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?

edwinbear Wed 10-Apr-13 15:38:23

Depends how long you are planning to take I think. For me, first 6 months were exactly as you describe. Second 6 months were largely a bit of a jolly.

KellyElly Wed 10-Apr-13 15:40:54

Well put it this way, I was happy to go back to work for the break grin

ohnosnow Wed 10-Apr-13 15:41:09

Loved my mat leave,far less stressful than work

FormerlyKnownAsPrincessChick Wed 10-Apr-13 15:42:02

Planning to take 6 months...then back to work part time. So, 6 months of hard graft; then it will be part jolly and part work which is less hard than the first 6 months for a while before going back full time.

Oh this is something to feel a bit more cheery about. Edwinbear you've made my afternoon smile thanks

Binkybix Wed 10-Apr-13 15:44:21

I've left quite early and no baby yet - this bit feels pretty much like a break. I don't think the next bit will smile

NiceTabard Wed 10-Apr-13 15:46:15

The bit before you actually have the baby is nice, although you are the size of a house at that point.

After that bit it's work all the way. I also consider going to work a rest!!!

BrianButterfield Wed 10-Apr-13 15:47:12

Oh mine was a lovely break! Pottering round the shops, going out for lunch, playgroups, car boot sales...it was very nice. I'm a teacher and one little baby seemed easy after a whole class. Of course that's not all day every day but on the whole it was very nice indeed.

OhDearNigel Wed 10-Apr-13 15:49:23

It entirely depends on whether you have a nice, placid, sleeping baby that happily sets up her own little routine and likes going out and about. I had one of those babies (as she is a wilful, stoppy little handful of 3 years old now, those days are a distant rosy memory) and maternity leave was wonderful. Halcyon days.

McNewPants2013 Wed 10-Apr-13 15:49:48

Mine was a lovely break from work.

I am in a very physical job on my feet for 7.5 hours a day

Hadassah Wed 10-Apr-13 15:49:59

It can get easier even earlier. The first two and a half months were hard work, and then the baby settled into eating and sleeping at sensible times so the last two and a half months have been pretty much like a holiday, just with having to look after the baby. It's time-consuming but it's not difficult, I find. Depends on the child, maybe.

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Wed 10-Apr-13 15:50:00

<laughs hollowly>

Well, I suppose my answer depends on how well your baby sleeps. If you have the Magical Sleeping Baby, then it will be delightful. If, on the other hand, your child wakes up every 90 minutes all night and all day, then it will very much not be a jolly. I finally cracked and did cc with DD at 9.5 months, 2 weeks before I went back to work. It worked like a charm (she cried for 7 mins then fell asleep, on the third night she slept right through) and I wished I had tried it earlier!

Add in the mess the house gets into, money worries due to being on SMP, and the sheer loneliness of being alone (well, with a very cute baby, but without any banter/shared chat from colleagues) and I too was pretty glad to get back to work 4 days a week. blush

Mind you, it probably depends on the workplace! Mine is v laid-back, with a lovely group of people, and I work 36 hours a week. Not perfect, but not stressful either.

PuppyMonkey Wed 10-Apr-13 15:50:26

I positively skipped back to my part time job after my maternity "break." Some people like it, some people don't. I personally felt far less stressed out and had far more "me" time after I went back to work.

BeQuicksieorBeDead Wed 10-Apr-13 15:51:14

Probably depends on your job...

OneLittleToddleTerror Wed 10-Apr-13 15:51:19

I found it a very nice break. It is hard work in the sense that cleaning the house is hard work. And I mean your own house. There are no performance reviews, deadlines, meetings on why a bug reached the customer etc etc. It really is a bit of jolly involving going to baby groups, watching daytime TV, shopping and having tea. By the end of it, I had enough and felt my brain rotting away.

This is not to say you can spend your time writing a phd thesis. Because you would be busy feeding, rocking, etc. but it is not hard work.

bigkidsdidit Wed 10-Apr-13 15:51:22

I found it a nice break even though DS didn't sleep. It's just the utter freedom to do what you want all day long with no deadlines or having to catch trains or make meetings.

edwinbear Wed 10-Apr-13 15:51:44

Ooooo bit of work and bit of jolly for 6 months before you go back full time? That will be a lovely combination. You get to eat lunch/have grown up conversations/spend 10 hours in the same outfit because you don't get baby sick on it for part of the week, then some days you get to play in the park/go to baby cinema/sneak afternoon naps in whilst baby sleeps. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

SailorVie Wed 10-Apr-13 15:52:53

The first 12 weeks are HARD work. Then it's a jolly.

