Here’s What a “Me-ternity” Leave Should Really Look Like
As I’m sure you’ve read by now, a writer named Meghann Foye has made it known, in today’s New York Post,that she would like to experience “the sabbatical-like break” that is maternity leave. The headline: “I want all the perks of maternity leave—without having kids”. A blogger myself, I realize that Foye did this article precisely because it would stir up the wrath of parents everywhere, get a million clicks, and garner publicity for her novel, Meternity. But whatever, as a working mom of three kids age 5 and under, I’m taking the bait anyway. Yes, Meghann! Let’s do this. Employees without kids should experience maternity leave and I want to help you do that. My cumulative 10 months of (unpaid) leave have made me well-acquainted with this topic. But just in case those calm-seeming new moms rolling strollers into Starbucks at 3 p.m. have misled you (they’re basically sleepwalking), there are a few actions I think you’ll need to take—beyond taking an extended vacation—in order to do this authentically.
- Begin by purchasing the largest maxi pads you can find at the drugstore. No—go to the incontinence section and get something there. Stuff into your underwear (granny-style required). Rotate six to eight times a day for the next two weeks. After two weeks, you can use regular pads. But consolation prize: You don’t have any tearing or stitching to recover from.
- Fill a double-D nursing bra with rocks. Wear nonstop for one week (about how long the super-fun engorgement phase takes). I won’t suggest you try to replicate other side effects of nursing, such as bleeding nipples or mastitis, but let’s just say they’re not conducive to sabbatical vibes.
- Adjust your sleep schedule. Go to bed at 11:35 p.m., set alarm for 1:50 a.m. Rock yourself in a chair or pace until 3:45 a.m., set alarm for 5 a.m. Daytime naps are prohibited (“nap when the baby naps”=not a thing, contrary to every baby book ever—unless you have help). So are heavily caffeinated beverages (if on this faux maternity leave you are faux nursing). But feel free to use that 1:50 to 3:45 a.m. pacing time for self-reflection—parenthood is all about such multi-tasking. After 8 weeks you may allow yourself one four-hour stretch of continuous sleep per 24 hours.
- Every 2.5 hours, put on a nursing cover and stuff a pillow under it and sit there for 30 minutes. Decent self-reflection time in theory, but lack of sleep = you’ll only want to stare blankly at Bravo.
- Alternatively, buy 8 baby bottles. Carefully sterilize, and each day, hand-wash them and all associated components and arrange in a drying rack. Reassemble one and pretend-feed a pillow every 3 hours for the next three months. Explain to at least two acquaintances each day why you are jeopardizing the health and future of your child by using formula.
- Buy packages of burp cloths and newborn onesies. Every hour, saturate one of each in milk (ideally slightly soured). Put in hamper. Splash a couple ounces on your top and/or pants. Change clothes as needed. Launder it all by the end of day. Fold. Repeat. Self-reflect.
- Limit your morning hair/makeup routine to three minutes. You are allowed one shower a day (note: I am being generous on this one) but it must be under five minutes and done with door ajar.
- Donate $20 a week to charity and give thanks that you are not handling poopy diapers/wipes of equivalent value. (And that you won’t be spending $600+ a week on childcare when you return to work.)
- Pick at least one random, irrational fight with your spouse per day. Hormonal imbalance-inspired topics may include: I can tell you think I’m fat now, why do I have to wash all the bottles, and you have a work dinner again?!
- If you would like to attempt to go get a manicure or go to the gym, pay a babysitter $20 to hang out at your apartment for the hour and a half it takes you door-to-door. Or put a 10-pound bowling ball in a jogging stroller and head to the park. Built-in resistance training: a seeming perk of parenthood that somehow never leads to increased muscle tone.
- If you would like to read something, put on a Baby Bjorn, insert 10-pound bowling ball, bounce vigorously. Read away.
- If you would like to go shopping, bring a stroller. If this outing will involve a subway, study maps of elevator locations in advance (hint: handicapped people have it even harder than you thought). Or plan to ask strangers to help you navigate stairs and turnstiles. Or wear baby in the Bjorn but don’t plan to try on clothes or carry many bags, because you will have a diaper bag.
- About that! You will need to pack and haul a diaper bag each time you leave the house for the indefinite future. Nothing crazy, just anything you could possibly need for a feeding/public nursing session or explosive poop diaper or sudden weather change.
- By week 8, begin interviewing strangers or daycares you think will be adequate at doing the most important job you can possibly imagine.
- Buy a breast pump and suction each breast for 10 to 15 minutes every three hours around the clock (gotta start building your faux milk supply for your return to work). It’s as comfortable as it sounds, but don’t worry, those boobs toughen up after a few days.
You’re right about one thing: On top of enjoying all of this me-time, you will need to start looking at life through a new lens—the one of how you’re going to raise a functioning/thriving new member of society in a batshit crazy world. And in a particular culture that, ICYMI which it seems you did, is not actually known for being super accommodating to parents. But if you say all the moms you work with peace out by 6 p.m. daily, awesome—hang on to that gig for dear life! And next time you’re out at 9 p.m. having that margarita with a friend, just know that the mom who left at 6 is back on her laptop catching up on work—before the next baby feeding.