Maternity leave: what you imagined it would be like versus reality

woman with newborn baby

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

We all dream of long, leisurely days relaxing pre-baby and picture-perfect days out with our newborn while on maternity leave.

But the reality isn’t always quite like that, is it?

Turning all interior designer and making your baby’s nursery look like something from Pinterest

The reality: After three trips to B&Q, each time selecting different shades of yellow because each wasn’t ‘quite right’, you went into labour.

Needless to say, the nursery still remains half done but at least your baby isn’t quite ready to move in there yet.

Starting your own business while waiting for your baby to arrive.

The reality: In between buying all of your baby essentials and prepping her nursery, you weren’t left with much time – or energy – to delve into the world of start-ups.

Finally getting round to watching Orange Is The New Black

The reality: One series in and your waters broke. Then there was definitely no time for TV.

Attending weekly yoga classes to get your body prepped for pregnancy (and to help it snap back post-birth).

The reality: Just the idea of getting to a yoga class exhausts you. Besides, you’ll be doing enough running around after your baby soon enough. The baby weight is bound to vanish naturally, right?

Leisurely lunches with your childless friends cooing over your little darling

The reality: Your friends shout over the baby wails to ring them when you fancy a night out and make their excuses to leave.

Spending your days preparing gourmet meals while your baby quietly napped or cooed adorably in his bouncer.

The reality: Your little bundle of joy screams his head off whenever you’re not holding him. Which rules out any meals you can’t create with one hand.

Lots of freedom and no more 9-5 hours

The reality: It’s more like 5-9 you’re working now.

Luxurious afternoon naps alongside your baby

The reality: Nap time equals a frenzied attempt to do three loads of laundry and drink a full cup of tea while it’s still hot.

The odd child-free day at the salon while your mum babysits

The reality: You can’t bear to be separated from your baby for one hour, let alone a day.

Starting a blog documenting your fabulous new life as a mum

The reality: You love motherhood and can’t get enough of your baby, but you struggle to write a text reply that makes sense, never mind a witty 500-word post.

Getting a puppy once you had settled into life with your baby.

You’ve heard it’s ideal if both are babies at the same time and ‘grow up’ together, but the reality is you’re already up to your eyeballs in mess – there’s no way you’re signing up for a double dose.

Learning how to knit and sew and making beautiful handmade outfits for your baby

The reality: No matter how many YouTube tutorials you watched, you just kept dropping stitches and breaking the needle on the sewing machine.

And frankly, between keeping your house looking vaguely presentable and your baby duties, you just don’t have the time or patience to try again. Hello, online shopping.

Making loads of new mum friends who would pop round for tea and cake – and give you great advice about cradle cap and nappy rash

The reality: After a sleepless night you simply don’t have the energy to make polite conversation with potential new friends.

You’re sure they won’t mind if you reschedule for next week, the week after or the one after that.

You would read all of the great classics

The reality: The only thing you’ll be reading is everything you can find on colic.

Counting down the days until you returned to your job.

The reality: You're not sure how you'll cope being away from your bundle of joy all day long.

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