RE: Me-Ternity Leave

motherhood

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Dear Meghann,

I wanted to write this letter yesterday when I first became aware of your me-ternity proposal. I’m on MATernity leave at the moment with a 5 week old baby (and a 16 month old toddler and a 9 year old) so I guess the reason I didn’t manage to is because I’ve gotten lazy.

I mean between all the lounging about, resting, recharging, taking time to refocus etc and just general well-deserved ‘me’ time I really ought to have found the time to bang out a letter.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!!!

I’ll tell you who deserves a me-ternity break, the mums who have just finished their maternity leave!!

I’m on maternity leave with a newborn and a toddler and I don’t have time to wash or even eat some days and that is not an exaggeration. The only ‘me’ time I get is when I’m sleeping and even that is strictly limited since I am disturbed every couple hours. When I say ‘disturbed’, I mean fully awoken to feed the baby, soothe the baby, attempt to resettle the baby. This routine can take 1-2 hours. At most I’ve had 3 hours uninterrupted sleep since his arrival. Some nights I am woken every 45 minutes. The really bad nights I just don’t sleep.

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To read that you’re jealous of working mums who get to dash out of the office promptly at the end of the day using the ‘excuse’ they need to collect their kids is mind-boggling. Maybe I’m jealous that you get to go for casual drinks after work ON A WHIM (ok, there’s no maybe, I am jealous). You then get to saunter home, pondering what you fancy for dinner, before settling down to do whatever the frick you want. Working Mums have to run to childcare, often quite literally as they can be charged a £1 a minute for every minute they’re late, to scoop up their tired, irritable kids who they’ve been separated from all day (oh the overwhelming guilt), rush home, prepare a dinner, make sure their homework is done, give them a bath, make sure their teeth are brushed (can be a battle in itself), then put them to bed with a story and whatever else they demand, before getting stuck into ‘Operation Clean Up’ which includes washing up, putting crap away (aka a million noisy plastic toys), washing clothes, preparing everything they need for the following day, for school, for clubs etc. Next up is dealing with the daily life admin which increases tenfold with each kid you have. Then maybe some time before midnight, if they’re lucky, they might try and throw some dinner together for themselves. Or just go to bed with a bowl of cereal. Standard.

Yes you might work later in the office but at least you do get to clock off at some point and then your time is all yours. A mum’s work never ends. She’s on call 24/7 365 days a year. In any case if you work late it’s because you choose to, because you have the luxury of choice. A working mum doesn’t have that choice.

So when they return to work all empowered and confident it’s because they know there’s no shit they can’t handle.

Which leads me nicely to my next point… You say that women return from maternity leave more confident and self-assured and you attribute that to the fact they’ve had time off to focus on themselves etc. I’ll tell you why women come back from maternity leave feeling confident! Because they just survived the most difficult period of their entire life! A women who has grown and birthed a small human and then spent many months caring and nurturing this same small human, tending to all their needs on little to no sleep, can do ANYTHING. Mums are freaking superwomen. So when they return to work all empowered and confident it’s because they now know there’s no shit they can’t handle. They do not return sure of themselves because they’ve had a break and a bit of RnR.

And when it comes to those that don’t return to their careers but do something else entirely once their maternity leave is up, it’s often because THEY HAD NO CHOICE. They didn’t spend their maternity leave recharging and refocusing nor were they afforded the time to think up some great new career plan. The grim reality is that for many women returning to work and paying for childcare is simply not an affordable option. Or not an option that pays. The results of a recent study published in The Sunday Times showed that women with 2 kids would need to earn a salary of £40,000 just to break even on the childcare. A woman making £60,000 a year, would be left with just £36 a day after paying tax and childcare. You’d have to be pretty damn dedicated to return to your job and work for free, or work to pay the childcare bill. Unless you really wanted that job, it seems a pretty pointless exercise. That’s why so many women change careers after having a baby and start up their own businesses, because they are forced to. They need to make some cash so they have to think creatively even though they’ve had no sleep and no time to themselves whatsoever. They still manage to do this. They learn to juggle like they’ve never juggled before. They become masters of spinning plates. The women I know are launching businesses on broken sleep whilst bouncing babies on their hips.

