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Maternity leave - a realistic opinion needed!

(24 Posts)
ohthegoats Mon 21-Apr-14 08:22:45

I'm going to be on maternity leave from sometime mid/end September, until late May. I understand that I'll be busy, knackered, and possibly recovering from some medical stuff for some of that, but I'm also terrified about being bored. I climb the walls after a long weekend without much to do.

I'd like to do an Open University course during that time - a thing that could potentially lead to a change in career. It's the very first 'move' in that direction, so it's a quite vague sort of course, and very much up to you what exactly you study (to fit your areas of interest). It starts on 1st November, and ends the end of April, so it fits perfectly with my timings. I can afford the course. If it goes well, then (the current, but obviously changeable plan) is to go back to work part time mornings only, so I could potentially do the second half of the course over the following 6 months, which would give me a qualification.

Am I nuts even to consider this? Boyfriend is encouraging me to do it, he knows what I'm like with the low boredom threshold. I love studying anyway, but am worried that I'll find it too much pressure, that I'll have baby-brain, that it'll be wasted money if I have to drop out etc. Even just thinking about it is really exciting though, which is sort of swaying my thoughts on it.

I need some realism. First child, am I being naïve?

Waggamamma Mon 21-Apr-14 08:34:31

Some people take caring for small babies in their stride and would manage no problem.

Others, like me, in the first 3-4 months didn't manage much more than caring for the baby, eating and sleeping.

You also don't know if you will have a placid baby who sleeps well or a grumbly baby who can never be put down.Difficult to tell what you can take on until you are here. Could you delay starting the course until next year and do it in the evenings while baby is in bed?

I loved my maternity leave and filled days with baby groups, swimming, day trips, meeting friends and getting to know my baby. Not at all boring.

ohthegoats Mon 21-Apr-14 08:39:16

I could delay, yes. I can't help thinking though that I'll be even busier when I'm back at work - that the baby will be older and I'll be more able to do things with it. I'm sort of thinking that they do less in the first 6 months, which might give me an hour a day to study. On the other hand I might be talking out of the top of my head!

BikeRunSki Mon 21-Apr-14 08:40:13

I was going to say pretty much what Waggamamma said.

I know someone who wrote her MSc dissertation on mat leave. I also know someone whose baby is 2.5 and has barely ever slept and sometimes has problems gettig dressed in the miring due to extended sleep deprivation (me).

And honestly, the friends I have made through parent/baby groups are the best investment of time I have ever made.

hubbahubster Mon 21-Apr-14 09:02:33

Agree with the other posters. I loved mat leave, really invested my time in baby groups, making friends for me and DC1, I got time to hang out/lunch with non-mummy friends... also as money was tight I used a fair bit of time to manage the household budget properly. Can't wait to do it all again in a few weeks' time with DC2! I have a high-pressure, deadline-driven full-time job normally and wasn't bored for a minute.

ohthegoats Mon 21-Apr-14 09:05:56

also as money was tight

That's one of my biggest concerns. I'm a teacher, so a really sociable job - in the holidays I get SO bored being alone (not many of my friends are teachers), and that's when it's alright if you've got money to spend. Even then, I have to save up for the summer holidays just to be 'home'. The thought of even petrol being a bit of a treat is just urgh.

Foxeym Mon 21-Apr-14 09:31:14

I know how you feel, I planned on taking a year maternity with DC3 as I more or less went straight back to work with the first 2DCs and wanted to spend some time with him as he was a surprise late baby (I'm 42) but 8 months in and I'm returning to work next week after 8 months. I love him to bits but I'm slowly going insane, unfortunately a sahm I'm not!

jasminemai Mon 21-Apr-14 09:34:24

If you know you are that personality then I would say go for it.

PluggyMug Mon 21-Apr-14 09:37:10

I am a never-stop kind of person and need a project catcall times but the baby became my project and my brain struggled severely with the sleep deprivation. I started a college course when dc1 was 9 months and even at that age struggled to find time/energy.

I was never bored on mat leave - exhausted maybe but never bored. I went to groups, coffee, swimming, walks etc etc and spent a lot of time making friends.

I would wait and see how things go and don't commit and out pressure on yourself.

Mrsbitbleedinbonkers Mon 21-Apr-14 09:49:57

With one if my dc I wrote a dissertation by the time he was 8 weeks old. With another i struggled to write s shopping list at 6 months.

