Today is a really quite significant day. Today will actually be the first time I haven’t worked since Max was twelve weeks old. I mean, I’ll still be working, my word I’ll be working (Motherhood is a full-time job in itself after all!). But … today is the first day in over two years that I’m taking a little break from working Motherhood.
Today is day one of maternity leave.
I can still remember the very first day I returned to work twelve weeks after the delivery of our beautiful boy. I didn’t want to be there. My body wasn’t ready to be there, still pumping full of maternity hormones, & breastfeeding hormones, & post delivery of gigantic baby Max hormones, & so I was also still sporting quite the sizeable post baby belly. Actually, I ended up losing count of how many times I was asked how far along I was on that first day back at work.
Worse than all of the different ways that my body wasn’t ready to be back at work though, was that my mind wasn’t. I spent entire shifts where I was supposed to be delivering nursing care to oncology patients in the bathroom, crying. I felt physically sick leaving Max & driving to work, & I used to count down the hours till’ the end of my shift from the very minute I arrived to it. Prior to Max, I was so passionately into oncology nursing & desperately wanted to forge a career in it, but twelve weeks post baby? … far too soon (for me).
I resigned. And I switched to on-call night shift nursing. And then I landed a permanent nursing role in night shift nursing. And although it was the beginning of an incredibly exhausting + depressing time in my life, I don’t think I’d change it, because I left home long after Max was down for the night & only really missed breakfast time in the mornings. That, I could cope with. I was also on incredible money courtesy of night shift penalty rates, & this really just was the only way we were ever going to get ourselves out of the significant amount of debt we’d landed ourselves in courtesy of my having been strictly bed rested throughout most of Max’s pregnancy.
I knew so many were quietly judging for my having returned to work so soon, but the fact of the matter was we’d simply not budgeted for being reduced to a single income at 16/40 pregnant with Max. And we’d also just moved into a brand new home with its accompanying brand new mortgage, & so it was these mortgage repayments we began to fall behind on. By the time Max was born, we weren’t just broke, but in a significant amount of debt actually. And so that’s how I found myself (& my still pregnant-looking post baby belly) back in nursing twelve weeks post baby.
Sure, we could have continued to struggle on one income for another five or six years & potentially accumulated much more debt, but for me it was simple – that debt wasn’t going anywhere & I’m just a firm believer that if you have debt, you work your flipping arse off until you no longer have it. Sure, you can cry poor. Sure, you can even rattle off all of the reasons as to why you’ve found yourself in debt (& for many, those reasons are entirely valid, just like ours were), but crying poor & rattling off all of the reasons why weren’t going to pay off our debt.
Working hard was.
And so that’s what we did. Dave & I were like ships in the night. He’d come home from work, we’d eat dinner together, we’d settle Max, Max would fall asleep, I’d drive to my night shift, Dave would do all of the night time resettling of our non-sleeping Max, Dave would wake to Max in the morning & give him his morning milk + breakfast, I’d come home, Dave would drive to work, & I’d begun my next shift; Motherhood.
It was hideous, & in my desire to not miss any of Max’s days, I missed nights shared with my husband; profoundly. We used to fight, & ironically – the fighting was because we just missed each other. We were both also completely exhausted, but somehow – we remained united, & what a formidable duo we really did make. In just under two years, we cleared our debts & our marriage remained in tact – just.
I then very spontaneously resigned from night shift, & nursing in general. It had been nearly two years of working nights, & then raising my beloved Max the next day, & the result of all of that is not something I’d like to discuss on this blog. I tried to once or twice, & I was advised to ‘get over myself’, & that ‘Mothers everywhere work night shifts, & last far longer working those night shifts than the two years I did’.
Hey, kudos to them.
Financially, we’re in a really different place now. I don’t have to kill myself on night shift any more, & so I don’t. The only debt we have is the one most young Australians have, which is a mortgage. We don’t have a credit card, & won’t get one again. When I do the groceries these days, my heart doesn’t palpitate waiting to be told that ‘payment has been declined’. When our mortgage comes out each month, we actually have money left over, & those days where we lived week by week really do feel like a thing of the past & something we can laugh about now – as opposed to the days where we argued about it.
We worked hard, really hard. And I honestly didn’t stop, ever. Debts were repaid, & strict budgets were stuck to, & monies were saved, & now … we breathe a whole lot more than we used to. We’re not wealthy, & I honestly doubt we ever will be, but that’s not even something that I want from this life – if I did, I would have remained working in nursing & management.
I just want to breathe, & bask in my family.
Today I’m taking unpaid maternity leave from my digital media roles, because I can afford to, but mostly because I deserve to. I’ve worked really hard to ensure our family is in a much better financial place as we add family member number four to our family of three.
And so here I am on day one of maternity leave. And I’m reflecting on the last two & a half years, & I can’t help but feel really proud, & incredibly deserving.