Truthfully, I have no idea. I’m not on maternity leave! But I do know that if we were still having our classes, this would be the very discussion we’d be having today. As always, I’d reassure you that whatever you feel is totally normal and you are allowed to feel however you feel. It’s alright to cry!
Perhaps you feel relieved. Maybe there is a relief of not having to make decisions, or be in high-risk situations, or having to deal with any more than you currently are. I used to be a high school teacher and whilst I feel a great deal of sympathy for my former colleagues – teachers abruptly saying goodbye (or not!) to their classes – I have to admit that I do feel glad that I didn’t have to do it. I’m not sure I could do it.
Of course, hand-in-hand with the feeling of relief, is the feeling of guilt. It’s only natural that when we think about ourselves being slightly better off than others, the guilt flood gates open. You might be wondering how you would have dealt with or coped with the challenges your colleagues are facing.
Perhaps your job would have had you on the front line, carrying out some essential work for the rest of the population and you feel a bit impotent staying at home with your baby. It must be highly frustrating knowing that you’re needed but unable to ‘do your bit’. Is your team pulling together really well and you are feeling very much on the outside? Or perhaps your team is struggling and you are feeling helpless because you aren’t there to help. More guilt.
Maternity leave is not indefinite. It is precious time with your new family and maybe there are feelings of unfairness and sadness that your mat leave has been snatched away from you – no more classes and no more coffee shops with your new mum friends. Some of you will be coming to end of your leave and perhaps returning to work has become a million times more challenging. Or maybe your time away from the workforce has been extended and is proving to be an unexpected silver lining. Probably some more guilt.
Maternity leave is special. A crisis like this is having a huge impact (on everyone!) and one thing I have learnt (in my vast experience of global health crises?!?) is that when it comes to parenthood, it’s okay to feel however you feel. Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember even ‘Supermum’ is struggling although she maybe doesn’t show it. And, of course, try to ditch the guilt.
You worked really hard for this time with your family and there is a little person who really needs you right now. We all have other identities beyond being mum or dad – but right now, perhaps that’s all we are needed to be. At a time like this, I couldn’t imagine a more important role. Our children’s lives have been completely turned upside down and they need us more than ever. Our babies don’t understand the situation but they definitely know something is not right in the world.
Look after yourselves. Keep those wee ones close.
Stay home, stay safe and wash your hands.