Mums are the most capable people on the planet so when they return to work, it’s a doddle in comparison to parenting.

So if you want time to refocus and consider changing career, how about you use all that time you have to yourself every evening and weekend, because you already have more me-time than any new parent will ever have.

And if you still really want to experience the ‘break’ that is maternity leave, so you don’t feel as if you’re missing out, then take a sabbatical and go work as a childminder for 6 months. 7 days a week. All day and all night. With no lunch breaks. And then try doing it for free! That’s right, many mums on maternity leave don’t get paid at all or they get some small token amount in the form of statutory maternity pay. See how much fun you have doing that!

I’ll tell you what will happen, you’ll be desperate to get back to work! Where you get your own desk and nobody climbs on you, a lunch break (WHAT A LUXURY!!!), actual food to eat and the chance to drink hot cups of tea, where you can go to the toilet ON YOUR OWN and nobody throws up on you or in your hair. Best of all you don’t even have to clean up anyone’s faeces.

When I first went to work in an office after having my son I thought I’d hit jackpot. That 1 hour lunch break was the first ‘me time’ I’d had since he was born. A whole hour to do as wished. I could just go and sit somewhere quiet and be alone with my own thoughts.  It was such a novelty. To be honest it being in the office felt a little getting a break from the real work.

That’s my final point! You’re jealous of colleagues waltzing off on maternity leave on what you perceive to be a ‘break’ from work,  but YOU GET ANNUAL LEAVE! Know any new mums who get a holiday or even a weekend off? You’ve got to be joking. Most are tethered to their new baby around the clock. If a new mum is feeling burnt out, they’ve just got to dig even deeper. Usually there’s no option to do anything but. The mat leave gig is 7 days a week, day and night and there is no holiday. It’s relentless. Not exactly a job description to be envious of.

But of course Motherhood is also very wonderful and fulfilling and life affirming. In writing this letter I am not trying to deny that motherhood can bring much joy. Indeed some days of my maternity leave are the greatest days of my life but alas some are also my very worst. That’s the thing about motherhood that you don’t understand until you’ve lived it; it’s a rollercoaster of a journey with massive highs and equally enormous lows. But whatever it is, on any given day, it’s bloody hard work. So I get that you might want a family and feel jealous of your colleagues who do have kids and I’m sorry for that, but comparing maternity leave to something of a vacation is absolutely mental. If only to give you a heads-up in case you do ever have any kids of your own, I want you to know you will never have any more ‘me time’ than you do right now. So make the most of it. In fact, thinking about it, you know really needs a me-ternity break….!! Working Mums!

So yes I whole-heartedly support the idea of me-ternity! It’s a brilliant concept. All new Mums should get one once they’ve finished their maternity leave, before returning to work. Because they are the ones that don’t get any me-time at all and the ones, sleep deprived and hard-working, that probably need and deserve it most of all.

With warmest wishes,

Siobhan Miller

Working Mum to 3 boys, currently on Maternity Leave.

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CHARLOTTE’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

This week we are lucky enough to have yet another inspiring mum boss on the blog. Charlotte, who you might also know as Emily (all will become clear), is responsible for some of the most-liked photos on some of the most popular Instagram feeds, yet we rarely catch a glimpse of the lady herself! The reason being is this Mama is more commonly found behind, rather than in front of the lens. YES! We have Charlotte the owner of Emily Gray Photography (herein lies the name confusion).

As well as juggling a successful business and finding time to be creative, Charlotte is also responsible for raising two smalls. If that didn’t keep her busy enough she also recently raised an amazing £3238 for Save the Children’s Child Refugee Appeal by organising a marathon all-day, non-stop photo shoot for local families in Hackney, where she lives. Here she shares her experience of motherhood and best of all, she has an extra-special, pre-Christmas treat for readers of the blog…!

