Is maternity leave really a break?

(122 Posts)
FormerlyKnownAsPrincessChick Wed 10-Apr-13 15:34:17

I've had it from several people. Basically, it would seem that maternity leave is like a jolly long holiday where I will be enjoying lie-ins, followed by slobbing around on the sofa all day drinking tea, eating cake, watching homes under the hammer or else going out for yummy mummy lunches and generally having a lovely break from it all.

Now, I do kind of expect to end up slobbing on the sofa all day drinking tea, eating cake and watching homes under the hammer but with a baby on my boob and matchsticks in my eyes, hormonally weeping at the lovely job that couple have made of that bathroom, worrying if bright yellow poo is normal or an indication of something very, very wrong with the baby whilst nursing a very sore fanjo.... Also, given that maternity pay isn't loads and loads I can't see that I will be going out for lunch at all (unless it's sarnies in the park or similar)....

Obviously very grateful that I'll have paid time off work to look after my baby and can't wait to bond with him / her. But I kind of think that regular work is probably easier than having a new responsibility 24/7? Am I wrong? Is it going to be a nice long break from it all?

AIBU to think that maternity leave isn't really a break / extended holiday?

Flossiechops Thu 11-Apr-13 06:54:13

It's a 'break' from work yes. The first few months are tough but once you're in a routine it gets better. Far easier than juggling a baby and work!

OrWellyAnn Thu 11-Apr-13 06:59:15

It depends how well your baby sleeps, feeds and whether they suffer from colic. My first DC didn't sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time for the first two years...so in many ways I was lucky I was made redundant on Mat leave, becUse there was no way I could cope with that and work. As it was I lived in an exhausted fog. No tv watching or sitting around though, because she was WIDE awake all day. But I had no car at that point (dc 2 would drop off as soon as the car was out the driveway...sooo much easier!) and very few 'mum' friends (none of our friends had, had children then) so I don't think it was the easiest of times!
I LOVED that stage with DC 2 who sleptandfed well. But them i was more chilled out as knew what I was doing....
Some people manage OT very, very well though and ahold friend of mine had the 'break' you describe almost exactly!

PebblePots Thu 11-Apr-13 07:10:08

Yours is the right version. I had the shock of my life, sounds like you are more prepared for what to expect!

Iaintdunnuffink Thu 11-Apr-13 07:15:02

It's a break from work but its not a holiday. How easy you may find it, or not, is dependant on many factors. Like most people there were aspects I found hard and others that were enjoyable.

Jinsei Thu 11-Apr-13 07:32:31

It's not just about your babies temperament and whether you liked your job, but also about your temperament and your situation too.

I think this is very true. I respond very well to having unstructured time, and loved that aspect of maternity leave. If my DH had been at home for that length of time, however, he'd probably have been climbing the walls - he gets stressy after just a week's holiday! I also found that, exhausting as it was, I genuinely enjoyed looking after a tiny baby, whereas I know that some friends hated that stage. Once I had got the hang of it, I really enjoyed breastfeeding too - which was fortunate, as it took up many hours of the day! smile

Alisvolatpropiis Thu 11-Apr-13 07:56:40

Well it is a break from work but it's not really a holiday,unless you have a particularly laid back baby I guess?

Meringue33 Thu 11-Apr-13 08:15:13

Pfb is 13 weeks old. I told everyone I was going to write a novel on my year off. Now I see why they all laughed so hard! Still, things are getting slightly easier now I usually get at least a five hour stretch of sleep at night, and am changing one rather than 14 pooey nappies a daysmile

Congratulations on your pregnancy by the way! He is all worth it, though doesn't sometimes seem that way in the witching hour.

Wishihadabs Thu 11-Apr-13 08:42:15

This thread is fascinating reading. I work for the NHS and have worked in SCBU. So I was used to tiny babies and was being paid relatively well. I can see this made a huge difference. I think I also had realistic expectations, I didn't expect to write a book ! I was used to night shifts so could sleep in the day easily. Also was lucky enough to have a relatively uncomplicated birth.

Wishihadabs Thu 11-Apr-13 08:43:45

I would do it again in a flash, but it's the following 17years I would struggle with.

conorsrockers Thu 11-Apr-13 08:45:55

What's maternity leave grin hmm

hamdangle Thu 11-Apr-13 09:10:35

As others have said it depends on how stressful your job was and how easy your baby is. I think it also depends on how relaxed you are about parenthood.

I had one baby 16 years ago when I was a teenager myself. I'm 34 now so have spent all my adult life as a mum and having that weight of responsibility so I don't know any different. I'm on maternity leave now with DS2 who is 20 weeks and it's definitely a jolly for me. I am having a great time and have made lots of new mum friends to go for days out with. The first 4/6 weeks were a struggle but once he started sleeping through it was easy. I think a lot of this is because I'm very chilled about being a mum and don't feel the need to hover over him checking his temperature every five minutes like a lot of first time mums but also I had realistic expectations before he was born and knew no matter how bad things could be it would always be easier than being a teen single mum!

You sound like your expectations are quite realistic too. I think the people who struggle most often have an idealised view of how wonderful spending time with their baby can be but they don't realise that once their DP goes back to work they can feel quite lonely and isolated and quite quickly begin to feel like the DC is all their responsibility. I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to totally give up every part of your life for another human being. That coupled with feelings about how your body's changed, total exhaustion, crazy hormones and feeling like you've actually been run over after the birth can all make you really start to feel like 'this is not how it was supposed to be!'

