5 Lessons from My 5-Month Maternity Leave

5 Lessons from My 5-Month Maternity Leave

This is my last week of a 5-month maternity leave that I’ve taken after having our second daughter, Ruby. I noticed myself getting twitchy to have more structure in my days a few weeks ago, so I know it’s time. But that doesn’t mean I’m not sad.

I planned a 5-month maternity leave mostly because of astrology (thank you to Jennifer Racioppi, our resident astrologer in Origin™ who helped me make that decision). I knew I would want to take 3 months, and then when she told me Mars was going to be retrograde the whole summer (my chart is full of Mars) and that working would feel really frustrating for me, I went ahead and tacked on an extra 2 months.

(You can read all about the logistics of how we created space for this work-wise here.)

As I started to wrap my mind and heart around Ruby starting childcare and me starting to work in an organized fashion again, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned during this time – as it’s the longest break I’ve ever taken from work since I started working.

These will likely be relevant to you if you’re returning back to work after a time away, regardless of the reason, or if you’re looking to reinvent the way you work at any time for any reason.

1. It’s okay to want more time and be ready simultaneously.

I’m ready for structure, baby-free time, and to work for more than 15 minutes at a time, but I’m also not. When I was recently asked what going back to work was going to look like for me, I realized I needed to ease in slowly and give myself permission to take Ruby to daycare late, pick her up early, or occasionally not take her at all. The benefit of being a second-time mom is that in addition to being irritated every time someone says, “It goes so fast,” I also know the truth of that statement. I want more time to just be with my baby and I’m ready to move it along. I’m allowing myself to feel both.

2. Get more help than you think you need.

Oh, man. I thought we had enough help lined up for when Ruby joined our family. We had a MealTrain, daycare for our older daughter, grandparents, neighbors, and a nanny helping out a few days a week. And yet there have still been many moments where we could have used more support. I’m astounded by the energy it takes to care for a family well. And our culture’s assumption that one or two people will be the source of all of that energy is insane. Once I am sleeping more than 2 hours at a stretch at night, I will begin to do my part to change the way our culture here in the US views parenting and help move us from the isolated nuclear family model to something more resembling the village we all so desperately need.

3. You are no longer the same person, so you can no longer work the same way.

I don’t know what running a business as a mother of two looks like because I’ve never done it before. I’m a new version of myself, so I need to work in a new way. And I won’t know what that looks like until I’m doing it. I give myself permission to iterate and change my mind on the regular. To start, it will look like having 3 days a week to do focused tasks like writing, making videos, and recording podcasts, as well as appointments and out-of-the-house things like yoga class while both girls are at daycare. Then I plan to have one morning a week just with Ruby and one morning a week just with Penelope. That’s my vision, but I won’t know if it works until I try it. Big life events usually mean that everything changes.

Trying to do things the way you’ve always done them when you’re no longer the same person makes no sense. twitter-logo

5 Lessons from My 5-Month Maternity Leave

4. There’s no such thing as going back.

When it comes to your body, your business, your marriage, or any other part of your life: there’s no such thing as going back. We have an insane focus on getting things (especially our bodies) back to the way they used to be before having a baby (or any other major life event). Ushering a new human onto planet Earth is MAJOR, and trying to go back to the way things were before that happened is total insanity. I don’t want my pre-baby body back. Why? Because then I wouldn’t have my beautiful babies. I don’t want my pre-baby marriage back. I don’t want my pre-baby life back. Instead, I want to be fully present in the new life I’m currently living, which bringing new life into the world required me to create. I want to live it on purpose and actually be here for it instead of wasting precious energy trying to go back in time.

5. We don’t need to earn the right to have needs.

When Mike and I were recording a recent, raw, sleep-deprivation fueled episode of our podcast, The Kate & Mike Show, I got choked up as I uncovered an unconscious belief I’ve had that I have to earn the right to have a need through having done enough things first. So many people wrote in telling me they cried right along with me at that moment in the show because they’ve had the same belief. I have so many more thoughts on how we can transform our relationships with getting help, having needs, and leaning on support, but for now I’m gonna give us all permission to have needs because we’re human.

Listen: You don’t have to have worked out for two hours to earn the right to a delicious meal. You don’t have to be on the brink of collapse to earn the right to ask for help with your children. You don’t need to be having an emotional breakdown to earn the right to lean on a friend. We are human. Humans have needs. We don’t have to earn them. We deserve to have needs and we deserve to have them met, by ourselves or by others. Period.

While my heart is a little heavy, I’m also so excited to be returning to work with an entirely new world view that comes from taking time away. I hope my reflections give you permission to look at your relationship with work, parenting, getting help, and having needs so that you can update your current reality to reflect the incredible person you currently are.

OVER TO YOU:

Which of these reflections resonates most deeply with you? How can you reinvent an aspect of your life to reflect the current version of you? Tell me in the comments!

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13 comments

  • The whole thing renovates with me. You have great wisdom. I am so glad you are going to take good care of you and your family. Good luck.

  • Bravo Kate! Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts around this. I am a business owner and mother of one (an almost 10 year old daughter), and I wish I could have read this 10 years ago when the journey started for me. (I ‘only’ have one child as I didn’t know how to ask for support, to reach out, to accept help and thus I stopped at one…thinking I couldn’t do it all again…and my body agreed as we never conceived again).
    I took 11 weeks unpaid leave (and I live in Canada where my employed peers get a full year of paid leave) went back to practice exhausted, and everyday felt like a failure – failure at home, failure at work.

    Time has granted me perspective to see that I did quite well under the circumstances, that I was way too hard on myself, but the emotional pain of that first year lingers.

    THANK YOU for being a beacon of light to all the new mothers out there, and for some of the seasoned ones too! Thank you for being real, and raw and out there.
    It takes a village to raise a child and I THANK YOU for being in my village :)
    xx

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you so much for your story Lisa! You are undoubtedly an amazing mama and practitioner and your daughter is very blessed. Thanks for being part of the village, too!

  • Love this one through and through.

  • Peta

    Oh Kate, you’ve renewed my tears too. I have been abused this past week because I didn’t respond within someone’s email in what they considered a timely matter (that day). I was very ill and then nursing an ill loved one. I didn’t even know this abuse was being directed at me until I opened a stream of 8 vitriolic emails. I am in such shock and have had to withdraw from a work opportunity as this relationship should not and will not be endured. My needs today are quite different as a result. I need quiet and love, so my other goals have been put on pause. Thanks for the timely blog. X

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so sorry you were hurt but I’m glad you put an end to that relationship and that this came at the right time.

  • Anna

    All of this resonated with me! You put to words what I have been struggling with since having my son… I am not the same person I was beforehand… and I am still figuring out what that looks like as a mom, wife, friend, family member, business owner and as myself! Thank you for articulating it so well, see you in Origin!

  • Nancy Jackson

    So eloquent and so very [email protected]

  • Jason

    Thank you for this post. I don’t run a business but I feel overwhelmed at times trying to squeeze it all in.

  • Caroline

    “You are no longer the same person, so you can no longer work the same way” WOW! Mind blown by this one… I have always looked back to what I consider my “best days” for my work and life, wanting to replicate it. But… I’m not the same person anymore! That made so much sense Kate, THANK YOU!

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