Last week, while listening to a radio podcast, I heard the presenter – a well known South African figure – lambasting the new Zealand Prime Minister for not only A) announcing her pregnancy as an unmarried woman (gasp) but B) doing it so in front of her home in her ‘casual wear’ (the horrors) and C) daring to admit that she would be taking a 6 week break for maternity leave. The host spent a good 10 minutes accusing Jacinda Arden (the PM) of neglecting her country duties while she basically took a 6 week holiday.
My blood boiled, and the milk I was expressing curdled. I was pissed. Perhaps he caught me at a bad time – having recently birthed a baby of my own – but I just had to send him an email to speak up on behalf women, and men everywhere, who take ma or pa-ternity leave.
Here is my response:
I listened with interest to your commentary on the Prime Minister of New Zealands pregnancy announcement, and your thoughts around her 6 weeks of maternity ‘leave’.
I have a 2 month old baby. Which means I have been on leave for 2 weeks longer than Jacinda Arden will. Let me tell you, 6 weeks, when taking into consideration the average lifespan of a human (71.6 years in the case of a New Zealander) means that she will get to spend a precious 0.16% of her life with her newborn, before real life takes over. Of that measly 0.16% about 3/4 of that will be spent (if she had a C section) recovering from a traumatic surgery, feeding, expressing, cleaning, de-vomiting, nappy changing, crying, trying to fit into clothes that aren’t spandex and cooking and cleaning (because shame, these poor new Zealanders do not have the luxury of hired help like we do), all whilst trying to keep a tiny human infant alive. She will, I am almost certain also still be doing her job (vice PM or not, one does not just forget how to rule a country because they’ve shoved a watermelon out of their vagina). So whilst I agree that she sounds like she ate all her vowels for breakfast, I disagree wholeheartedly that you think 6 weeks is too long. Au contraire, 6 weeks is but a drop in the ocean. Even we have better labour laws than that. The poor woman is going to need 6 weeks just to shrink her uterus back to size.
I know all of this, because whilst I may not be a Prime Minister, I am a new mom of my second child. I took 29 days off of work before going back to my second job (photography) and shooting a 11 hour wedding. In 2 months time I will return to my corporate job as a Marketing Manager. I shoot 5-7 jobs a week, edit most nights past midnight, wake up at 1 and 4 am to feed, don’t actually sleep in between feeds because I’m too busy hating my husbands worthless nipples and wondering about important issues like ‘how do they get the toothpaste in the tube to come out in different coloured stripes’. I get up at 6 am to get my son ready for school and then head to the gym and in-between still try to run a house, look after my toddler and be a decent functioning human being. Hell, I type this while hanging like a fruit bat from a girls dinner that involved way too much red wine and tequila. Oh, and I’ve also just baked and iced a 4 tier birthday cake for my toddlers 3rd party tomorrow, taken 36 cupcakes out of the oven and glue gunned party hats onto plastic dinosaurs. All while my left boob leaked because I’d forgotten to shove a breast pad in my overly-sexy maternity bra.
I absolutely realise how martyr’ish this sounds, but I just had to put it out there and challenge you on your anti child anti maternity leave stance. Having a baby, and yes even when by choice, is the hardest ad most wonderful thing I have ever done. And whilst some women may use it as an excuse to let their pubic hair grow to Rapunzel lengths and shop in Checkers in their stokies, many of us, like myself, take it in their stride and adopt it as one more role to add to their already fat CV.
I’m back at work. Which means I’m desperately trying to find my new normal, whilst nonchalantly dressing up my fat jeans and re-learning how to wear a bra that doesn’t have boob flaps in them. To celebrate my last weekend of dedicated motherhood, I did a very un-motherhood thing and went away. This then meant that Carter had his first sleepover, and of course it also meant that my little treasure slept a solid 13 hours. Typical.
Before you start judging and throwing hypothetical rotten tomatoes in my face, please understand that I needed to get away. Because what’s a grief stricken almost-back-to-work mom to do? Drive three hours out of Joburg and drink her body weight in wine, that’s what.
The fabulous folk at the Protea Hotel ‘Ranch’ in Polokwane kindly hosted us for one of their ‘Chefs Tables’. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (I mean, Polokwane??) but reality far exceeded my expectations. The Ranch Hotel is situated on a private game reserve just 25kms south of the Limpopo’s capital city, and from the second you drive in through the gates you feel relaxed. It’s very seldom that the drive up to a hotel reception includes roaming Blesbok instead of bellboys. I already knew that this place was going to be special.