BrianButterfield Wed 10-Apr-13 15:53:00

It clearly does very much depend on your job. Going back to work was not a welcome break or a chance for a bit of "me-time" at all!

motherinferior Wed 10-Apr-13 15:54:13

The four months of my first maternity leave were some of the most miserable of my life, actually.

zukiecat Wed 10-Apr-13 15:55:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AngryGnome Wed 10-Apr-13 15:57:23

I had a horrible birth, so was pretty ill for most of mine, but other than that in terms of lifestyle it was a definite jolly! Now I am back at work at part time and have no time to do anything at all - its rubbish. But i suspect it depends on your job.

Manchesterhistorygirl Wed 10-Apr-13 15:58:25

Mat leave with ds1 was a proper jolly, with ds2 no not at all because I still had normal life to attend to.

MrsLyman Wed 10-Apr-13 16:00:13

Well I've found it to be a break from my sanity if that counts?

ll31 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:00:17

loved mat leave, was completely brilliant, hated going back

OneLittleToddleTerror Wed 10-Apr-13 16:00:42

The thing is, people are comparing maternity break with work without a baby. If you were to go back after 2 weeks, you will be having no sleep all night + meeting those performance targets and deadlines. Just because you went back to work doesn't stop you being a mum.

With that, it is why most try to take as much maternity as possible. Hopefully by the time you return to work, the baby no longer wakes up every 2 hours. Or was up all evening when not cuddled.

Groovee Wed 10-Apr-13 16:01:17

My maternity leave with dd was just 18 weeks in the days when you got 14 weeks, I was taking 4 weeks unpaid. Left 4 weeks before she was due. Planned lazy mornings and wandering round the shops getting everything I needed.

I left work at 4.30pm... went to the dr at 5pm.. sent direct to hospital and admitted by 6pm with pre-eclampsia. She was born 11 days later. I still resent that I missed out buying all my stuff as MIL had to do it all.

So not it wasn't a nice break.

melonribena Wed 10-Apr-13 16:01:24

I'm currently on mat leave. The first 6 wks before I had the baby were bliss. Make the most of them!
The next 6 months were incredibly hard work, but it gradually gets easier until one day you realise this!
I'm really enjoying the second 6 mths but am also looking forward to going back to work.
I love my job and I think I would feel differently if I didn't.
I make sure I keep busy or I think my brain would rot too, but it is wonderful to spend every day pottering with your gorgeous little one!

OneLittleToddleTerror Wed 10-Apr-13 16:01:41

I mean it's much much harder to be a mum to a newborn that has to go to work, vs one on maternity leave.

vj32 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:02:01

I took ML at 29 weeks because I was so ill and had a long commute. Then a couple of weeks later, after a lot of rest, felt really well. So that was a jolly, yes. Once baby arrived, no.

I now have a nearly 2 year old who runs around all the time, and I certainly enjoy going to work for the rest. Our work closed for a snow day this year. I think I was the only one who wasn't pleased. A day stuck in the house (most of the day, bar a couple of short walks in the snow) with a toddler who won't sit still - horrible.

yellowhousewithareddoor Wed 10-Apr-13 16:03:08

Depends on a lot - support network, family, friends, transport, and most importantly sleep. After 12 months of sleep deprivation and no support I was ready to give the baby away.

Arcticwaffle Wed 10-Apr-13 16:03:50

No. Even with a cheery baby who slept through the night, it was still a break to go back to work after maternity leave.

For years I LOVED Monday mornings, back in the office with a cup of coffee and noone tugging at me.

The first 4 months were gruelling but after that it was ok. I love my job though and find work much easier than being at home with a demanding 3 year old.

motherinferior Wed 10-Apr-13 16:10:06

It would have been fine without the baby. And the stitches. And the sleeplessness. And the feeling as if I'd been kicked in the stomach by a horse (although admittedly that did decline after the first month). And the constant, dreadful worry that my life as I knew it was in fact completely wrecked. And the concerns about the baby dying every time I took my eye off her. And the utter utter isolation and loneliness.

