When I left work to go on maternity leave, I thought I would never return to the same office, probably never know the same people, and generally be a very changed woman by the end of those 10 months, as if my whole life would disappear like Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man. But a month ago, I walked into the very same office, surrounded by the very same people, and aside from my weird, misshapen boobs hidden in my blouse, I was pretty much the same person. But returning to work did feel like a big milestone; the end of an era. So I thought I should write down a list of (sometimes contradictory) things I learnt while on maternity leave.
A list of (sometimes contradictory) things I learnt while on maternity leave:
– I am a very anxious person. There was not a day that went by that I didn’t worry about something. Why isn’t the baby sleeping? Why is the baby sleeping so much? Why isn’t the baby eating? Why is the baby eating so much? Am I still interesting? Will our money last? Have I started wearing mum clothes? Am I eating too much sugar? Do the women at mothers’ group think I’m a dick? Should we move house? Do I have a hole in my tooth? Does my house smell weird? Do I smell weird? Will I ever have fun again? Is that a spider in the curtains? And over and over with the worrying. Sheesh. I really want past Steph to give maternity leave Steph a huge, metaphorical toke on a bucket bong.
– Weirdly, I am a pretty relaxed mum compared to others. It is interesting spending time with other first-time mothers and listening to all the concerns everyone has – sleeping, eating, allergies, crawling, teething, choking, electrocution and boyfriends on motorbikes. At the end of the conversation, I quite often look around to find CC nude, covered in dirt, eating a large stick and playing chicken in traffic.
– I love being home. There are some rad parents out there who put their babies in infant fanny packs and venture out into the world like normal humans. Much to J-man’s chagrin, having a baby has made me want to stay home more than ever. CC is actually a pretty good baby when we’re out. Just now we went to a wedding where she did nothing but bat her eyelashes and smile and coo for an hour. But only I know that at the hour and five minute mark she turns into a drooling, sharting, crying, writhing, wriggling massacre of baby emotions. That doesn’t sound like a party to me, it sounds like work. So home, where our beds, fridge and TV are, is the best place to be.
– I don’t want to live in Sydney forever. I am pretty convinced that all the things that make parenting harder are related to city living. I like to imagine life with a child if I worked 9-5, weekdays, if our daycare was only a few blocks away from our offices, if our offices were only a short drive from home, if our home was not rented, if there was a backyard for playing and jumping through sprinklers, if there was a dog. None of that is possible in Sydney, with two people who work in arts/media. There is a lot to love about Sydney – interesting jobs, interesting people, good food, excellent beer – but I’m not sure it’s enough to keep my family here. Plus, I don’t want CC to be like those city kids I met at uni who asked me if I’d ever seen the ocean.
– I am starting to not care. You know how Kim Kardashian said Kanye West taught her not to make time for bullshit anymore? Clearly, I have a little bit of time for bullshit, because I know that terrible piece of celebrity trivia, but I have less time for it these days. Someone said something shitty on Twitter? Don’t care. A politician misspoke? Don’t care. Something I like is no longer cool? Don’t care. Office politics? Don’t care. Someone honked their horn at my terrible driving? Don’t care. It’s true what those cards at KMart say – having a baby does make you realise what really matters: family, friends, happiness and donuts. (Also, human rights, obviously).