Make the most of the time though! It really isn't a cliche when people tell you they grow up too fast. I can't believe my eldest is in college already!

MajaBiene Thu 11-Apr-13 09:14:13

Day time naps
Watching DVD boxsets
Baby groups
Coffee with friends
Baby cinema
Walks with the sling
Spending the day in our pjs
Swimming
More coffee (and cake)

Well I went into labour two mnths early, so no time off before the birth.
I am self employed, so only got 9 months at the basic maternity allowance
For two of those months we hadn't yet been discharged from scbu
I had twins. With reflux.

Anyone who suggests maternity leave is a 'break' to me is liable to get a large cup of something very wet and very cold emptied over their head!

tomatoplantproject Thu 11-Apr-13 09:23:39

I'm really lucky - magic sleeping smiling baby. But the first couple of months were tough - Work was pretty full on but I loved the intellectual challenge and the fact I could leave and go to the gym/pub etc and weekends were free to just do whatever. Dd is amazing but the pace of life is a lot slower and my social life is now lunch/baby groups - without planning stuff each day I get pretty bored and lonely. And weekends just aren't the same anymore - I feel lucky if I can escape for an hour or two to have my hair cut/go food shopping on my own.

I've become much happier since lowering my standards - ive got a cleaner starting on Monday, my sewing machine is untouched since the day before dd was born and it's enough to just do laundry and a nice meal each day.

Watching dd develop is such a treat and definitely worth it.

gloucestergirl Thu 11-Apr-13 09:31:04

I've had my childless-by-choice sister spit this out at me. There is a lot of bitterness and resentment about mothers having a "holiday". The baby needs to be looked after - it is a biological fact. It is best, cheapest and most convenient if the mother does it.

Maybe it is the UK's very strenuous and insecure working practices that has created this culture of resentment of someone else having a "free holiday". In sweden where I live there is NONE of this snideyness.

Maybe I live in a fantasy land of flowers and rainbows, but surely it is better for a child if the mother is happy when bringing them up in the world for those first few months? Would these people be happy if they thought that mothers were sitting at home crying their eyes out rather than enjoying their children?

Jinsei Thu 11-Apr-13 14:54:47

I don't think this thread is full of snide comments at all. Yes, babies need looking after and it's hugely important for new mums to have tine to bond with their children. It's great that we have maternity leave to enable us to do this, but do we have to pretend that it's the hardest thing in the world in order to justify our time at home?

Some mums obviously find maternity leave very tough. For me, it was much easier than being at work, and I loved it - that doesn't make the time I spent with my baby any less valid! There really isn't any need for us all to be martyrs...

FormerlyKnownAsPrincessChick Thu 11-Apr-13 15:36:33

I'm really grateful for all of the honest replies I've had. It seems to be a balance of some people having a great time with a "magic sleeping baby" away from a hectic job or others recovering from traumatic births with a difficult baby away from a job they love. Or somewhere in-between.

For me, my job and well paid is easy, so maybe a part of me knows that having a baby is much more of a responsibility and is going to be hard work and there will be readjustments to our finances and what we can do because we'll lose a big part of our income after a couple of months. However, as it's taken us 3.5 years of TTC to get to this point, I'm really excited at the prospect of having a baby and spending time with them as this time last year I didn't ever think it would happen. And it's not like we're going to be destitute, we're just going to have to tighten our belts, which is a very small sacrifice in return for having a baby.

I guess I've just been a bit surprised at how many people think having a tiny baby is equivalent to being on holiday. I thought maybe I'd missed something somewhere!!! Or maybe I've been reading into comments too much.

So, hopefully baby will stay in 'til EDD, so I can have my 4 weeks of holiday (which will likely be unpacking boxes in our house which is currently being renovated and will hopefully be ready in time / spending time in the sunshine if we ever get any) and then we'll just have to wait and see what the temperament of the new baby is like as to whether mat leave is a "jolly" or not!

Thanks for sharing ladies. You've made me feel a whole lot better in a lot of different ways over this thanks

I hope you get your 4 weeks beforehand as they really will be nice. I did that and still fondly remember lying on my bed all day reading novels. I knew it wouldn't happen again so really savoured it.

plummyjam Thu 11-Apr-13 16:08:47

The first 6 weeks - the wilderness period between birth and their first smile - are really tough. Exhausting hard labour with no feedback. I think after that it gets progressively more enjoyable - your baby gets more manageable at the same time as you become more competent.

I am looking forward to going back to work for the break though - and I do love my job.

bumperella Thu 11-Apr-13 23:02:22

Personally I found my sabatical to be a much better "break" than my maternity leave, which was a great way for DD to spend her first year.

Primarily becuase on a career break there was no need to loll about eating cake etc. , whereas on mat leave you tend to have less night-time sleep, have a little creature to occupy, to have poopy nappies, rivers of sick, etc. Though it could be that I 2did" my career break All Wrong.

gwenniebee Fri 12-Apr-13 22:59:33

You do sound like you have very sensible expectations smile I hope it all goes well for you.

And, this I have to know, what do you do that is easy and well paid? smile Because I really want a career change!!

Zara1984 Sat 13-Apr-13 00:31:23

First 6 weeks were very hard. I finished work at 38 weeks and was then hospitalised so I didn't get much rest before the birth.

But now it's wonderful, this is the happiest time of my life. I am taking a full year off and I'll be sad to go back. However I know it's so wonderful only because I have a happy baby who has slept 12 hours a night from 3 months!!!!

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