Reflections from Maternity Leave
Anyone who has been on a maternity leave can tell you: one simultaneously has lots of time and absolutely no time. You find yourself reflecting at 3 am and actually being grateful to have the “extra time” worked into your day. And other times being desperate for all the fitful and unpredictable waking and sleeping to end.
Before I leave this season of “sleepless clarity” I’d like to remember some of my reflections:
- I know why people like babies.
With my first baby, I thought all the well meaning grandmothers in the super market who urge you to enjoy every moment (not realistic expectation by the way!) had just forgotten how hard babies really are to care for. They had forgotten the pain of sleepless nights and sleepless days.
Now, I don’ t think it’s as much that they have forgotten as it is that they remember and know the normal “wear and tear pain” of life ahead.
Babies represent hope and new beginnings. When you look at a baby, there is only possibility of relationship. No hurt feelings. No harsh words. They aren’t mad at you yet for disciplining them the way a good parent does. They aren’t hurt yet by your inevitable mistakes which you wish you could take back so much. They haven’t been made fun of at school or questioned their own value in this world. They just are. Ready to be loved and give love. (Except when they are screaming in your face of course!). Babies are always excusable, and therefore, we not only love them, but we find ourselves giving love the way love was meant to be given: without condition, without fear of rejection. And something about loving that way feels so right and good.
Babies allow us to feel love in its infancy. We don’t have to contemplate the cruel world because for now…they are in our arms. And the work of loving a baby is different than the work of loving another human relationship which often can have so many layers of complexity.
- The bushes outside of my house have red berries on them.
Why is this a big deal you ask? Well, because I’ve lived here for 3 years and never noticed. Our lives are too full, there’s no other way to say it. The amount of brain space I’ve been able to have since being off work feels like that first stretch after being on an international flight. Like I’m remembering how good it actually feels to extend my whole arm.
Just because everything fits in a calendar doesn’t make it a good fit. Having space for nothing allows our internal world to rest, to process, to be at peace and heal. And though I already knew this, I think the last few weeks I’ve actually been able to experience it.
- I expect too much of myself.
During this maternity leave, I was able for the first time since I can remember, to keep up with everything I always expect myself to do in regards to relationships and home. My house is picked up. On weekends we have more time for rest because we actually have food in the house from grocery shopping earlier in the week. I’ve visited several friends, made several phone calls, and written several cards by the time each week is done. (think about it, if you have people you expect to connect to once a week, that can be up to 5 hours of time easily!) I’ve remembered birthdays and have sent gifts. I’ve been thoughtful because I have the room to think of those things. And that’s when I realized: what I expect of myself at home is a full time job – literally.
And that’s when I decided to bury the hatchet with this old internal worry of so many expectations. It has to go away. Instead of desperately trying to prove that I can turn a 24 hour day into a 48 hour day, I will instead say – nope – can’t do it. And I’m okay with that. I can release some of those expectations because, life is not ideal, but it can be really, really good anyway. I’m really happy with our set up. I’m incredibly fortunate. Decisions regarding children, work, finances, vocation and marriage are deeply personal… and it’s okay to not be able to describe it all in a blog.
- I love my work.
Strangely enough, it’s by stepping away for a period of time that I have an even clearer picture of who I am and what I’m meant to do in this world. It’s a rare privilege to get to live any of that out at my work place. I hope I can always do that, no matter what work environment I’m in.
5. Knowing what is most important is not hard. As you can see from the picture above, it’s clear what’s most important in my life. May I not forget that.
6. Symplicity is freeing. One would think that it would be the opposite, but Infact, having a very limited set of options from which to choose can be the best feeling in the world. What shall I do today? Feed my baby? Go on a 20 min. Stroll? Feed my baby? Or perhaps go on a 20 min. Stroll? Really fresh ones are very “take along able” and yet, still have a very basic set of needs on rotation by the hour. It’s amazing how having this built into one’s life can be the opposite of stifling.