Charlotte Emily Gray

Name: Charlotte

Age: 33

Location: Hackney

Number of Kids: 2

Names and ages: Iris (3) and Vivienne (1)

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

It was planned, but it’s still a surprise!

What were your initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Shock! I wasn’t sure it was going to happen for us. I was totally floored and ran to the chemist to buy another couple of tests. They came back positive, so I ran back to the chemist to buy their most expensive test, which told me I was 5+ weeks pregnant. Turns out I was actually 10+ weeks!

How did you tell your partner?

He found me sat on the bathroom floor surrounded by tests when he came home from work!

His reaction?

Shocked but happy!

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

Once the initial exhaustion was out of the way I felt good. I had aches in my hips but nothing serious. I found my second pregnancy slightly harder, as I was working on photo shoots up to 39 weeks, running around after a non-napping one year old and dealing with 4 flights of stairs up and down from our flat every day.

Tell me about your birth experience…

My two births were different, but thankfully both very quick. The first was in hospital. I’d labored at home and came in at 9cm dilated. I’d wanted to deliver in the birth centre, but I was put on labour ward. At the end of the day we were both fine, but I wasn’t listened to and I didn’t feel like it was a good experience. I actually felt quite numb afterwards. My husband said it was like I’d shut down. Between two and five weeks after the birth, I had 3 secondary post-partum hemorrhages and eventually they removed some retained placenta.

For my second baby I knew I wanted to be at home. I was convinced I’d have a better experience, I’d be in control and I was also concerned at the speed that the baby might arrive. I went to the loo at 10.00pm and thought I felt a pull inside me as I stood up. Five minutes later I had a cramp, five minutes after that the cramp started to come in waves and then the contractions started. My husband started filling the pool whilst I called the midwife and Vivienne was born at 11.54pm in our kitchen. I delivered the placenta without the injection and made sure that the midwives examined it with me so I could see it was all there! Amazingly this all took place on Iris’ second birthday, so I have two winter solstice babies!

Describe motherhood in a few words: Relentless but amazing.

Can you share any highlights?

I love watching them play together. They sit opposite each other at the dinner table and they have such a laugh. They are often quite cheeky and I start off trying to discipline them, but they just descend into giggles and it’s hard not to join in!

Can you share any low points?

When Iris trapped her finger in her bedroom door in the middle of the night when she was 2. It is a fire door and it was nasty – I had to take her to A&E and she had surgery on it.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

I ignore the mess and just sit straight down at my computer and work. I can only do this if it’s a day when Iris is at nursery.

Have you got a blog?

I do have one, where I am supposed to post about all my latest photo shoots. But I don’t, I’m useless at that. I just post to Instagram instead. I really should do something smart, like link them up…

Have you got a business?

I run Emily Gray Photography. I offer relaxed and natural family photography, from newborn shoots with 4 day old babies, to big family get-togethers. I also shoot kids fashion, take portraits and head shots of people for their business or blogs, do a bit of product photography… For people looking to buy someone close the gift of a photo shoot, I offer personalised gift vouchers.

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Why ‘Emily Gray’?

My middle name is Emily so it’s not a completely random choice, though with hindsight wasn’t the best branding decision! I studied at the Royal College of Art and wanted to use a different name to the one I used for my art practice, to keep them separate from each other. I figured that it would just be a little bit of work that I did whilst on maternity leave and that I would be back in my studio quite quickly. Obviously that didn’t happen! The business took off, it’s getting busier by the month and I have to explain to every client that my name is Charlotte not Emily!

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The giggles and the love.

What are the worst bits?

Cooking meals and struggling to juggle it all. I often feel like I’m not giving anything the full attention it deserves – my kids, my husband, my business. The flat is a constant mess but that’s ok! I’m learning to be kinder to myself and love the Yes Mum cards, which I use as a reminder!