I now have dd, 1. This time I've struggled with the sleep deprivation due to the older dc but i would have been fine.

It's one of those things that are impossible to predict.

Sparkle9 Mon 21-Apr-14 09:52:11

I'm also a pregnant teacher (hello!) and would love to change careers so I'm curious to know what you are retraining as! I think you should go for it! I also get quite bored during the 6 weeks holiday so I understand your thinking. Would the Open U let you defer the course if you couldn't manage during maternity leave?

hubbahubster Mon 21-Apr-14 09:57:15

ohthegoats when you actually have time to budget, you'll be amazed how much you can do on very little, honest. I get the absolute basic mat pay and always managed to go out for lunch etc. I didn't drive last time so was on bus a lot, but there are lots of things you can do with baby free/cheap, especially as you're not confined to weekends or school holidays.

I'm quite an anal organised person and actually enjoyed the household management aspect... Not sure I could be a full-time SAHM even if budget allowed, but for the 9 months I did it, I felt quite fulfilled.

I wasn't a complete domestic dynamo though - I did my fair share of just starring at DC1 too...

PenguinsLoveFishFingers Mon 21-Apr-14 09:58:45

I would say it depends on your baby's personality far more than yours. You may literally not have any time to study. With DD1 I struggled to get anything (including washing and cleaning) done for months. you may be too tired to give it your best. Personally I wouldn't commit in advance.

Mepmep Mon 21-Apr-14 10:10:00

I agree with the first post - much of it depends on your baby. I too have a friend who wrote a dissertation on mat leave - but then, her DC self settled to sleep at 6 weeks and took 2 hour naps (and slept through the night, of course...)

Me: I started reading a novel when DS was born; still on page 5. I have unsettled baby who didn't sleep well and took naps only whilst held. In the first 3 months I had about 10 mins a day to myself, before dh went to work. I got my evenings back when DS was 3 months. Now at 5 months ds naps on his own but only 30 mins at a time, which is barely long enough to get a cup of tea.

If I am honest, I crave intellectual activities, but simply don't find the time.

The busyness of mat leave is nice, but for me does not satisfy the need for intellectual stimulation. I found baby groups boring. I dread going to them and only go for DS's sake.

I would have loved to do something like a course but have no idea how I would have managed it, given that DS takes such short naps, giving me a max of 2 hours off every day, and in little chunks too. I'm told that this isn't that unusual in babies though smile

If you have a regular babysitter (dp?) you do get more time off. When DH is home I can get good chunks of time to myself, in between breastfeeds, but that's a very recent development as DS was very clingy right up until four months!

Btw, I find baby brain to be a complete myth - it's just exhaustion!

HolidayCriminal Mon 21-Apr-14 10:16:00

Marget Thatcher qualifed as a barrister in the 18 months after her twins were born.
But then she was wealthy & had a FT nanny (probably 2 of them, I should think!).

good luck! You don't know until you try.

squizita Mon 21-Apr-14 10:17:48

Are there other women at your school pregnant? I am (working) at a large comprehensive, so there always seem to be at least 2 ladies on maternity at the same time, which is a kind of 'mini' peer network for them. It's worked out the same for me this year, but I have also joined NCT and am muchoverdue picking up on going to Mass every Sunday and finding out about the church hall mum groups.

grin Nothing more ambitious than that! I did 2 PGdips over the years while working and intend to spend any few seconds not putting milk in or wiping poop off doing things which require no deadlines or presentations.

Knowing my luck my little bean will be a lively, demanding child take after his/her dad and I won't have any time anyway.

Creamycoolerwithcream Mon 21-Apr-14 10:21:00

I wouldn't decide anything yet. I remember about six weeks after Ds2 was born my DM asking me to help with her CV, I felt pretty normal but obviously tired and I literally could not do it. My DM picked up on it straight away and put the CV away. I was using all my 'brain power' getting through the day.

squizita Mon 21-Apr-14 10:21:06

...the 2 were in addition to PGCE and MA in child development. I am an idiot. confused Grumbled through both, deadlines were at the same time as whole-school events etc'. I'm an idiot.

fuckwitteryhasform Mon 21-Apr-14 10:25:57

Definitely depends on your baby. I couldn't have done a thing with DD1 and DD3 and tbh the daily grind of getting dressed and out the house to a baby group was enough stimulation for my poor sleep deprived brain. I like to be busy too so got involved with NCT fundraising and organised a baby group. No way could I have studied. DD2 dream baby if she's been my first I could have studied ok. DD3 had nightmare feeding that took up first 12 weeks then 6 weeks to recover from broncholitis and various winter sniffles then crawling v early so would have struggled. Don't commit to anything until baby is here I would suggest.