We arrived, unpacked, jumped on the beds (kidding. KIDDING) drank a sherry and made our way to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. I told you, we were wine serious that night. The resort is magical, and I’ve already book-marked it for my next annual girls holiday.
The dinner, and the main reason for our trip, blew my mind. Hosted and created by ‘Chef Dan’ the food, ambiance and company was superb from start to finish. I loved how we were an intimate table of 10; we were joined by local media, tourism members and a few journalists from Joburg as well as the owner and marketing manager of The Ranch.
I judge a good meal on the creativity of the vegetarian option (Lord, let me never see another carrot in phyllo pastry again) and Chef Dan and his team quelled my fears with each course.
Our food ranged from Salmon Tartar Blinis, to Gorgonzola Gnocchi, Beef Fillet Bordelaise and mouth-watering king prawns. Dessert was a South African take on a British tea – Rooibos pannecotta and honey gel cubes. Each course was served with a wine, and we drank everything from Champagne to Merlot to Petit Rouge. Not kak.
Full and happy we stumbled back to the bar for a nightcap (I really cannot emphasise the seriousness of my task here friends). There we sat and chatted about the resorts history and got to know our fellow diners a little bit more.
The next morning we were up at sparrows poep to go and walk with the lions (No, not the rugby team, although some might argue that’s the fastest they’ll ever get. Yes, that’s a thing you can actually do there – and no, apparently sleeping in even when childless is not an option). Sadly, the rain was bucketing down so we we had to ‘paws’ (weak, I know, but this mum dumb brain is lingering) the lion walk. I’m seriously hoping to crack another nod to go back and experience the walk another time.
All round a fantastic way to wrap up the last 4 months of maternity leave. Although, at the rate I’m going, these work fat pants may be here to stay.
Kid, you and me, we’ve been inseparable these past four months. Even before that, when you were physically a part of me for 38 weeks and 4 days. From the second you were born, your body has always found a way to be connected with mine. From the way you rested on my chest, just seconds after taking your first breath, to the way your fingers will always find mine. When you sleep, you curve your proud little chest into me, and when you wake, your hands swat my face in play.
I’ve always battled to be without you. Not in a ‘helicopter parent’ kind of way, but because I miss you when you’re not around. From the very beginning, being your mom has been my proudest role. I love how we read each other, and how happy you always are to see me (although, you’d smile at a brick wall if given a chance and I’ve watched you flirt with anything with a face, so I guess you’re not quite at the monogamous stage just yet.). Even when you were tiny, and the pain meds from my C section forced me to sit on the loo for hours on end, you would always be nestled on the bed within earshot, whilst I coo’d sweet nothings from behind the closed door, holding back tears of pain. Soon after, I stopped taking the meds altogether.
Maternity leave for me, albeit not ‘leave’ in the true sense of the world, has been the most intense four months of my life. You have come pretty much everywhere with me. Ive 4×4’d your pram up steps to friends houses, I’ve plopped you in a Pick n Pay trolley to buy groceries and you’ve experienced the sounds of the bush house more than once. You come to the gym with me 3 days a week, and you watch me from the floor of the kitchen while I make dinner.
I wont lie, at times I’ve dreamt of a nanny, to help relive my aching arms at the end of a long day, to watch you for “just 5 minutes” so I could shave my legs or to unscrew the lid of your bottle when my hands were needed for rocking you, but we can’t afford one (have you seen the price of education?). I’m proud of the way that we’ve done this together, you and me. Thank you for your patience when I nearly let you fall off the changing mat, or when I placed you in a way-too-warm bath. You’ve made this easy for me.
Tomorrow, I go back to work. I’m trying to rationalise with myself that I’m not a bad mom. That me leaving you for a full day in the care of strangers is acceptable. That this will make you a well rounded boy, and that you will know that it wasn’t without severe deliberation or self blame. The thing is, a part of me wants to go back to work. My brain has fossilised these past 4 months. My friend Sheena and I (also a new mom) laugh about our ‘mum dumb’ daily. I love my job, I’m excited to see my colleagues and meet my new team. I’m excited to reunite with my favourite client, and push myself again. I am happiest after a busy day and I hope you know that you will always still be the favourite part of my day, and that when I see you, it will always be the best of me. I know that your new creche teachers and carers are going to fall into the Carter trap. You’re bloody cute, and everyone who meets you is taken in by your comical smile and sweet nature. I know you’re going to a place where you will be treated with love and care. Your two cousins are some of the greatest kids I have met – and I know that the school will help you get here too.
