Monday this week was officially my first day of maternity leave. With this baby being my first, the last week in the run up to mat leave was a daunting one at that! Working first of all in the fashion buying industry and then going into PR, the last ten years have been full of working non-stop to try and better my career, as well as my husband’s and my life. So to feel like my path in life was about to take a different turn I was full of excitement, but I was also pretty anxious (ok, very anxious). I guess it was because I was going into the unknown.
On top of those feelings, I also felt added pressure with the on-going debate (between family, friends and colleagues) about how long to take off before baby is due. Now don’t get me wrong before I was pregnant and saw people go off on mat leave, six weeks seemed a long, unnecessary amount of time. So you might be surprised to hear that I’ve taken eight weeks off before Baby Dando is due!
“Eight weeks? Wow!” and “Are you ready for your holiday. Oh sorry I mean mat leave”, was just some of the comments I got. It’s funny, for someone who is confident, the small jibes did actually bother me. So what is the right amount of time to leave work and nest for your baby?
The answer? I obviously don’t have it, as this is all new to me. But what I will say is, do what feels right for you and ignore what people say. Everyone is different. Every pregnancy is different. So surely there cannot be a right or wrong answer?
So why did you take eight weeks off, you might be thinking. My reasons?
– I had four weeks holiday saved up
– My mum had my brother and I six weeks early and I didn’t want to leave work one day and have a baby the next
– I felt exhausted
– I felt I needed to get my head around my new adventure, and juggling a high pressured job just didn’t give me the head space to do it
– I’m never going to get this time to myself again, ever again, as our new family member is always going to need his mummy (even if he is 21 years old!)
– Whenever I was unwell with pregnancy related issues, or had to juggle my work around antenatal appointments, I constantly felt I was letting my colleagues/company down…
…look at me, I’m STILL tying to justify myself!
The reason for this post is not to make you feel sorry for me, or any kind of sympathy towards me, I simply want to make mums-to-be feel empowered and that you should just make the decision that is right for you and block out any noise around you. Being pregnant is not easy, and I will be the first to admit that before I got pregnant I totally underestimated what growing a baby puts women’s bodies through. You are entitled to leave work 11 weeks before your baby is due, that is your right. So if you want to do it, take it! Our world has become about work, work, work and listening to my own mum (yes I still listen to my mum), when she was pregnant more or less every woman finished work 11 weeks before. Why? My mum’s answer, “because it’s hard work carrying a baby, and that’s just what we did.” No justification, just a simple answer.
So the next time someone says to me: “Eight weeks? That is a long time”. Maybe I should simply answer: “Carrying a baby is hard and that’s just what I wanted to do,” and carry on confidently along my way…