The Maternity Leave “Vacation”

Allow me to break some news: maternity leave is by no means a vacation.

Of course, anyone who has been on maternity leave knows this … but as a newbie with Maya, I didn’t know.

The notion of (up to) twelve weeks off work sounds really appealing when you’re massively pregnant and sick of life as you know it. It sounds like a vacation: everyone knows babies sleep a ton, so clearly there will be all this “free time,” you think. Time to focus on all the things you can’t get done during the normal work-week or weekends.

If you’re anything like me, you begin your “to-do” list before the baby comes, optimistically thinking you’ll be able to tackle even a fourth of it.

But then the baby comes, and reality sets in. Once said leave is here, you come to realize all the things you think you will get done … never come to see the light of day.

Like the stack of chick lit on your bedside table collecting dust, instead of taking you away (a la Calgon).

Or the photos on your memory card, which will never make it into a printed album.

Or the creative holiday decorations and delicious crockpot recipes you found on Pinterest that remain pinned … and unmade.

Or the calls you’ll make and lunch dates you’ll have which get passed up due to sheer exhaustion or a fussing newborn.

It’s not for lack of trying … it’s just the days just all blend into one giant blur: feeding, changing, playing, observing, cleaning, rinse, repeat.

As one friend noted, the first six weeks (especially) are truly “boot camp.” And any notion of exhaustion you might have had BK (“Before Kids”) pales in comparison to being the parent of a newborn. Even if you have the most perfect baby on earth, you’re probably still lucky if you’re not falling asleep in your spaghetti at dinner. It just comes with the territory.

But then in the blink of an eye, three months have flown by: a sea of milky baby breath and the warmest, most delicious snuggles, countless dirty diapers and sleepless nights.

And other than a growing, healthy baby (hello, the best thing ever!), you might feel like you have nothing else to show for your “time off.”

It can be discouraging, to say the least. Trust me, I know … I felt so defeated when I went back to work after my maternity leave with Maya. I had accomplished almost nothing on my to-do list.

So this go around, I was smart. My list is short and sweet and, I think, do-able.

1) Write — and publish — one new post at Babble.com

2) Finish June-December 2012 Shutterfly album

3) Create photo collage for upstairs hallway using the gorgeous photos my friend Staci has taken of our family over the years … as well as photos from our travels around the world.

I’ve already written the Babble submission and just need to send it on to the editor I’ve worked with before and hope she bites. (If not, I’ll try again).

I  finished up the Shutterfly album last night, to take advantage of some mega discounts before they ended at midnight.

And finally, we’re doing Ben’s newborn photos this weekend, which will inspire me to get cracking on my wall collage.

In addition to my “to-do” list, now that Luis is back at work, I’ve been trying to plan at least one outing a day. Whether it’s lunch with a friend, a trip to Target, mall-walking, or just a drive-through latte … it’s imperative I get out for even 30 minutes a day so as not to go stir-crazy.

While these past three weeks haven’t been a vacation in the traditional sense of the word and have given new meaning to “bloodshot eyes,” it’s been pretty amazing. The deviation from the “norm” (and adjusting to a “new norm”) has been really good for me, too, and was much-needed. And while the three to-do items on my list may not get accomplished, I won’t feel like a failure. How can I? At the end of the day, I have the best byproduct of a vacation … a thriving little boy who makes me melt with his deep gray eyes, adorable spiky hair and chubby cheeks.

And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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