Reflecting on my maternity leave
It’s been a while since I last shared something with you. I took a bit of an unplanned break from sharing online (breaking all the business/marketing rules!) and things are looking very different for us at home. My maternity leave has ended and I’m back at my part-time office job. Alice has started at nursery, whilst Benjamin has had his last day there (sob) and moved on to ‘big school’. Honestly, I know this is said all the time but - where does the time go!?
We’re embarking on a new chapter together and life has changed so much since this time last year. I’m not usually very good at looking back and reflecting, but seeing as this is a natural phase of transition for me it feels appropriate - and September has that ‘new year’ feel to it doesn’t it?
I want to start off by saying that I have learned and grown in so many ways in this last year. Kids will do that to you! I’ve learned so much about myself, my strengths and my needs. I’ve experienced the debilitating effects of sleep-deprivation and gone a little ‘mama-mental’ some days (I actually once forgot parts of the alphabet, I was so tired).
I’ve been so frustrated with myself on some days for seemingly getting nothing done, for not being able to talk about anything other than my children, or the lack of sleep I was getting (obsessed much) and for losing the ability to speak properly - I was forever forgetting words, even really simple ones, and developed a bit of a stutter. I was constantly explaining to friends, and strangers, that I was tired and therefore couldn’t speak. I felt silly.
But again, having children forces you to realise that simple virtues such as patience, acceptance and gratitude will see you through so many low points.
As I was gearing up for my year away from the office, I had some big ideas on how I was going to spend the time - both at home, as a mother and homemaker, and in my small business. When Alice came early (2 months early) pretty much all of those plans flew straight out of the window. Suddenly I had more serious things to think about.
A year later and I’ve not reached any of my big business goals. The house renovations nearly came to a standstill - such slow progress! But as I mentioned before, learning to let go of whatever expectations I had for myself and the things I’d accomplish in a ‘year off’ (side note: having a baby is not a holiday, and I’ve had to come to terms with the limitations on my time and energy - sounds obvious, but this is something I was in complete denial about until recently), was so necessary for the sake of my sanity.
Seriously, learning to practice gratitude, acceptance and patience is a game changer. For me at least. I’m a pretty patient person with other people, but when it comes to myself I’m not so gracious. My inner critic can be a bit gobby at times. Couple that with sleep deprivation and you’ve got a toxic cocktail of negative thought patterns swirling around your head, making you dizzy with shame. I needed to practice a bit of self-compassion… something I’m still working on.
This is so important if you want to be any use to anyone! Especially if you are a parent. Those testing days are magnified if you’ve not given yourself the permission to recoup your energy supplies (whatever that looks like for you). For me it looks like some time in front of the TV, or a book. An early night. Some vegetables amongst the towers of toast!
It’s a work in progress, but I’m definitely getting better at it. Or feeling less guilty at least. Maybe that’s where this online hiatus came from as it definitely wasn’t planned, but it definitely has done me the world of good. Perspective can’t be gained when you’re in the middle of the storm, or the circus (I’m unsure which metaphor to go with here), and taking a step away from sharing all the time helped me reconnect with whatever it is I am trying to put out into the world.
Having a baby is all-consuming, especially if it’s your first one, and sometimes looking after yourself can take a bit of a back seat. I’m still finding ways to look after myself better (my diet could definitely do with an overhaul - hello biscuits!). The first year is crazy, but now we’re finding more of a natural family rhythm it’s getting easier to carve out a bit of time to do things such as meal-prep, a proper skin care routine at the end of the day or even some yoga on a really good day. Small things, but my don’t they make a difference!
I realise how lucky I am… most days. I don’t like to admit it, especially here, but some days I felt like life was so unfair. We had a rocky start to this maternity leave; something that can still bother me on days that I’m feeling particularly sensitive. Gratitude saw me through a lot of it though, and still does.
Every mother I spoke to whilst we were in the hospital with Alice had a different story; some much worse than mine. I felt grateful that Alice was doing well, that we were in such a good hospital with the most amazing staff, that we were fortunate enough to live in a city with such hospital, or a Country that had the NHS (long live the NHS!!), a loving family to support us and a very adaptable, cheerful 3 year old that went with the flow without complaint. Our circumstance and geography made a difference to our lives that I’m fully aware is not available to everyone.
Once Alice was home I was just grateful for every day I had her with me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, leaving her in the hospital to go home, day after day, without her. I felt so much joy and gratitude every day after that. It’s like the saying “no rain, no flowers” - and although I know I would’ve been in the newborn blissful bubble anyway, the shaky start we had made it feel all the more precious.
My business took a major back seat, but you know what, in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really matter to me.
So all in all I feel like I’ve grown a whole lot in this last year. Maybe not professionally, but personally and spiritually. Each season in our life teaches us something; there are always ways in which we can learn and grow. I thought I would be making strides in my business (you know, with all the extra ‘spare time’ I had - LOL) but turns out I made strides in other ways. I could go really deep into this topic; of motherhood, personal development etc. but I’ll save some for another day, and another blog post no doubt.
Thanks for sticking with me, even when I wasn’t around so much. And if there’s anything you want to ask me about my experience - of having a premature baby, or running a small business with a young brood (or anything else for that matter) please let me know! I mostly hang out on Instagram, but you can connect with me here too :)
Hello I’m Lois
I’m a UK based designer, maker and mother on a journey to a more simple and natural lifestyle in the city of Sheffield.
Welcome to my blog where I share interiors, inspiration and ideas for things you can do yourself at home.