sisters getting a full year of mat leave when we only get 6 weeks stateside….cherish it!)

    xoxox

    • Katia says:

      I know, the 6 weeks is not easy, my friend. Wish I could forfeit a couple of months off mine to add to yours. Of course I would also have to travel back in time to do this.

      And feet, GAH. Did you know that Anderson Cooper is a huge feet-o-phobe (or is it foot-o-phobe, can’t remember what I put in that post). He will occasionally share photos of criminal behaviour like removing your socks and resting your feet on someone’s arm rest on the plane. BARF. Isn’t indecent exposure considered an offence???

      • Sandra from It's Tidy Time says:

        Ahhhh!! That’s horrific! Hahahah what a nightmare and note I have even more respect for Anderson Cooper, hands down. And yes, I’d say that warrants an arrest. Good God people!

  19. I’ve never experienced maternity leave because I stopped working after we adopted our son. I’m not sure what kind of leave they have for adoptive parents in the U.S. My husband didn’t get any time when we adopted our kids. He had to take vacation each time we went to China. That part kind of sucked. Each trip was 17 days. Fortunately, he’s been with his company for 20 years and has decent vacation time. I like how you focused on lowering expectations of what women will accomplish during mat time. You never realize how worn out you’ll be caring for a small child.

  20. Great post. It’s so true, those babies don’t always do what the books say they will! One thing that worked for me when I was on mat leave was I made sure to have something scheduled at least a couple of times a week, to make sure I got out of the house- a parenting group or a breastfeeding group or something like that. It gave my week some structure and got us out in public in places where I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to find a spot to nurse. My advice to other moms would be- Make sure you find time for yourself regularly- whether it’s exercising, taking a bath, going out for a drink with a friend, whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries.

    • Katia says:

      Very, very true and helpful advice there, Pam. It definitely takes a shift in your mentality to “schedule” stuff for yourself (such as bath, date with friends etc) but it’s so necessary. Great advice!

  21. LOVE baby feet! Adult feet, not so much. I miss when my kids were little and i used to kiss their toes and play “This little piggy went to market…” As far as staying home from work during that magical first year–I am so glad you had the opportunity. And you are so right about the “to-do” list. We make big plans, but that year FLIES by and very little gets done–but that’s OK because the most important thing is just spending quality time with the baby—reading and cuddling and going for walks. Oh, I miss those days…but I have a grandbaby now that I get to spoil!

  22. I have been a stay at home mom for over 11 years now. There are days when I long to have a career – some list of accomplishments. There are other days when I simply cannot imagine juggling it all plus a full time job. My only advice is to do what ultimately feel right for you and your family and to not let the “mommy wars” sway you.

  23. mommyescence says:

    I am three months into my year of maternity leave. The easiest part for me is being able to witness all of my daughter’s firsts. Her first smile, her first laugh, her first flop from belly to back. The most difficult part for me is feeling stagnant. My entire life I was a go-getter. I went from obtaining my Bachelors in Psychology, straight into getting my Masters in Elementary Education, and dove right into my first year of teaching. I only taught for three months before getting pregnant. Taking the first year off with my baby was a no brainer for me. Now, during nap times especially, I find myself feeling like my “self” is fading. I am “Mommy”. That is all.

    My advice for any other moms who feel the way I did is to find something that makes you feel smart again. Find a way to squeeze in adult time, even if it is virtual. For me, it was starting a blog. I only wrote my first post yesterday, but already I feel revived. When my daughter is sleeping, or more content to be staring at her firefly mobile than playing with mommy, writing, thinking about, and checking in on my blog gives me something to do that is meaningful to me.

    • Katia says:

      Oh, I can completely relate to what you’re saying. You have no idea. I’ve written quite a few posts about the loss of sense of self (mine was a double loss of self, first after immigrating then after having a child). I also wrote one dedicated entirely to finding myself again through writing, so yes. I completely and totally agree with your advice and thank you so much for sharing it!

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