How the pandemic stole my maternity leave

covid maternity leave Mar 23, 2022

Maternity leave is supposed to be a time when new mothers get to set aside the expectations of regular life and settle into life with their newborn. There are so many elements of maternity leave that we associate with motherhood—from bonding with other mothers to getting time away from work in order to simply bond with our baby.

Unfortunately, the pandemic stole my maternity leave from me—and everything that was supposed to come with it.

Maternity leave, mornings and mom friends

If my baby had been born two years earlier, my maternity leave might have looked something like this: waking up with my baby in the morning, getting set with our jogging stroller and heading to the local mall to browse with fellow moms in a maternity leave group. We would get lunch, swap tips and maybe share some horror stories before heading home.

Because of COVID, however, my maternity leave looked something like this: waking up with my baby in the morning and… staying home, where I was expected to log into work because I could still do some work remotely like everyone else, right?

So no mom friends. No mornings in the jogging stroller. And no completely work-free maternity leave.

What I did (and you can do) to cope

I won’t pretend like it’s been easy to deal with the loss of a traditional maternity leave. But I’m sharing how I coped in the hopes that it will help someone else.

Accept the past: First, accept what happened. You can’t change the past, and there’s nothing you can do, say or wish to make things different.

Write down your feelings: Starting a journal about how I feel has helped immensely. It helps me understand what I’m feeling when and gives me the chance to work through my emotions in a healthy way.

Set new expectations: The hardest thing to learn was simply moving forward with different expectations. Maybe you weren’t having the maternity leave you wanted, but that doesn’t mean you and your baby won’t still be spending that time bonding. Finding things you could still do (virtual music classes, online mom groups, etc.) is a great way to transform the traditional mat leave experience  into one you will still appreciate.

(Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash)

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