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Bridging the gap - when the reality of maternity leave hits home

A 5 minute read from The Pool here. Well worth it over a cuppa.

Mother with young baby on her lap

This really is one of the reasons I do this whole ante-natal preparation lark. The value of parenting - motherhood - is so undermined that until we're actually beginning to heave that pregnant belly around with us, maternity leave (when we think about it at all) seems like it will be an unreasonably lovely period of listening to the radio, wafting about in coffee shops & taking up domestic handicrafts. Bliss.

And while new mothers are endlessly teased about the trials of broken sleep, cracked nipples, sore vulva's and destroyed sex lives, well, we don't really do anything to help women prepare for the actual reality of it, do we?

The transition from independent, active, ambitious young woman to mother can be a hard one to make. It isn't just physical. It's emotional too. Mothering affects all the relationship dynamics in our lives. It affects out economic position. Our career. And it also calls into question our preconceptions about what it means to be a mother, and what the value of mothering is. For many of us, coming to mothering from careers, where we 'de-womaned' ourselves, so as not to be perceived as weak, less reliable, or less competent, accepting that we are now that which we previously ignored (if not actually despised), can be a quite the volte face. More so if, unprepared for the raw intensity of labour, and the presence of mind required to retain your bodily autonomy and dignity, you enter motherhood scarred, scared and traumatised.

Antenatal preparation isn't really about avoiding intervention or drugs. It's about identifying where you are valuable. It's about finding your own place on the parenting spectrum. And it's about preserving your mental and physical health, so you have the energy and the will to look after yourself, as well as every one else around you.

With that in mind, it's so depressing to be reminding of the realities of maternity leave. Although here in the UK we benefit from better provision than in the rest of the world, we really are guilty of woefully underpreparing and supporting our young mothers as they negotiate the new reality of their mothering landscape


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