Those do not, to my mind, constitute a 'break'.

stargirl1701 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:14:55

7 months in. It's not been a break. Baby has silent reflux. Often spends 8/9/10 hours a day screaming. Never sleeps longer than 90 minutes. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. Not enjoyable at all.

kalidasa Wed 10-Apr-13 16:19:21

I'm with motherinferior. I started back at work last week. Baby is four and a half months old. I don't think I have ever been so relieved in my life! Personally, I would MUCH MUCH rather go to work after a scant four hours' (interrupted) sleep than spend an entire day with a wakeful baby who needs frequent feeding, constant stimulation and emotional input and who will only nap properly when being pushed in the pram (and this winter that almost always meant through the sleet/snow/pouring rain).

But I am jaded from a horrible pregnancy and some PND. Most of the other women from my NCT group seem to be enjoying maternity leave at least to some extent. So I think it probably depends. Maybe if I'd stuck it out longer I would have reached the more enjoyable bit, but as I was off sick my entire pregnancy it's been over a year now anyway and I really was on the verge of going completely mad.

kalidasa Wed 10-Apr-13 16:20:53

Just read the rest of this thread. There should be a 'hating maternity leave' thread on here for solidarity!

sittinginthesun Wed 10-Apr-13 16:22:08

Depends on your baby, and your health. I took 6 months first time, 7 months second time. Both were the most knackering, exhausting times of my entire life. I spent at least half my time in tears.

Sorry. smilesmilesmile

Wishihadabs Wed 10-Apr-13 16:22:22

Depends on the job and the baby. 1st time round was a walk in the park frankly. But then I have an uber physical job with anti-social hours.

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Wed 10-Apr-13 16:30:18

I have now read some more replies and I want to emphasise the money worries part. DH and I are shit with money at the best of times. Take £1000 a month out of our joint income and things start to spiral out of control very quickly. I couldn't do anything or go anywhere. We have one car between us and if I wanted it I had to get up with DH and drive him to work, and then go back (round trip of an hour) to get him at the end of the day. However, we live in the middle of nowhere with no public transport, so I had the choice of sitting in the house or walking the dog in the empty countryside. If I did make the effort to have the car, it used twice as much petrol as DH's normal commute before I'd even gone anywhere. When your baby has been up every 90 mins all night the last thing you want to do is drive for an hour first thing.

FormerlyKnownAsPrincessChick Wed 10-Apr-13 16:31:55

Job is fairly easy (and I have the huge perk of working from home); baby temperament is obviously a massive unknown.

We try and live by the saying "plan for the worst, hope for the best". So, I guess what you are all saying fits in neatly with this. Plan for feeling wretched and having a baby that screams all the time; hope for a magic sleeping baby that feeds and plays nicely most of the time.

Sorry to those of you who have had really difficult times / PND.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see! I am excited but I am also very nervous at the same time. I guess that's pretty normal for a first time mum though?

noblegiraffe Wed 10-Apr-13 16:41:39

My first maternity leave was very difficult with a non-sleeping baby and by 10 months when he was at the whiny wanting to crawl but can't yet so cries all the time stage I was nearly out of my mind. Going back to work was great.

My second baby is now 11 weeks and so far has been incredibly easy and I have had the tea while bfing on the sofa and lunches out no problem. DC1 goes to pre school so I can nap in the morning. I think it's going to get more difficult when DC2 becomes more hassle, weaning and crawling I'm not looking forward to.

AutumnMadness Wed 10-Apr-13 16:42:35

Bua-ga-ga. I had a baby who woke up at least every two hours in the night. During the day he only slept in a sling and only when I was walking (not standing or god forbid sitting) outside. After this, I skipped back to work like I was going to Tenerife.

Wishwehadgoneabroad Wed 10-Apr-13 16:45:06

Oh mine was a lovely break! Pottering round the shops, going out for lunch, playgroups, car boot sales...it was very nice. I'm a teacher and one little baby seemed easy after a whole class. Of course that's not all day every day but on the whole it was very nice indeed.

Agree!!

