I really wanted the title to just read ‘I Love Canadian Mat Leave!’- but I didn’t want to make my American readers too sad right off the hop- and I wanted to be clear that I struggle with just outright saying “I Love Mat Leave!!!”
Canadian maternity leave is Freaking wonderful. Our government pays up to 50% of our former wages so that we can stay at home and love on our babies for either 12 or 18 months.
It Kills me every time I think of my neighbours down south- they Don’t Get Paid Mat Leave.
A November 2021 article from the Washington Post sums it up here:
Every time I snuggle into the couch with Lucy on my lap to binge-watch another episode of Selling Sunset, I think about this fact.
I think about my self, my parallel life American-Mom self, and what she would be doing right now.
Lucy is 10 weeks old and I am currently watching her sleep in my bed.
I laugh when I think of this. I imagine theoretical phone calls where someone calls me right now and says ‘what are you doing with your day?’ And my answer is ‘oh I’m just really busy Watching Lucy Sleep.’
But I am, and I want to be. I want to be here, in this bed, cozied up to my baby girl’s sleeping little body and watching her sleep.
I want to feed her a bottle. Bring her to bed. Tickle her toes and make her laugh. Blow my hot breath on her little face and watch her laugh while her soft hair flies all around. I want to change her wet diaper when she cries and then snuggle her in my arms. I want to kiss the crinkles of her eyes and the fat balls of her plump cheeks. I want to hold her to me while she falls asleep again, and then when she is sleeping, I want to watch her breathe.
This Is Maternity Leave.
This special sweet moment in time where I get to get off the wheel of working/adult life and time just sloooooows right the hell doooowwwnnn.
I got it with Sadie and I was SO looking forward to it with Lucy and until today, it just hasn’t panned out that way.
Ryan and I had decided when Lucy was born that we would keep Sadie in preschool three days a week so that she could keep up her social interactions with her peers, and I could get a few days with Lucy to myself.
Economically, it made the most sense for our budget to not have Sadie in school full-time, and to be honest- I felt Guilty sending my 2.5 year old to school full-time when I was ‘just sitting at home with a baby.’
Up until today- that’s what we’ve done. Sadie was in school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week, and I had both girls at home with me on Mondays and Fridays.
We thought it would be the perfect maternity leave plan for our family- but it wasn’t.
Sadie talks ALL DAY LONG. For those that know me quite well- you can see how the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in that department.
Sadie watches Paw Patrol and Cocomelon and Disney movies like any other 2.5 year old kid, but she doesn’t have an iPad or access to any other electronics/screens- what Sadie Does have is a Huge sense of imagination, and she Loves to be busy.
If I am trying to mollify Sadie into submission with Moana on the TV so that I can feed, burp and change Lucy on the couch, Sadie will be half-watching Moana but also building a magnet tower and bringing me round upon round of variously-coloured wooden screws that she has decided are ice cream cones.
It’s great and all- but when I fail to accept my pineapple-coconut-tuna fish-flavoured green-screw-ice cream from Sadie in time because I am trying to upend a bottle of formula into my baby’s mouth, Sadie gets Very, Very Ornery.
I wouldn’t say my daughter is ‘bossy’- but she does have a Giant sense of right and wrong, black and white, and clearly defined roles and expectations. In social situations, Sadie often defines herself as ‘the teacher’ or ‘the Mom’- leaving all of her hapless victims, er, playmates as ‘the student’ or worse yet- ‘the baby.’
If I fail to accept the proffered ice cream in Sadie’s version of a timely manner, I get Little Miss ToddlerPants’ utmost reproach. Chubby little hands on her hips. Lower lip jutted out. Eyes narrowed. Teeth gritted, voice barking and serious. ‘Baby! You HAVE TO EAT YOUR ICE CREAM CONE NOW! I made it For YOU!’
This has been our mat leave so far. Sadie dictating every moment of the day, me trying to juggle both girls’ needs, and Lucy always getting the short end of the stick, for the simple fact that she can’t talk yet- and the other one never stops.
Sadie has also been potty training since the start of this mat leave, so I have literally thrown Lucy into something soft on multiple occasions to save Sadie from pooping on the living room or kitchen floor.
One time- we were playing in the basement play room and I carried Lucy with me to go flip laundry in the adjacent laundry room. I had just flipped the load over to the dryer when Sadie screamed ‘AAAAH! POOOOOOOP!!!’. I darted my eyes around the laundry room, tunnelled a nice little burrow into a pile of soft laundry and threw Lucy into it to get to Sadie.
Those sweet moments of staring into my newborn baby’s eyes that I got with all 12 months of Sadie’s mat leave- Lucy has barely had Any.
Luckily for me, I have a husband who currently works from home and who cares deeply for our family’s needs. He has seen all the chaos of this mat leave so far, and he has heard me express many times that I wish I had more time to connect with Lucy.
Over the Christmas holidays, we made the decision to send Sadie back to preschool five days a week. It’s not ideal for us budget-wise, but we are fortunate enough to be able to make it work, and we truly believe it’s the best decision for both of our girls. Sadie will get the interaction she craves so much, and Lucy will get a way more mentally present Mama.
So here I am on the first day of this new mat leave, and I’m wrestling with thoughts of feeling guilty.
Am I ‘spoiled’ for wanting this mat leave to look just like my first one? Am I ‘lazy’ for craving this time in bed and on the couch with my new baby? Am I a ‘bad Mom’ for sending Sadie to school five days a week?
Should I be doing ‘more’ right now than just writing this blog post and watching Lucy sleep? I have a wedding coming up in less than a month. My house looks like the aftermath of a tornado. I have a freelance writing project I’ve been putting on the back burner for over 4 months now. Should I go to the gym? I should get out of this bed. Strap Lucy into a car seat. Tackle this to-do list. Do more.
And then I think of my parallel-life American Mom. She wouldn’t even have the Option to be wrestling with these thoughts.
Four weeks ago- she would have left her 6-week-old baby in the care of someone else and gone back to work.
She would be at the office right now, arms empty, fingers typing away on her keyboard, today’s emails answered, deadlines for this morning’s projects just met. It would be 10 am in her reality. Maybe time to get up from her desk, stretch her legs. Time to wander off to the staff kitchen, make a fresh cup of tea and wonder what her baby was doing.
Was her baby crying? Did it need milk? Was it being rocked and cradled by someone who wasn’t her right now?
And then I look down. Lucy is awake now. She’s in my arms, gazing up at me and smiling a gummy little smile while I try and wrap this post up one-handed.
And that’s why I left this title ‘Thoughts on Taking Maternity Leave.’
This is My Mat Leave.
My government gave it to me. My husband afforded us extra childcare money for Sadie’s education. Sadie Loves her school and is happiest there. Lucy is in my arms and I get to hold her while she is still this young and this dependent on her Mama.
And I’m going to Take it.
I was given the gift of maternity leave, and starting today- I’m going to Take it.