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 have strep throat. Which is actually a good thing, as strep throat always means I’ve gone away with the girls. There have been some deviations to the strep – such as the plague like rash that covered my legs in Zanzibar, or the double bronchitis and laryngitis that rendered me to the sick bay in Dullstroom.
This weekend marked another year of what we’ve fondly labeled ‘Team Vino’. An annual getaway with the girls to a (generally) local destination in SA. I don’t know why, but this trip has been my favourite one so far. It might have something to do with the 40+ bottles of wine consumed over the space of 48 hours, or the ‘only 2 hour ‘cos I’m hungover’ hike which turned into a 6 hour trek through some of the finest countryside South Africa has to offer. It may have something to do with the box of grape cigarettes bought, when none of us is a smoker, the cheese and biscuits for breakfast, the 4 pm pizza and champagne or the very flamboyant ‘special friend’ Johann who we met at the local backpackers for shots of Potency and red lipstick.
I suspect however, that this girls weekend was my favourite because in-between the drunken karaoke, the debate over the decline in bobby pins, or the hysterical laughter upon finding out that the UFO we were all convinced was floating on the horizon was in fact a far away mountain fire, this weekend was all about 8 very close friends, spending 2 very special days together.
It was about 3 hours in to the mountain hike when one friend commented (look, it could be due to dehydration, but go with me) “we are all so smart, and great, and clever, and nice”. And she’s right. The 8 of us, some friends from high school and some picked up along the way, are some of the most creative, smart, savvy, intelligent and funny people that I have the privilege of calling my friends. There’s Alison, who I have been friends with for 27 years. Alison is the smartest chick I know. She’s the one who’s trying to convince me to start a podcast on the blog. She’s a terrific hugger, and she doesn’t give a shit about your personal space issues. She’s also the only person I know who hair is always ‘blowing in the wind’ perfect in photographs. When I grow up I want to be like Allison.
There’s Ilona. I met Ilona through a series of circumstances which weren’t terribly pleasant – but like the light at the end of the tunnel, there she was. All bronzed legs, boobs and loud laughter. Ilona is always up for anything. She’s my go to person when I’m in desperate need of a glass of wine. Or a shot of tequila. She’s the first person to get involved. She’s also a terrific dancer, a bloody genius and has a daughter who is going to rule the world one day. Ilona doesn’t give a shit about most things, but she gives a whole lot for her friends. Ilona was the witness at our wedding. That’s how much I trust her.
Amy is my sister from another Mister. It’s sometimes hard to explain the relationship we have. Other girls are loud ‘squeals and ohmigodss’ and hugs. Amy and I are tinned soup and Pick n Pay vests. We know what the other person is thinking and tend to communicate in silence a lot of the time. Amy is revoltingly skinny. She borrows my clothes and looks magnificent in them. Amy ‘bought’ me a cleaner as a housewarming, that’s the kind of person she is. Amy too, is bloody smart, and she’ll Web MD your ass in a nano second. Funny rash? Amy will tell you what it is before it has a chance to itch.
If it does begin to itch, then Candice will have the cream for it. Candles, as I fondly refer to her, came into my life like a rocket ship. It’s hard to picture time before her. If you ever need a motivational pep talk, or someone to talk you down from a ledge, call Candice. She will throw profanities like confetti, but man alive it’s a treat. Candice always looks amazing. Dolled up, dressed down, no makeup or dressed in a burlap sack, she pulls it off.
“Hey Candles, where did you get that burlap sack”
“The burlap sack store”
Speaking of clothes, I’ve resolved to never ask Kerith where she ‘got those great leggings from’ because the answer is always something along the lines of ‘The South of France’. Possibly the most well travelled person I know, Kerith and I share a strong love for makeup and sarcasm. Kerith will also always tell you about things that you have no interest in hearing, but she doesn’t care, and tells you anyway. Just this weekend she went on for about 25 minutes about a local dam and its history. It’s a bloody good thing I like you, Kerith.
Remember I told you that Candice will always have that cream for that rash? Lauren is the one who makes sure that there is sufficient cream left in the tub. My favourite A typer, Lauren and I met when we each had broken wings. We nursed ourselves back to full flight on a diet of quiche, Greys Anatomy and Red Wine. Lauren says I saved her, I say she saved me. Either way, we found ach other and rely heavily on our conversations of what gym programme to do on a certain day, what tagine is right for which curry and when the best time to plant a seasonal vegetable is.
Have you ever seen a close up of the sun? That’s pretty much how bright Shannons smile is. She is possible the most radiant soul I have ever met. Almost as well traveled as Kerith, and as up for anything as Ilona, Shannon is the biggest sport of them all. Just last year she took up triathlon, and I’m pretty certain next year she’s going to be winning them. If one ever needs a glass of wine, Shannon will be there with the corkscrew. She’s also flipping clever. And attractive. An all rounder really.
So there you have it, just 7 of my closest friends. There are more, so many more, and in each of them I have found a friend soul mate.
There’s just something about spending time with those you love the most, and the busier our lives get, the harder it is to do. We’ve already planned next years trip – ideas of Botswana, Namibia, Seychelles and Mauritius are doing the rounds. I don’t care. As long as I end up with these girls by my side, a couple of bottles of wine and some lifelong memories, I’ll be happy.