I guess it depends what job you do. So far, being on mat leave is definitely like being on a fab extended holiday for me grin

AutumnMadness Wed 10-Apr-13 16:45:20

OP, I really wish you get an easy baby. But sign up for LoveFilm online just in case. Very handy for being stuck on the couch boobfeeding for hours. smile

MajaBiene Wed 10-Apr-13 16:47:37

I had a nice break to be honest. He was never a great sleeper but I breastfed and co-slept so it wasn't too much of an issue, especially as I could nap with him in the day. I didn't expect to do much except carry him around and breastfeed for the first few months so it was basically as I expected.

kalidasa Wed 10-Apr-13 16:50:40

Good advice from MajaBiene. I think if you can find a way to relax and enjoy not doing anything else (e.g. forget about work/housework/hobbies etc) then that would help. I just found that impossible to be honest. But as I said above, the preceding nine months of being cut off from all normal activities didn't help. I am sad I haven't enjoyed these first months with my baby but hope there are better times ahead!

showtunesgirl Wed 10-Apr-13 16:51:47

Absolutely hated the first three months due to a not nice birth and slow recovery from EMCS.

Then I didn't really bond with DD until she was about 7 months old but months 7-12 before I went back to work were lovely and we did such nice things like going to loads of the Paralympic Events.

She also started regularly sleeping through at about 10 months but before then, when she did wake, a quick BF and off she went again to the land of Nod which made things much more bearable.

teacher123 Wed 10-Apr-13 17:03:13

I've had the full year and start my new (part time) job next week. Maternity leave has had it's ups and downs tbh. There have been days where I've been bored silly, as I haven't really got on board with the whole baby group thing, and didn't join NCT. I've made some acquaintances, but no friends through having DS. However I have continued to do some freelance work whilst on maternity leave, I played in a concert 4 weeks after having him, so in some ways I've had the best of both worlds really! I can't decide whether I'm really looking forward to going to work, or dreading it.

The hardest thing is thinking of things to do! I spend a lot of time going for walks with the pushchair...

Snowflakepie Wed 10-Apr-13 18:10:53

Depends on your job, your baby and your situation at home really! Hated my job which was exhausting, demanding and soul-destroying, and that was before I was pg. Left at 25 weeks and had the most lovely extended holiday of my life, but then my interests are simple and I was happy to relax at home, watching TV and crafting for days on end. Bliss. Then I got the baby with silent reflux and unable to sleep for longer than an hour, and when awake didn't stop screaming. For 9 months. No family nearby, DH trying to keep his job on very little sleep, and constant judgy comments any time I did venture out. I hated it. Returning to work part time was an absolute godsend, into a job with much less pressure though. And the baby grew up into a toddler who is actually quite good fun (and is now at preschool 15 hours a week, praise the lord). I really really hated everything about the newborn and baby phase, but the only targets and pressure were driven by me rather than some faceless corporation. Not sure which is actually easier to deal with though!

Someone tell me why I'm doing this all again in 10 weeks time?

farewellfarewell Wed 10-Apr-13 18:13:37

Depends on your baby. Also on whether or not you are caring for older children as well as baby that's a bit of a killer

DolomitesDonkey Wed 10-Apr-13 18:18:04

Yes, piece of piss break. I mean by 9am every day everyone is washed, dressed and fed. Boring. Only the inept struggle.

It's lovely the second time - spending loads of time with PFB when you'd previously have had them at nursery.

And it's a break from crippling childcare costs/logistical juggling, etc.

But apart from that...

yellowhousewithareddoor Wed 10-Apr-13 18:55:44

Do you really think that DD?

Jinsei Wed 10-Apr-13 19:11:19

I found it very easy and lots of fun tbh. DD was quite a demanding baby and rarely slept, so the sleep deprivation was really tough in the beginning, but I adapted to that and I just loved having the freedom that mat leave gave me. And the lack of work stress was wonderful!

I guess it depends on the job that you do. Having a baby is obviously stressful in its own way, but I found dealing with the demands of one baby infinitely easier than dealing with the demands and stresses of my job, and so it felt like a bit of a walk in the park to me. I'm sure it's harder when you have more than one young child!