I also know that there’s a good chance that the only thing I’m going to achieve tomorrow is trying not to spend half the day in the bathrooms, sobbing. That I’m going to be looking at my watch every hour, counting down the minutes until I can fetch you from creche. That if Eskom initiates load shedding and I get stuck on Jan Smuts, that you may be visiting your mom in a state prison.
I also know that in a weeks time, and a months time, I probably wont cry anymore. And that in a few years time, you would rather be at school with your new friends, than stuck at home with ‘boring dad and me’.
Kid, you are going to be so great. So am I. We are not the first mom, nor the first baby to have to do this. In fact, I have a feeling being a working mom is going to help me more. You’ve given me a new found strength and set of balls. I want to work for me, and for you. I’m working so that I can be an employable and well rounded person, and so you can get that fancy new cricket bat when you need one.
So, while I may feel like the worst mother in the world today, I know I’m not. I also know that when it matters, I will be there for you. I’m going to be at your parent teacher days, and your first swimming lesson. I’m going to embarrass the shit out of you at your first athletics day, and your art is going to drip off every available surface of my fridge.
Here’s to new things, kid. But please, just always remember, if you have a bakerman day at school, your mom bloody better get that first cupcake.
Maternity leave. A time filled with long lie ins, serene walks in the park with your sleeping baby, and endless cuddles.
Atleast, that’s what people think.
In reality, maternity leave is the most manic, chaotic 16 weeks of ones life, with very little time to actually get anything productive done. In between all the washing, cleaning, burping, feeding, rocking, crying, eating, sleeping, farting and second-guessing, it’s extremely important to actually get out the house and do things with your new baby (and oh-boy – have I done my fair share! – more on that coming soon).
Cue: Baby classes. Oh, sweet baby classes. Possibly the greatest invention since sliced bread Magnum wine bottles. Baby classes give the new mom the perfect opportunity to explore a world beyond vomit stained leggings and bottle sterilisers. They are also the perfect place to meet fellow vomit stained legging wearing moms and discuss everything from engorged boobs to post baby sex life.
If frequent flyer miles were awarded to attendees of baby classes, then I would be the proud recipient of a round the world trip by now.
One of the courses I attended was a 4 week Baby Reflexology Class, held at The Bub Hub in Broadacres. (Disclaimer – don’t ever go to the Bub Hub unless you are mentally stable enough to receive debt counselling. You might even consider selling your baby to buy all of the things they have in store)
Hosted by Sarah Vorster (she calls herself a ‘Therapeutic Reflexologist, Pregnancy Massage Therapist & Doula’ but I like to call her a ‘Magical bearer of wide smiles and cupcakes’). The classes were awesome – Over the 4 weeks we covered aspects such as colic, calming and comforting, wellbeing, teething pain, blocked ears and ailments. Apparently, the actions work just as well on humans as they do on babies, so I chatted to Sarah about finding the pressure point to win the lottery, get a full nights sleep and fix my Telkom line. I’m still waiting for her reply. It’s probably still pending due to Telkom issues.
Sarah was fantastic with the tiny babies, but it was how she handled us adults that really blew me away. There is no bigger baby than a new mom working on 18 minutes of sleep. She handled our farting, crying, laughing, napping and feeding offspring with the grace of Kate Middleton. Bless you Sarah for not judging me when I came in one day one after a ladies night, child in one hand and a litre of coffee in the other.
So, whilst I may not have learnt how to save the world using 5 toes and my finger, I have learnt how to squeeze a big toe in just the right way to alleviate Carters distress. And that, my friends, is priceless.
I’m so excited to be giving one of these courses away to a new mom! You can also enter on behalf of a mom who you think would love to win a 4 week course with Sarah.
The winner can pick from one of the following courses starting on the following dates:
2 September @ Simply Expecting Pilates in Illovo
18 September @ The Bub Hub in Broadacres.
All you need to do to win is tell me where on the big toe is the pressure point for turning water into wine.
Comment on this post and tell me if you want this course for yourself, or a friend, and which class you would like to attend
Don’t forget to share this post and tag any friends who you think would like to enter!
Ts and Cs
This competition ends at 7 pm on Thursday 20 August 2015
All entrants must check the blog post for the winner announcement
Competition rules must be adhered to in order to win
Prize is not redeemable
Winner must be available over the selected dates
Winner must make own travel arrangements
PS – You may have noticed the new Rupert Approves logo…. a massive thank you to the superbly talented (and dad-to-be) Don from Front Sky Media. If you need equally awesome design things…erm…designed, then check out his Facebook page or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to Kerry Scott on winning this prize! Please pop me an email to email@example.com so we can arrange your course 🙂