My maternity leave officially started on January 10th. When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t really put much thought into how much time off I would take. With my other two children, I took somewhere between 8 and 10 weeks. Even as my leave was fast approaching, I still hadn’t settled all the details of it. I had naive thoughts of returning after Mardi Gras. But when I looked at an actual calendar, I realized that would have only given me 6 weeks. That just wasn’t enough. The baby wouldn’t have any shots by 6 weeks. I couldn’t risk sending him to the nursery unvaccinated in the middle of flu and RSV season. So I looked at the calendar again and made some concrete plans.
When all is said and done, I plan on returning back to work in early March. That gives me about 8 weeks of leave. Some might think this is too short. Others might think 8 weeks is a luxury (and it certainly is because it means that my family can go that long without me contributing financially). I think 8 weeks is enough time for me. In theory, I like the idea of staying home. But if 2 weeks home with my children over the holidays proved anything to me, it’s that I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom.
I am fortunate that during my leave my older daughter will be in school, and my youngest will be with my mother in law. This gives me lots of one-on-one time with the brand new baby. Sweet baby snuggles and long afternoons on the couch spent nursing and binge watching shows on Netflix aside, the fact is that I love my job. It took me a while to find a job that I truly enjoy, and that’s not something I want to give up. Staying home, for me at least, is just not the right choice. I have a tendency to go stir crazy after a day or two. Sitting around feels unproductive to me. Yes, I know I am not just “sitting around.” Caring for a newborn – and all children, for that matter – is work. Very hard and tiring work. But, I feel like I need to do more. Going back to my job provides a mental stimulation that I cannot get at home with my children. I crave adult interaction and time away from my children where I can be someone else besides Mom.
Of course, going back to work will not be easy. I will miss my children. And having a baby means that I will add pumping into my daily schedule. It also means a return of a routine for me and my family; a return to our financial state that we’ve grown accustomed to; a return to my own special level of sanity; a return of Mrs. Librarian and not just Mom. The last two weeks of my leave will be spent adjusting and fine tuning a morning routine and getting the baby used to going to the nursery. He will probably go a few hours at a time just to get used to the new environment and ladies who will be caring for him. I’ll be figuring out how to cart a 2 year old and newborn into the school while carrying all the required “stuff.” I will also use those last two weeks to soak in all the new baby memories that whiz by in a blur.
8 weeks is not a long time for maternity leave, but it is just enough for me.