Alligatorpie Wed 10-Apr-13 19:50:44

I have loved both my mat leave's. dd2 at ten months wakes up once a night ( dd1 was waking 6-8 times at this age) play dates, coffee dates, tae bo, kickboxing, long lunches...that is how i spend my days. And when dd1 comes home, i am relaxed and have energy to hang out with her. I have 5 more months of this before going back to work. smile

rustybusty Wed 10-Apr-13 20:21:28

God yeah. Lots of dvds and you can catch up on all the series. Loads of time to chill out. It was the laziest time I ever had in my adult life except for being a student. Enjoy it.

I don't know, I liked being able to set my own agenda for the day/week (obviously fitting around baby's needs) but I found the night waking hard and it took me quite a while to get over anaemia from the birth so I was quite tired. I think I felt too guilty to watch too much TV with PFB! My second ML with an 18 month age gap and a bad sleeper was even more challenging! Now I have two preschoolers I still find work much easier, though I can see it will change as they get older and more independent.

drjohnsonscat Wed 10-Apr-13 20:42:41

The four months of my first maternity leave were some of the most miserable of my life, actually.

^^^this^^^^^^

Don't see that many men queuing up for their six months ( and they would likely be better than the first six....).

Whatdoiknowanyway Wed 10-Apr-13 20:45:08

Is maternity leave really a break?
No
HTH

trixymalixy Wed 10-Apr-13 20:49:47

I was overjoyed to go back to work even with DS not sleeping well until he was 18 months. . The first few months of mat leave were absolutely hellish.

Phineyj Wed 10-Apr-13 20:56:48

It feels like when I was working from home, but without the constant back of the mind feeling that I ought to be working/getting more work all the time. I also have a lot more social contact than when I was self-employed e.g. baby groups etc and of course the baby for company. So quite enjoyable really, although my brain is definitely rotting and I am looking forward to getting back to work in the autumn, although I'm being careful who I admit that to. I must say I feel kind of guilty being essentially paid not to work though. Also my average cake consumption per week is going through the roof. I'm going to roll back to work at this rate. I am sure I wouldn't be this sanguine if DD wasn't a good sleeper, however!

Jinsei Wed 10-Apr-13 21:04:18

Don't see that many men queuing up for their six months ( and they would likely be better than the first six....).

Yes, but this is probably more because of the damage that a six month absence would do to their careers than because they don't fancy staying at home.

Binkybix Wed 10-Apr-13 21:11:09

Ok, I'm scared now. Maybe I'll be one of the lucky ones with a magic sleeping baby.

ceebeegeebies Wed 10-Apr-13 21:11:20

My 2 maternity leaves were a bit of a jolly to be honest - particularly the second one as I was a lot more comfortable with what I was doing plus DS2 was still in nursery 4 days a week.

I was fortunate to have 2 babies who were good at napping, regular routines etc which no doubt helped. I was also lucky that DH worked from home quite a bit so I could go to a gym class in the morning whilst the babies slept.

It did feel like a proper break from work and when I did go back, I was lovely and refreshed and thin

I think it was just that, even if the DC woke up early, I actually could slob around on the sofa in my PJ's until whatever time I wanted, could potter round the shops whenever I wanted (rather than cramming shopping into 1 shopping trip as I have to do now).

I absolutely loved my maternity leaves and am very envy when any of my friends get pregnant and go off.

bumperella Wed 10-Apr-13 21:27:25

First 3 mnths awful - so so so dull. Constantly unremittingly BORING - have this little creature who displays no real personality and equal interest in/fondness for a paper bag as in fellow human beings. Though you can get loads of those niggly DIY things done.

Next 8 months FANTASTIC. You can teach them stuff and they're just so much more fun.

I finished up mat leave the day before my due date, I think I'd've lost my mind being the size of a whale and sitting waiting....!

Obviously it all depends on the baby, on the pregnancy, etc etc.

gloucestergirl Wed 10-Apr-13 21:33:41

I've loved being on maternity leave and don't like working, so yes it has been a lovely holiday. But it is a holiday with no sleep, no lies in, no money, the same destination (our flat for months on end), lots of poo and precious little cocktails by the pool. Can't see it being offered at the travel agency!

MixedBerries Wed 10-Apr-13 21:36:32

No. IMHO it's not a break. But I didn't know that until I had a baby. And I say this as someone who who hated her job. But it's what I do now. I quit my job to have DS as it involved relocating. Better the devil you know!

