My year off has been great so far, I’ve got to travel most of Europe, finished editing my novel and approached some publishers. I’ve read lots of amazing books and made sure I take lots of ‘me time’ to, you know, meditate, have baths, just generally pamper myself really.
That is of course is untrue, despite my naivety thinking I may be able to achieve some of the things on the list. I write this blog at 2.37am walking around holding my 5 month old as she pulls my lips, scratches my face and desperately tries to pulls my glasses off my face, whilst she gazing at me in wonderment with a big smile on her face.
I can’t help but feel furious when people utter the words ‘year off’. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, there’s no break time, hell, there’s not even really any toilet breaks, my back is in agony from carrying A 14lb baby around all day…..and night. Here’s an average day.
5.30am get up for the day. Jasmine comes in to my bed for a cuddle, she’s pretty cute but then demands we get up for the day. Go and change her nappy and carry her downstairs.
I need a pair of hands to feed the dogs, stroke the dogs and let them outside. Pop Jasmine in to her pushchair and put the kettle on. She doesn’t mind being in there but if I go over my allocated 6 minutes of her being in her non moving pushchair – it kicks off.
Dogs done, a cup of tea made. Winning at life.
I then put her in her jumperoo, she finds this hilarious but only for three minutes, not even enough time for my tea to cool down. She’s still tired and starting to get crabby! I put her on the play mat and start to play and she likes this, laughs until she decides it’s enough and wants to be in my arms. So off we go walking around, she starts getting upset now (obviously tiredness) so I go upstairs and she goes back to sleep. With white noise and feeding. She naps in her crib and I jump in the shower for a speed shower, panicking that I heard her cry. I never did.)-
I then speed to get ready, tidy, put a wash on, make the bed, get her clothes ready, tidy and clean in the 30 minutes she’s asleep.
She wakes up pretty chirpy. So I change her nappy and get her in to her clothes for the day, back downstairs and she has a poop explosion, fondly known as a poonami. We play some more I try to tidy the lounge some days she lets me some days she just wants cuddles. Which sound relaxing but she kicks off if I sit down, she wants me standing rocking her for these cuddles, which I do. There’s various feeds and nappy changes on demand throughout the day and night.
I also believe in attachment parenting. I don’t want Jasmine to cry so much that she runs out of voice so I ‘win’ for my own convenience. She’s a baby and if she wants her mummy I’ll be there for her, through her whole life. When she’s old enough to really understand right and wrong I have no qualms about being strict if I need to be. But now she just needs us.
After some play I know she’s ready for another sleep so will walk around carrying her playing white noise. Eventually She falls asleep in my arms, only to be woken by one of three dogs barking at a leaf outside or an unsuspecting passer by. I give the said dog the death stare – I can’t shout as Jasmine is already stirring, and they continue the bark and now she’s awake and seriously crabby, now too fed up for her toys I carry her around to sooth her. Yes she loves being carried around – No, she hates her sling! In short she gets very bored easily and needs constant attention. Not sure if she takes after her mummy or daddy?!
It’s 9am by this point.
Still walking around with Jasmine, I know she’s tired now as she’s getting so grizzly. Sometimes I’ll take her out in the pram to give my arms a rest.
I’m very lucky that Dave gets home around midday. I hold her out to him declaring ‘tag! You’re it!’ Her grizzling stops when she sees her Daddy, she beams as if the funniest person in the world has just walked in. Ironically the funniest person the world has been there all morning!
I cease this opportunity to have a wee. I then take her back while Dave has a sleep…. trying to keep her entertained and quiet at the same time is tough.
Dave then takes her out for an hour or two, so I can sleep or do one of the million things on my to do list. When the baby comes back I have missed her so instantly feed her! She’s slept now in the car or pram so is feeling fresh. We then do some sensory play. This can last 20 minutes on good days and 20 seconds on bad! I’m willing 5.30pm to come so I can put her in the bath and give my back a rest. about 4.30pm I give her a massage and play music, sing to her, read a story until bath time. After this bathtime, dress her, feed her, hold her and put her in bed at 7-7.30pm. I go to bed then too as 30 minutes later she’s awake. I feed her again and put her back again now 9pm I put her back in her pod, shut my eyes, exhausted I start to drift off and she’s awake. It’s a form of torture I can’t quite explain. After feeding her and putting her back down it’s now 10pm and once again I shut my eyes start to drift off and she’s awake. This goes on until around 5-5.30am when she’s wide awake and our day begins. Although last night she didn’t go back to sleep at all between 1.30 – 4am. I’m not complaining, I just want to give people a true understanding of my ‘year off’.
On the last day of work before my maternity leave, I was full of promises and others to me. I’m lucky that I work in a team where I like everyone. When Jasmine came along I couldn’t keep my promises of going to every social event and as part of a ‘what’s app’ group with my team from work, the updates made me feel more isolated than ever. I no longer understood the ‘banter’, I didn’t even recognise a lot of the names being added to the group, new people joining the team, new people who had never heard of me or even cared. Too exhausted to make it to most social events. In a world of social media I can see images of people out socialising looking amazing….some days I dare not look at my own reflection as I make zero effort. I have friends at work who have been amazing and always in touch despite my flakiness. But there are other friendships in my life which I felt like I was always the one trying hard to keep in touch. When the brutal truth is maybe they are just not that in to me now I have a baby. I can’t just stay out all night drinking, my baby needs to be fed – maybe they see that as boring. Hurtful though it is, it’s something that happens.
It’s all about finding a balance I guess, which I’m not sure I’ve found. Feeling isolated but also declining invitations because I’m just too tired.
The people who have messaged me, who have gone out of their way to keep that contact. They will mean so much to me going forward. Who want to socialise with the girl who hasn’t brushed her hair in weeks and is best friends with a 5 month old.
This ‘year off’ isn’t just about raising Jasmine, it’s also about me finding my way as a parent, making sacrifices I thought I never would and being the best I can be….even if I do literally stink a bit! It’s the hardest year of my life, heaven knows how people make it look so easy…but it’s also the best year of my life as I get to spend every day with Jasmine and really, she’s pretty cool.
‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ – William Shakespeare- Act 1, Scene 1 – A midsummer nights dream.