I have an announcement to make: maternity leave is NOT a vacation.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually had people, usually men, say the contrary. I suspect they don’t realize how much work taking care of children really is. After several months caring for a newborn and a very active toddler full time, I have to give it up to stay at home moms (SAHM).
Following two weeks at home with just my newborn, we took our soon-to-be four-year-old daughter out of preschool for the remainder of my maternity leave. I was determined to keep her busy learning and growing during her break from school and on a similar schedule.
Each weekday morning after breakfast, we’d have circle time. After singing a song, I’d read two to three books. After circle time, we went over the number and letter of the day and she wrote each number and letter 10 times to help develop her writing skills. Then she got to pick an activity – doing puzzles, cooking in her kitchen and playing with her dolls were some of the options. Before lunch, we’d often do an art project – coloring, water color painting, macaroni art, etc.
After lunch was quiet time. She could take a nap or play quietly in her room. The afternoon would be spent doing educational worksheets, playing card and board games, watching PBS Kids, riding her bike or scooter, or playing basketball or soccer in the basement.
A few times a week, we’d get out of the house. We’d go to a playgroup for SAHMs, the library, the park, the Toledo Zoo, and various indoor playgrounds. I did all of this while caring for a newborn with constant feedings, diaper changes and naps as well as pumping so the baby would have plenty of breast milk.
While I treasured the time I had with my children during my maternity leave, it would wear me out at times. Babies sleep a lot but not necessarily when adults want to sleep. Often at night, I would only sleep in two to three hour spurts which left me tired during the day. Baby Girl loves Baby Sis and would help out by getting diapers or a bottle, but it was challenging providing quality time every time Baby Girl wanted it and I needed to do something for her sister.
A recent study in the Journal of Marriage and Family evaluated whether the amount of time mothers spend with children matters. Researchers determined the quality of time with children ages 3 – 11 was more important than the quantity. That’s reassuring for a working mom who realizes being a SAHM is not for me.
Now that I’m back at work, I’m trying to figure out my new work/life tilt. My mornings start before dawn with pumping before work then my husband and I get the girls and ourselves ready for the day. After work, we’re preparing meals, reading books, watching television, and going to the library or extracurricular activities like gymnastics. It’s a journey and some days will be better than others but I strive to give my family my best and hope my best is good enough.
Serena Smith is a senior marketing communications specialist at ProMedica. She is responsible for facilitating media coverage of ProMedica and writes health articles for ProMedica HealthConnect. Her passion is health and wellness. She’s an avid runner and enjoys competing in half marathons. She loves to read, watch television and spend time with her husband and daughter.