Oh gawd yes. Baby holiday was amazing. smile First couple of months were awful - PND, no sleep, wailing child. The next 8 months were brilliant - like a switch flipped. I stopped worrying about work and deadlines and just enjoyed it. Working is so much harder and more stressful in my experience. I'm in early pregnancy with baby 2 and can't wait for my 9/10 months off again.

dizzy77 Wed 10-Apr-13 21:46:29

I took a year with DS and agree with the 1st 6 months no, 2nd to a point. Was also pleased to go back to my job part time and feel I had best of all worlds, although my career is taking a hit for it all.

It was work once DS arrived: keeping him fed, entertained and safe. And keeping myself occupied: I really thought ml would be all sat on the sofa in my dressing gown but quickly realised beyond the first few weeks that was not me at all. So I was one of those mums at all the groups, organising coffee mornings, taking over cafes with fancy buggies etc: all those activities were extensions of my personality that were otherwise expressed through the work I was "off". This came as a surprise, but a pleasant one. I've just started ml early with DC2 and I only hope I can get the tiny and the toddler out of the house at the same time to do more of this.

Jinsei Wed 10-Apr-13 22:09:33

Ok, I'm scared now. Maybe I'll be one of the lucky ones with a magic sleeping baby.

Worry not! I had anything but a magic sleeping baby, but I still loved being off on mat leave. Only wish I could have taken longer!

Permanentlyexhausted Wed 10-Apr-13 22:12:19

Yes, definitely! Both of my mat leaves felt like a lovely long holiday for the most part. There were the days when I wanted to tear my hair out but mostly I found being at home with my babies very laid back.

MixedBerries Wed 10-Apr-13 22:16:26

Oh God. This thread is making me wonder what I'm doing wrong!

Exhaustipated Wed 10-Apr-13 22:19:57

IME, maternity leave first time around was pretty easy peasy. To be fair at the time I thought it was fairly hard going, but it still involved loads of telly in the middle of the day, lazy lunches with Mum friends, lots of time staring at my pfb...

Second time around has been very tough. Hard times of crying baby, tantrumming toddler, getting out of the house nightmares etc. Much more like proper hard work. When older one is at prechool I am reminded of how relaxing (relatively speaking) it was first time around with only one baby to look after!

Viviennemary Wed 10-Apr-13 22:23:34

I think it's a break before the baby is born. That's what I thought you meant. But it certainly isn't after the birth. I couldn't believe one tiny baby could generate so much work.

poorchurchmouse Wed 10-Apr-13 22:24:41

I bloody hated it - it was a huge relief to get back to work at 6 months even though DS wasn't sleeping through the night. That was mainly because I loathed breastfeeding, though, and DS was a bottle refuser. If I had another (which I won't because I can't do the sleep deprivation again) I'd bottle feed after the first few days. I wanted to scream and throw things with frustration at being permanently chained to the sofa, and DS never really speeded up - a feed still took an hour when he was 7 months!

He's a great toddler though.

NumericalMum Wed 10-Apr-13 22:28:14

I have a very demanding job and skipped back to it.
The first 3 months I would have happily run away. The next three were a bit better once I learnt to exist on 3 hours sleep a night and none of it in a block. The last 3 months were a lot better. I could cope on no sleep at all a lot better (which was lucky as it latest another two years) and I got to meet friends and chill as my baby was happy to be sociable. If I was at home I would cry all day so I left home by 9 every day and did something. Anything. I was very fit when I went back to work as I walked everywhere and due to baby allergies I was on a restricted diet so pretty thin. All in all I hope if I do it again I will enjoy the benefits more and not wish it away, but in reality I think I will always enjoy being at work some of the time too.

lemonybarcode Wed 10-Apr-13 22:31:43

For me, maternity leave was a complete breeze, Ive got 4 kids, and even with the 4th it was far easier than it is being at work. As others have said, it depends on the job, but I certainly don't get a break at work, whereas being at home was lovely: coffee, tv, friends etc

Ariel21 Wed 10-Apr-13 22:35:11

Call me naive, but since discovering pregnancy I've been positively quivering with excitement about having 9 months off work. Coupled with both me and my partner working super-hard for the next 7.5 months (both self-employed) so as to save for the baby, and yes - I admit, I am fantasising about digging the allotment and going for walks with the baby in a sling. I can hear every mother laughing at me now.