Plateofcrumbs Mon 21-Apr-14 12:04:03

When do you have to sign up to the OU course, do you have an option defer if you do sign up and could you extend it over a longer period if needed? What kind of assessments will you have to do and how time-pressured are they likely to be?

As others have said you may well find yourself with a baby that doesn't allow you the luxury of studying, but on the other hand you might find it possible and you might kick yourself if you miss the opportunity. It depends if you could take a flexible 'see how it goes' approach without squandering your course fees.

ohthegoats Mon 21-Apr-14 14:32:51

Thanks for opinions everyone.

It's an OU course in international development - before teaching I worked in environmental development, with some time working in Asia. I want to combine the two, particularly looking at the education of women/girls, and this course allows some focus on education eventually (although it looks at all aspects in this initial course). Registration by beginning of September, but it starts again next May, so if it went wrong this time, I expect I could restart it. I'll ring and ask tomorrow.

I've been thinking today that maybe I should focus on learning language or something instead - a GCSE rather than anything post graduate level.

squizita I'm a small primary school - no one else on mat leave, and I'm not very good at combining work and social life, so I'm not particularly friendly with anyone anyway.

weebairn Mon 21-Apr-14 17:54:58

I took up some "projects" when I had my baby because I was just so thrilled with being off. You will be surprised how much time babies do actually take up, but I was working as a full time hospital doctor before and so working loads of nights, weekends, etc, and it was a bit of a break.

Having a baby is quite relentless in one way (and people above are right of course that babies vary; mine slept ok mostly and fed well) but it is quite a different (slower) pace, and I really enjoyed it. When they need feeding… well, you just have to sit down and feed (sometimes for hours!), and that can feel like a trap, or it can feel like a luxury. After a bad night you can just spend a day in bed feeding and reading. On a more energetic day you go out, go for walks, meet all your neglected mates, try out some baby groups… I went to all the things I'd meant to do in years, all the art galleries and museums… I joined the library and read a lot. I bought a sewing machine and made a few bits for the baby. I stopped supermarket shopping and went to the nice market with baby in the sling every day. Cooked proper food in the evenings while DP held her. It was bliss and not boring at all.

There are also the times that seem barely manageable though. Baby won't stop crying no matter what you do. Baby won't sleep. Teething. Illness. When you're ill and baby is too and you still somehow have to function. When your hormones go crazy and you cry cause your clothes still don't fit. Some people find feeding very hard. Others like me were lucky enough to have it all be quite straightforward, but some days oh my god!! you just feed every bloody hour. Some days they don't nap at all.

So I'd be a bit wary of committing to something, but I did enjoy my little projects like the sewing, I did couch to 5k, read some history books, read so many novels I couldn't count them (join the library! they have good events for babies too) .. but if I was having a bad day (or month) it didn't matter if these things fell to the side.

I don't know, just some thoughts.
Some women do find mat leave quite isolating - I was lucky to have a number of mates pregnant at the same time and still some days it seemed quite lonely - joining some groups is a good idea.

Oh and congratulations. smile

Chivesmum Mon 21-Apr-14 18:11:43

I've done some OU courses and there is no way I could have coped with doing then just after DS was born - or even now actually - he was an easier baby than toddler!

One other thing to think about is that you may not realise now how much time you just want to spend with your baby - you may have the time to do the course but may resent the time away from your little one - just another thing to think about

livingthegoodlife Mon 21-Apr-14 20:39:51

i find being on maternity leave quite boring but both of mine have been placid babies. I did loads of groups etc but still had so much time. I have lots of friends with the same age children but you can only meet up with people a few times a week - expense is a prob!

I think you could do it depending on the baby and how well you cope.

With my first baby i took 6 months leave, with my second i took 8 months.

I did a lot of DIY, shopping (!) and house renovations. what can i say, i got bored!

I work part-time now which is amazing, such a great balance.

good luck.

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