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.
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?
* 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