Dippy001 Wed 10-Apr-13 22:37:26

Although maternity leave has been hell, similar experience to poorchurchmouse, I hate my job and know leaving my kids again will tear them up so I'd rather stay at home. It's no jolly though.

gwenniebee Wed 10-Apr-13 22:38:00

For me, it's been lovely. I am loving being a Mummy and after the first few very stressful weeks, I feel more confident and happier in myself than I have done practically since I left primary school. I am a teacher and I was exceptionally stressed in my job.

However, there is no switch off time, and that is tiring. So, at least before I could decide to have a bath/a lie in and just do it (even if mostly I was feeling guilty about the marking that ought to be done...) Whereas now I can't do that so easily, or I feel guilty about the housework that needs doing instead.

I am dreading going back. Really, really dreading it.

badguider Wed 10-Apr-13 22:38:23

I haven't had any yet and as i'm self-employed I won't even really get any with this pregnancy but I'd say it is a break from work.

When I worked in an organisation I noticed my colleagues who had a year's mat leave came back re-energised and re-focused (whereas moral had been low when they left).

I'm sure looking after a small baby isn't easy, but it is different. And doing something different for 6, 9, 12 months can be energising.

cocoachannel Wed 10-Apr-13 22:57:37

Mine involved a lot of meeting friends, eating cake and sitting on the sofa watching box sets whilst feeding DD. It was heavenly for a few months and then got pretty dull.

I returned to work exactly as badguider described - much more focused, motivated and ambitious.

lemonybarcode Wed 10-Apr-13 23:10:58

Btw there is no switch off if you are a mum who works. Im not sure what these jobs are that allows cups of tea/ lunch breaks. For me: I do all that a maternity/sahm does,plus plus rest. Far more knackering ime

lovetomoan Wed 10-Apr-13 23:16:48

Definitely a break from backstabbing colleagues grin

NiceTabard Wed 10-Apr-13 23:48:41

lemony by law you are entitled to a lunch break of 1/2 hour if you are working more than a certain amount of hours a day ie most full time jobs. If your employer is working people full time type hours with no breaks then that is illegal.

NiceTabard Wed 10-Apr-13 23:49:36

In fact I think you should name and shame your employer I don't know any employers who won't allow people to eat lunch. That is really bad.

NiceTabard Wed 10-Apr-13 23:53:29

I have gone a couple of days without lunch at work due to busyness and it was not good, did not perform well when I got hungry. Seriously who do you work for they need to be clamped down on these laws are there for a reason. Working all day with no food is just, well, illegal and wrong.

TheDetective Wed 10-Apr-13 23:53:52

hmm

hmm

and more hmm.

I love my maternity leave, but if you think it isn't hard work, you either got very fucking lucky, or you just don't notice the work you are putting in 24/7.

I work in a very demanding job. I do not want to go back. Have to though.

But maternity leave has not been anything like cake and tea. I go out to baby groups, and my days consist of caring for one refluxy baby, one stroppy preenager, school runs, food shopping, and cooking and cleaning. Less of the last two. The baby doesn't give time for that. I get stressed about finances, stressed about the crappy recovery I am having from the fucking forcep delivery, stressed about my baby and the whole reflux/intolerance thing, stressed about how the fuck I am going to go back to work in 2 weeks and look after other people and their newborns, with my own baby who doesn't sleep through the night, and as far as I am concerned, still acts pretty much as a newborn.

He's 4.5 months. It hasn't got any easier yet. In fact, it got harder, as his reflux started at 10 weeks.

As it is, I'm not physically well enough to return to work yet, so I am sure my work are going to be delighted when I tell them I am off sick. Not how I envisaged this whole thing going, at all. hmm

herethereandeverywhere Wed 10-Apr-13 23:59:50

Depends on a) what your job is like and b) how demanding a baby you get (complete lottery!)

I loved my mat leave before the birth and once I'd got over the car crash of a birth, it was the easiest 12 months of my life (since I was about 11 anyway!) and kept referring to it as "when I was on holiday" when I got back to work - to the dismay of my colleagues! I did have an extremely stressful long hours job though.

