Some Personal Maternity Leave Musings from Marci
I am a planner. Always have been. So when I suddenly became very sick during my pregnancy and delivered my son nearly two months early, some of my well thought-out plans had to be tossed out the window.
I had plans for how I would use those last two months, preparing both myself and my clients for my maternity leave and it was scary and frustrating to let them go. One of my tentative plans had been to take 4 months off from work, but the length of my leave became a giant question mark.
Not long after my son’s early arrival, friends and family started asking, “So what are your plans for work? When will you be going back?” The honest answer was that I didn’t know. I no longer had a plan. There were too many unknowns. While this uncertainty was challenging, it presented me with an opportunity to live squarely in the moment. Living one day at a time became a necessity. And as much as I wanted to “plan,” I simply couldn’t.
Have you ever had a life experience that forced you to live in the present moment more than you typically do? While hard, how did that experience serve you? I learned that I am able to make more effective choices for myself when grounded in the present rather than projecting too far into the future. That doesn’t mean I’ve thrown all future planning aside. It just means that I see the value of being more firmly rooted in the here and now.
In the end, I took 6 months off from work. That ended up being the timeframe that supported adequate healing for me and my family. I have received wonderfully supportive messages from people validating me in that decision. I have received expressions of gratitude from other professionals for modeling self-care by taking a long and intentional pause from my work, including nearly all of my work on social media.
I really appreciated everyone’s kind words. AND I was able to take the time that I and my family needed because I have an enormous amount of privilege, for which I am grateful. I have thought about this deeply over these many months and its connection to the work I do as a proponent and advocate of self-care. I see self-care as a non-negotiable necessity that allows me to keep my head above water. But it can be easy to forget, particularly as professionals, that for many people self-care may be an unaffordable luxury. I am able to come back to work at a time that is right for me and my family because I have privileges that many people don’t have access to.
Through this experience, I have been reminded that the way we talk about health and well-being is often through the lens of our own experience. And I think we become better and kinder people when we take pause in our judgments and remember that most everyone around us is trying to live their best lives. The choices and priorities that people set are informed by their unique life circumstances and accessibility. When we judge someone based on their appearance or behaviors, we erase the complexity of their personal and complex life story.
As we each seek our own path to greater well-being, I hope we can reflect on the things we have to be grateful for while also practicing compassion for the challenges we face in our lives and for the challenges of those around us.
These past 6 months have been a time of reflection and growth for me and I sure hope this is true for you too.
A summer favorite is a comprehensive body image guide, which you can access here.