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Maternity Leave for Dummies


The Ups, Downs and Sideways of Working Motherhood

Maternity Leave for Dummies

Alex Steinman

Postpartum this time around has been a picnic compared to my first. Having been on the other side of the broken bottom spectrum, I realize how lucky I am to have a mostly-functioning undercarriage and a baby who sleeps and eats regularly. Other than the constant fear of smothering my baby when I fall asleep nursing her at 3am, I'm (mostly) mentally intact.

At first, I felt guilty about having three months "off" when I physically recovered in about three weeks. Then I remembered why maternity leave exists. I created life for ten months, while simultaneously raising a toddler, working full-time, and starting a business without being able to drink. I don't feel so bad anymore. I earned this time to do whatever the fuck I want.

Maternity leave has been a combination of doing it all and doing nothing at all. I'm either writing, meeting new people, working out, and plotting world domination all before noon; or I'm on the couch watching the entire second season of Kimmy Schmidt while trying not to get nacho crumbs on my baby as she eats. These shifts are reflective of the emotional swings happening as the hormones fall out of me and my (likely) last baby gets older every second.

The guilt comes from the societal pressure for maternity leave to look a certain way. People without kids and those who've experienced one particular version of it often project those expectations onto new moms. Some people have assumed I'm keeping my oldest at home while I'm on leave. I look at them with giant emoji side eye. I'd like to pee in privacy at some point (when I say privacy, I just mean without someone touching me). I send Cooper to daycare, and I don't feel bad about it. He gets to keep somewhat of a routine, and I get to bond with the newest member of our circus.

Sleep when the baby sleeps wasn't my thing, but if it works for you, DO IT. Scrap books and quilts are beyond my attention span and talents, but if they float your baby boat, CRAFT THAT SHIT. A long walk during the day makes me feel stronger, but if you're not up for it, SKIP IT. It's rare for working moms to get time to focus on their children and themselves. Working mom: you deserve to spend that time at home, in a coffee shop, on the beach or wherever makes you feel like fucking awesome.

Maternity leave is basically a big DO YOU time, and I wish it was socially acceptable to do more of it for longer. It's exciting to see companies experiment with longer leave policies, return to work programs and parental coaching. Perhaps our future #Girlboss president, Hillary Clinton, can help shift culture for future generations and their nuggets.

If you're still using the term "vacation" to describe a co-worker's parental leave, tell me the last vacation you had with raw nips, a diaper (your own), and a 6-10 pound poop machine attached to you. Then please exit the blog through the gift shop. I can't even with your bad juju.

P.S. You might also like Mom Working & Preparing for Maternity Leave.

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