Five things I’ve learnt from maternity leave

With exactly a week to go before I return to the daily grind, the Final Countdown is on. Here are the top five things I’ve learnt from my year off…

1. There’s no such thing as boredom.

I asked DH before my maternity leave was due to start, “shall I do a Master’s degree? To pass the time?” After having DS1 during my undergraduate degree, I thought it would be perfect timing to have a year off work, look after a baby and gain another qualification. Young fresh-faced me may have stood up to that challenge – the slight older more worn me eventually decided I probably could do with a break. And you know, spend more time with the baby.

2. I’m not as introverted as I thought.

I felt enlightened after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution and watching her TED Talk. She and Myers & Briggs had me down to a T. But I found myself signing up to all sorts; baby yoga, Baby Sensory, Peas’n’Pods, the PTA for the older one at school. What’s more, I found I thrived around people and actually enjoyed small talk – yeah I know, right?

3. Yes, I can do it all over again.

A year ago I was gearing up to send my eldest off to school at the same time as welcoming a new baby to our family. I was past night feeds, controlled crying and potty training, not to mention shunting trucks and hauling freight. I was ready for homework, show and tell, and tales of who pushed who in the playground. What if I forgot how to do something vital? I found myself plunged in a world of nappies and clock watching for the next feed, Googling the odd bit to fill in the gaps. Within a few weeks, I was in the full swing of being mummy to a little once again and it turns out, it wasn’t that difficult after a routine was in place.

4. Change is scary.

There’s a real sense of panic when I think too much about going back to work. It’s not that I don’t want to work; if DH ever suggested I could be a SAHM, I think I’d be quite sad at that prospect. I felt a similar fear a few weeks leading up to maternity leave. It’s the new era, change, how our routine will be turned upside down. The lack of control I have over the situation is probably more overwhelming than the change itself. I absolutely love how interesting my job is and if I think about the job in itself without all the baggage, I’m actually quite excited.

5. I bloody hate cleaning.

Gone are the days of SAHMs scrubbing the floors and wiping down the windows. DH finds it hilarious when I say my week has been so busy, I haven’t found the time to pick up the Hoover. I can’t wait until I can legitimately ask DH to do his fair share.

A note to second-time parents

Remember that cot mobile you bought, with the fancy toys suspended on organic Free Trade cotton and the sweetest lullaby you’ve ever heard? The one you just couldn’t resist despite the expensive price tag? I’m sorry to say, but it’s time to ditch it.

I’ll tell you why. When you come to play that cutesy tune in the early hours for your second child, you’ll remember that it’s not actually cute, it’s creepy. You’ll get flashbacks of attempting to lull your firstborn to sleep at 3AM, lying in bed half asleep, desperately trying to catch a few minutes before he wakes for another feed. Eerie fairground music on repeat as you fade in and out of consciousness.

“My firstborn was a perfect little sleeper. We didn’t have any bad nights”, I hear you say. DS slept through most nights from very early on, but like all babies, he definitely had his moments. Teething, growth spurts, illness… all those nights you sat at the end of the bed clutching the Calpol will come flooding back.

So make sure you add ‘cot mobile’ to your shopping list, if not for your sanity, at least so your second child has something that’s theirs (because let’s face it, the second child always gets the raw deal).

A Public Disaster.

One of the main woes of parenting is the prospect of your child acting out of the norm in a public situation. Any circumstance is manageable in the comfort of your own home, however once put on the spotlight by single individuals who have no understanding, and even other parents alike, you almost buckle under the pressure. If parenting was not hard enough, the trials and tribulations of making a public display is almost unbearable.

DH and I had, what I would call, a mortifying experience today whilst lunching at Wagamama; it was one of those moments you hear about and pray it would never happen to you. DS had been absolutely fine leading up to this point, happily running around causing havoc and shouting ‘Mummy’ every few seconds to make sure I was a few metres behind. He had even devoured his pasta dish I pre-prepared, as well as picking at our plates. However, half way through our meal DS began to cough, repeatedly, until suddenly.. BLEUGH. Projectile vomit everywhere. A white liquid with bits of regurgitated pasta, peas and noodles formed a moat around us, and it just kept on coming. DS was sick for a fair few minutes before taking a breath and letting out a very loud cry.

Understanding, eh?

The waitresses and waiters were very kind and sympathetic to us and cleaned up his mess promptly. DH rushed to the toilets to changed DS’ clothes and clean the sick off his shoes, whilst I sat at our table soaking up the stares. I noticed whilst DS was being sick, there was a very animated man sitting a few tables away from us in a turquoise version of those Mr Men t-shirts from Next. He was obviously so disgusted he had to exclaim ‘oh my god’ to his friend, mimic the action of being sick, cover his eyes and turn his back to the situation, to later shoot me a dirty look. As if I poisoned my son to make him spew everywhere in order to purposely ruin this man’s lunch. How vindictive of me.

