It’s with a heavy heart that I type this post. I really can’t believe that my maternity leave is coming to an end! It’s been fabulous having 9 months off with Baby Lighty – and a month off before that, when Mrs Lighty was the size of a starter home and could barely do more than lie on the sofa watching Homes Under the Hammer – and now it’s all coming to a sudden end.
I say sudden, but that’s not strictly true. I always knew it would come to an end, and even what date I’d be going back to work. It just feels so, so sudden; those 10 months have flown by, and ok, I know I’ve had a little tiny person to raise, but where has that time gone?! When did my bump become a newborn, and when did that newborn reach six months old, and when did that six month old become a nearly 9 month old who I’m going to be entrusting to another person to look after while I go back to work? There’s logical answers, or at least dates, that I can attribute to all of these points, I know, but my maternity leave seems to have zoomed by.
As the end of my maternity leave draws ever closer, I have had the fears that every mum has. Will my baby be ok being looked after by someone else? Will he resent me for working? Will our bond be broken? Will he forget who I am?
I feel like I want to spend every waking moment with Baby Lighty so as not to miss anything (which in itself is daft, as I won’t be able to spend every moment with him when he starts school, or when he’s all grown up and the last thing he wants to do is spend time with his old mum, as Mr Lighty pointed out). A fabulous post by The Son and the Moon has helped me to put my fears to one side somewhat, and I have vowed to try to enjoy the time I had left (sounds like I’m passing on rather than returning to work!), but an overriding fear still remains: have I wasted my maternity leave?
This fear has largely been sparked by my biggest and daftest dose of mummy guilt to date: back when Baby Lighty was 5 months old, I booked a session of messy play, and in all honesty, he hated it. Hated the feel of the paint on his hands, wasn’t too keen on having to wear the overalls, didn’t like all the touchy feely bits and pieces. Looking back, I think he was probably just a little too young for it, but I still kicked myself so hard for not booking the by-that-time-fully-booked baby sensory course instead; I felt so guilty that I cried on the bus on the way home. Completely daft, but that’s what mummy guilt will do to you!
So the fact that I haven’t really done any specific baby classes, coupled with the timing of Baby Lighty’s birth meaning that once I was new-mum-ready to get out and about it coincided with all the baby groups stopping for the school summer holidays, has left me feeling like I’ve squandered this precious time off.
When I mentioned to Mummy Hatchy, however, that I felt like I’d wasted my maternity leave, she said quite the opposite, that she thought we’d packed in lots. So, in an effort to make myself feel better about returning to work, I thought I’d make a list of what we have done, instead. It goes a little something like this:
- We’ve seen our friends lots. We’ve made new friends, we’ve reconnected with old friends and we’ve had play dates with friends with older children too.
- We’ve been to soft play.
- We’ve been to various parks.
- We’re regulars at the library’s rhyme time.
- We visit one particular baby group almost every week, and have popped into others, too.
- We’ve done lots of shopping!
- We’ve been swimming.
- We’ve been away three times, firstly to our friends’ wedding in Scotland, then to Centerparcs, and also to Great Aunty Tempy’s at New Year.
- We’ve celebrated two first birthdays, two 30th birthdays and two weddings.
- We did lots of lovely Christmassy things.
- We’ve been a part of the Women’s Institute’s centenary celebrations.
- We’ve had days indoors, snuggling on the sofa and playing with our toys.
- We’ve visited and been visited by family regularly.
- We’ve had lunch and coffee dates.
- We’ve been for walks.
- We’ve enjoyed lots and lots of family days out with Mr Lighty, making the most of our National Trust membership and also visiting lots of farms, zoos and wildlife centres and even the likes of The Essex Police Museum and an antiques centre!
So why is it, that despite all of this, I still feel like I haven’t really relished my maternity leave? Why do I look at other mums pushing smaller babies in prams with a mixture of longing and jealousy, knowing that they are at the start of their maternity leave? It suddenly dawned on Mrs Lighty: it’s because it’s the little things I’m going to miss the most. It’s the snuggling on the sofa after breakfast, it’s the looking at the pictures of the teddies on Baby Lighty’s nursery wall together after getting him dressed for the day, it’s dancing together to the radio, it’s watching Baby Lighty’s personality develop, seeing him hit his milestones. And I know I’ll get some of this on my days off, but above all else, I’m just going to miss Baby Lighty so much.
So, new mummies, regardless of how much you cram into your maternity leave, regardless of how many classes you attend, please cherish the small moments, as they really are the true sign of a maternity leave well spent.
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