So, here’s the thing about parental leave…while absolutely necessary while you navigate the paths of parenthood, it’s also a huge adjustment. For those of us used to working full time, suddenly framing your entire day around a small human and desperately trying to secure at least a little adult interaction for yourself every day is both tiring and expensive. I should have shares in Costa, and they should rename the decaf, skinny mocha-latte; ‘the Hilary’.
And as you suggest coffee dates to your family and friends, book lunches and walks and shopping trips, it will creep in. The guilt.
You’re a terrible parent for filling your days with going out. You should be sitting on the floor with your 10 week old daughter, developing her language and development by lying under her jungle gym and making vowel sounds while encouraging tummy time, showing her a mirror and shoving various rattles and small toys in her hands to make her grip them.
And this guilt doesn’t stop at the way you spend your day.
You’ll beat yourself up for walking away from your sleeping little darling for even a moment. Even across an open plan room, while they’re safely ensconced in a travel cot, with a video and audio monitor pointed CCTV-style at their face.
You’ll look down at your little angel and realise that their face, neck, adorable double chins and often, hair, is covered in baby vomit and wonder how long it’s been there. The nearest white muslin is now a yellowy colour because (despite owning over a million of the cotton squares), you’ve been carrying this one around with you for a week. Regardless, you use the yellow, slightly crispy linen to wipe off the latest round of vomit.
You’ll have your first glass of wine or night with friends since pregnancy and immediately worry about ‘how it looks’. Before you can take a sip your poor, tired brain has transformed your innocent (and well-deserved) glass of Sauvignon Blanc into 20 shots and an arrest for drunk and disorderly behaviour.
You’ll catch your baby staring at the television as you take a moment to drink your (lukewarm) tea and panic that you’ve already, in 10 short weeks, become one of ‘those’ parents who leave their children with a TV as babysitter.
You’ll breastfeed, formula feed, combination feed; and no matter what you choose you’ll convince yourself it isn’t right. That you’re doing it wrong. That your baby won’t thrive as a result.
Here is a checklist of things you actually need to worry about:
- Is your baby content (most of the time – occasional meltdowns or decisions not to sleep do not count)?
- Is your baby healthy and gaining a steady amount of weight?
- Are you content (most of the time – a raging thirst for a glass of prosecco at 11am on a particularly tiring Tuesday is all part and parcel of motherhood)?
- Are you feeling supported (by your partner, your friends, your parents, your siblings – whoever your tribe is, are they taking good care of you)?
If the answer to these four simple questions is yes, you’re doing a great job. Put down the hair shirt and guilt-ridden beating stick and pour that glass of wine. You’ve earned it.