If you didn’t have your kids for a week what would you do?

Catch up with all my work, have long lie ins, play my music loud in the evening, go to the cinema.

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

People tell you to savour every minute, which is hard as it can be so tough, particularly in the early days. Instead I’d say be kind to yourself. It isn’t always easy but it’s the most amazing experience.

charlotte emily gray

BIG THANKS to the mega talented mama Charlotte for taking part this week! Be sure to check out her website: Emily Gray Photography and give her a shout if you need any professional photos. ALSO she is kindly offering a 10% discount if you quote ‘DOUBLEMAMA’ so what are you waiting for?! Perfect family Christmas present or what?!

If you’d like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, please drop an email to thedoublemama@gmail.com 🙂

 

 

Pregnancy Diary – Week 39

pregnancy diary

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Monday – Is this nesting?!

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We decided to paint the baby’s room last week (better late than never) and it’s finally finished. Well, it’s a lampshade and dimmer switch away from being finished but we’re almost there.

Painting baby’s room without knowing the sex of baby somewhat limits your options so we have kept it neutral and used Farrow and Ball Pavilion Gray for the walls and Green Blue for the wardrobe. Ikea blackout blinds have been fitted, change table has been erected and our Gro-egg is in place, kindly alerting us to the fact that the room is too cold.

Baby’s clothes have been both washed and IRONED! I literally never iron. I think this might be the third time I have used the iron in my life. I don’t even know why I did. It’s not like I will be keeping this up when baby comes.  Now I’m thinking about it, perhaps it was a grave mistake on my part and I will have inadvertently given baby too high expectations and it will be permanently disappointed going forth with its wrinkly clothes…

Tuesday – TENS testing

We decided we should road test the TENS machine which we bought at an NCT nearly new sale a few weeks ago, just to check it worked. The testing of the TENS machine literally brought so much joy I nearly wet myself. And with baby’s head firmly engaged in my cervix, that’s not just a flippant throw-away remark but a genuine fear. I managed to coax my partner into being the guinea pig and he impressively managed to withstand the pulsating pads as I turned up the intensity. His whole body was jerking, and there may have been some screaming. I only wish we had filmed it.

We then tested it on my arm and it made my middle finger pulse rhythmically of its own accord. When boost was pressed my finger clamped down and I couldn’t even lift it. Hilarity ensued. Oh, it’s the simple things!

Wednesday – Date night!

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Decided to squeeze in what could be the last date night in a while and go for a curry (OBVIOUSLY). Went to Dishoom in Covent Garden (which was AH-MA-ZING!). Also enjoyed a massive bump perk – instead of having to join the 1.5hr queue outside we were seated at the bar until a table became available. Food was incredible and 100% worth visiting even if you’re not prego.

Thursday – Gifts galore and goodbyes

Tonight I was out again after work (no rest for this 39 weeker), this time for an xmas/goodbye meal with my colleagues. I was given a gorgeous box of Mother treats from Neal’s Yard amongst other things… have added the massage oil to my birth bag already. I know I have mentioned this before but I literally cannot wait for labour to begin so I can start using all the treats I’ve been saving up!!

Friday – And breathe…

Today is my last day of work. My maternity leave officially starts on Monday – that’s 4 days before my due date. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I wanted to save my maternity leave for when baby was here and also I’m a VERY impatient person who doesn’t know how to rest. Being at home on maternity leave sans baby, for me, would be a very bad combination. I’d be trying to stretch and sweep myself within hours. However I am REALLY looking forward to just relaxing in bed whilst everyone is out of the house at school/work and watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black on Netflix uninterrupted… if I get the chance! I also have to get and decorate a Christmas tree, there’s my son’s school’s Christmas fair to go to… oh, and then there’s that other minor thing to square away… the Christmas shopping!!! Thank God for Amazon prime, hey?