Maternity Leave Expectations
I've tried to write this post for over two months now. I've been back from maternity leave for 6 weeks, but really wanted to have done this while I was still out. That sure didn't work out.
I was optimistic that I'd be able to do a little bit of work because what I do fills me up rather than drains me, but it turns out that I'm not particularly creative when I only get two hours of sleep in a row for two months. Fortunately, that phase was pretty short this time around because my little man is actually huge and started sleeping through the night at 3 months! Woo hoo! I also discovered that rather than making things easier when my oldest went to kindergarten, things got infinitely more complicated. I used to have time to work late at night, but now when the bedtime routine has been completed for three kids, the last thing I want to do is attempt to blog and find meaning in life, but here it goes anyway.
The transformative power of that time with an infant can't be understated - and it's certainly not a vacation. When you spend so much time taking care of someone else, (not even necessarily your child!) it brings out strengths that you didn't know you had. That can even benefit other areas of your life because it forces you to trim the fat. Hobbies you aren't passionate about? Gone. Friends who you don't really love? Cut them out. Job that isn't paying you what you're worth? Find something else. All the things that aren't necessary wind up being thrown away, and that's a good thing.
In fact, all of my child-rearing has brought me to where I am today.
I started my job at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science when I was newly pregnant with my first child. I was in charge of the planetarium, even though I was supposed to be just an assistant manager. The projectors were so old that they weren't even made anymore, and could only be serviced by one man who lived in Canada. I learned how to fix them when they would fail, which was quite often. I wound up often working every single day because they would fail and there was no one else to deal with it. Luckily, my job wasn't to deal with the angry customers. It was so stressful that I would sometimes wake up crying in the middle of the night, and just wanted to go a couple days without going into work for once. Fortunately, I had an end date - I was pregnant and I knew that a "break" was coming. But unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Intra-uterine Grown Restriction, so I was induced at 39 weeks and my daughter was only about 5 and a half pounds at birth. This meant that she was feeding every other hour for about two months because her stomach was too tiny to hold enough food. On top of that, I got food poisoning and was alternating throwing up and feeding the baby for a couple days, and then later got a secondary infection from the birth. Good times. So was it a break? Yes... sort of. It was more like a trade I guess? But I got a new and wonderful person in my life and discovered how much strength I really had. Extra bonus - from that point on, I've never taken leisure time for granted.
Then I got pregnant with my son a couple years later. I did the math and calculated that I literally could not afford to keep my job with two kids in daycare. I went to the director and told him that if I didn't get a raise, I would have to quit. It being a state entity, a raise was out of the question. So- I was in the middle of attaining a Master's degree from New Mexico Highlands University, so I figured that I would quit, and finish that up, and then go out on my own as a freelancer. My son was born in the fall, so I worked through two classes from home while on maternity leave. It was great! Then I was able to take a long break and go back to school full time in January. What seemed like a problem turned out to be a great gift - I would have been stuck in a job that was going nowhere for a long time had it not been for my son.
That brings me to this recent maternity leave. I had lofty ideas about trying to have some sort of career epiphany or some such thing, but it sure didn't happen. I wanted to make more living art pieces, and that didn't happen. I was going to write this blog post, and that didn't happen either. What did happen was that I got another high-quality human to add to the family and sent my oldest off to kindergarten. It was more than enough.
Art - Maternity by Benjamin West, 1784. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.