I was extremely apologetic to the onlookers, not because I was genuinely sorry, but I felt that is what they wanted to hear. It is easier to play the hopeless mother under public scrutiny than to hit them with the obvious reality; DS is a baby, babies are sick sometimes. I am neither a better or worse mother because of it. My apologies however were genuine to the staff who had promptly snapped on a pair of rubber gloves and cleaned up the mess.

Diners who judge parents on their baby’s behaviour should remember that the child is an individual. Sometimes they are sick, sometimes they cry, sometimes the parents are undergoing their own parental tactics for the long-term gain. Just because you are not ‘in’ on it, does not mean you are excluded; play the game and smile along, you will be home soon.

A Hair-Raising Experience.

After much deliberation, last night I came to the conclusion that DS most definitely needs a haircut. We contemplated growing it out, so he can look like one of those cool surfer kids. This would be the only age he could have long hair without dreadlocks jokes and the whole nits issue. We might still do this, however this time it would probably be more beneficial to have manageable hair come the start of nursery. He will be irritable enough without hair draping over his eyes.

When DS was around 14 months we took him to Rush in Canterbury to get his haircut, which was a horrific experience. They were young, stylish and most definitely not baby orientated. DS kicked and screamed as we forced him to sit on Daddy, whilst I tried my best to amuse him by glamorising every item possible in my bag. He threw everything I gave him across the salon in protest, until I revealed my shiny phone. I showed him all my photos and played him a few videos of himself at the park, and he eventually calmed down.

I learnt from this experience well, so last night I set off finding various distractions to fill up my magic bag. Instead of videos on my phone, I had an ingenious idea to use the iPad. I downloaded an episode of Bob the Builder and some kind of clip from a children’s film that was free on iTunes, along with an In the Night Garden app and one with flash cards to improve DS’ vocabulary. Next to go in the goodie bag was his favourite book, his wooden car, an apple and a hair brush. With all of his most adored objects in one bag, I was optimistic this haircut would go well.

This morning I made a phone call to Toni & Guy in Bluewater, my opening sentence being;

“Hello, I am looking to get my son’s haircut today. He is 20 months old, do you cater for toddlers his age?”

She started informing me of a promotion they have Monday to Wednesday (baring in mind today is Friday), which was half price for a children’s haircut with an adult’s haircut. Unwilling to spontaneously spend double the money on my own haircut just to buy into the promotion, I asked how much a children’s haircut would be today.

She responded, “it is £20 for a children’s haircut”

to which I replied, “that is ridiculous, he is only a baby, barely a child”

“Well this is Tony & Guy. We do not cut babies hair”

“Well I guess you should have answered my initial question. I will take my money elsewhere”.

After speaking to this rude girl, I called Look Fantastic in Gravesend to continue my quest. The girl at Look Fantastic said we could come in whenever and it would cost a reasonable £5.

DS was very happy running into the salon, however he immediately tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground. This was not a great start for what was yet to come. He began to cry hysterically and refused to sit on the chair. I propped the iPad on the table, switched on Bob the Builder and constrained him on my lap. This was a long and arduous battle with DS constantly thrashing about, hitting the hairdresser’s hand whenever she came near. He had worked himself up into such a state that he became overheated, so I removed his t-shirt and cooled him down in his undergarment. After a few minutes he began to settle, I swapped Bob for the In the Night Garden app and he was vaguely amused by Iggle Piggle dancing across the screen.

After around 40 minutes, DS’ haircut was finally finished and he was happy enough to start babbling away to the hairdresser. I gave him his apple and his smile was even bigger. Mission accomplished!

Army crawl.

My baby boy seems to be growing up faster than I expected. He is already able to pull himself across the room using only his arms, not bothered by the effort or weight. He hasn’t quite worked out the purpose of his knees, though I am sure with time he will figure this out. It is incredible to watch him army crawl from one end of the room to the other, jealous that I cannot make the same movement with such ease. I have read numerous books/websites, and listened to friends and family reminisce over their own children; they have all said that babies start to crawl at around eight months, but it didn’t quite register in my head.

Neglecting his toy caterpillar, he now favours his eczema cream bottle. He loves to push it, watch it roll away and then chase after it. It is amazing how something so simple could keep him occupied for a good hour. I do wonder when he will pull himself up on our furniture and then start to walk. Obviously we encourage him to reach each development stage, but it is frightening to think that he is actually turning into a real boy. Every now and then I try to cradle him in my arms as if he were a newborn and he refuses to cooperate; he fights with all his might against my will, to the point that he overpowers me and stands up with his little sturdy legs.

My boy is thriving individuality and his independence. I sense I will be saying this eighteen years on from now, but with less sorrow.