Jan49 Thu 11-Apr-13 00:23:28

The first 8 months post-birth were an exhausted horrible nightmare for me. Then I felt like I was emerging from a fog and it began to seem more manageable. I went back to work part time when the baby was 9 months old and having time off from looking after him really helped.
Someone at work talked as if my non-working days were all spent sitting sunning myself in a chair in the garden and I felt like crying and informed them that my work days were definitely my days off. grin

BonaDea Thu 11-Apr-13 02:03:17

My DS is three weeks. I have a stressful job I don't really like. Yet, earlier this week as I sat in agony as DS fed through the screaming thrush I have on my nipples I thought fondly of the office and wondered if I'd really been a but hasty telling them I'd take 12 months off!

And, by the way, daytime tv is awful. Seems to have gotten much worse in the 10 years or so since I last seriously watched any as a student.

nooka Thu 11-Apr-13 03:20:38

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

I found maternity leave mostly a mixture of stress and boredom. Small babies (well babies full stop really) are not my cup of tea, and hanging out with other people and their small babies isn't really my scene either. I'm not very keen on day time TV either, and I hadn't discovered mumsnet. My 'mummy friends' were nice, but seemed to spend all their time having coffee and going shopping, both of which I find pretty boring (and we were short of cash too).

So I was very happy to go back to work, and had a much shorter leave second time around. But then I hated it when I had to take three months off a few years ago too (my kids are both almost teens now). I don't do well with too much unstructured time smile

PariahHairy Thu 11-Apr-13 03:47:22

If it is your first baby, then maternity leave is semi-easy (baby dependent natch) if you have a 24/7 screamer, it's not so relaxing.

But actually I wouldn't call any maternity leave a break as such. It's a settling in period, I remember with my first I was terrified to take her out on my own and would get taxi's everywhere.

Obviously by the time I got to my third I was adept at juggling babies and pushchairs and bags etc, but it's not an immediate thing, it takes time to gain confidence.

I see that it is your first baby, I really doubt you are going to be lounging for 6 months, those titchy babies are hard work.

MyShoofly Thu 11-Apr-13 03:58:42

I'm home with my second and I can tell you being home with a baby and a toddler is no jolly holiday.

Now that I have two I can't recall why I found one difficult.....but I did and felt like I was on a break when I returned to work. I think it's the monotonous 24/7 nature of childcare.

Twattybollocks Thu 11-Apr-13 04:55:26

The first two times it wasn't a break at all, I couldn't wait to get back to work just to have a few hours a day when all I had to think about was myself and my work. Dc1 and 2 were both demanding babies. This time around dc3 is a doddle, happy smiley little thing at only 10 weeks she sleeps 10-7 with only one feed and settles straight after. I think I've died and gone to heaven. I'm not going back to work as such this time, but will be doing part time self employed in a few months which I will fit around kids and Baby, I'm not looking forwards to it at all.

Chottie Thu 11-Apr-13 05:48:57

I loved, loved, loved being a SAHM..... Being at work full time is just a relentless slog of targets and challenges.......

PenelopeLane Thu 11-Apr-13 06:26:52

I loved my 8.5 months off, and the only part I really found tough was was first 2 months or so after DS was born. I still think about that time with a smile. Having said that though, I had an easy baby, and DH and I saved really hard when I was pregnant so had enough money to still afford nice things (combined with very tight budgeting of our savings). I was sad to go back to work, but found that fine as well. I think if I'd signed up to a life as a permanent SAHM I wouldn't have liked it so much, as when I had a bad day, it was always in the back of my mind that it was just a short period of my life in the scheme of things.

Going off work again with DC2 later in the year, and am not expecting it to be so easy though with a toddler!

NapaCab Thu 11-Apr-13 06:33:37

It depends on the baby, it depends on your job, it depends on how much family support you have, how much money you have, all kinds of things.

A short maternity leave on a tight budget taking care of a baby that struggles to feed or never sleeps would be very far from a break!

rustybusty Thu 11-Apr-13 06:48:46

I have only had maternity leave with my second as first only could take 2 weeks off. With second it was bliss do what you want, no rushing around or being out so early, down the beach whenever I wanted, see your friends, go for lunch, watch tv.

The only time in your life you have no proper work to do, or rushing around or proper stress. I wish I was on it right now.

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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