Maternity Leave: Why I Refuse To Let Myself Feel Guilty For Extending It

   




Our 4th baby will be born on June 22 by C-section.  Technically, I can have that baby and be back to school at the start of the school year....But I won't.
We're all familiar with "Mommy Guilt" but there is "Teacher Guilt" too....It's that horrible feeling you have when you realize that your maternity leave means that 20+ little ones will walk into their first few weeks of school with a SUBSTITUTE only to have their REAL TEACHER come back a while later and mess up their nice, little routine--- a Maternity Leave rendition of Miss Nelson is Missing.
It's worrisome for me as the teacher too.  What if my substitute allows behaviors I would have nipped in the bud on the first day?  What if he or she sets up their supply notebooks, desks and cubbies all wrong?  WHAT IF they form terrible habits that will take me the ENTIRE year to correct....WHAT IF!?
 But I've had to let that all go.

Here are the reasons why I have elected to extend my maternity leave well into the first quarter of school.  They might be different from yours and that's OK.  There should be no guilt or shame in taking this time with your family...no matter what your reasons are!

*Not every woman is able to take an extended maternity leave and the laws are different from state-to-state.  Research your state and more specifically, your company well before-hand in order to get the most out of your maternity leave.  Many places require advanced notice and paperwork.  FMLA guidlelines can be very confusing.  Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Bonding

 Obviously, this is the main reason for ANY maternity leave.  The more time we can have together the better!  We will spend this time learning to be a family of 6.  I've been notoriously protective of this bonding time in the past. The grandparents are always willing (and I'm very grateful)  to take a kid or two home with them after the birth of a new little one to give us time alone, but it's this time together as a group that makes this time so special to me.  It gives the older kids a chance to get to know their new sibling and their newest roll in the family.  It also gives us a chance to begin setting our new routine.  I don't mean for it to sound like I don't want or need help...but I spent 9 months getting excited to be a mom of 4 and this will be our time to put things to work for us.
Why fool ourselves....we might as well just jump right in to this joyous insanity!
 This will also be a HUGE time of transition for #3.  She has been the baby for 3 years and the ONLY GIRL. We have been working hard to prepare her (as we did with the boys) to "share" the attention --and especially, for sharing her daddy once mommy goes back to school!
#3 just self-weened as well. She may be in for a bit of a shock when she realizes that the new baby will be sliding right into her....spot.  Again, we are working hard to prepare her for this.

Breastfeeding/Storing Breastmilk

 In our home we believe in exclusive, infant-led breastfeeding.  We believe in breast milk as the most perfect food for our baby.  We believe in it's healing powers and in it's immune building and immune supporting factors. We also KNOW it's hard in the beginning.  Even for the experienced mom.  You need time to fall into a rhythm.  I want to give the baby a chance to "learn" to nurse correctly.  Eventually, I'll  want to give myself a chance to store up an adequate supply of frozen milk for when I DO have to return to school.  Breastfeeding can be a struggle in the beginning, especially for new moms.  A 6-8 week time limit looming over your head can be an added stressor.

Recovery

I read a FANTASTIC article this morning about how the United States has lost sight of the age-old art of caring for and nurturing the newborn/new mom relationship.  In the article, the author talked about her move to Mongolia shortly after the birth of her child, and how the Mongolian women were literally horrified at the fact that she was out of bed and out of the house with her newborn. She said that in Mongolia, new mothers are fed and cared for for weeks after the birth of a child..their only job is to heal, stay warm and breastfeed their babies.  WHAT A CONCEPT!!!
I know myself- that would probably drive me insane, but the reality is childbirth is hard on the body....that's as Biblical as it is biological.  You are already a superhero for bringing a new life into the world.....it's OK to stay in for a little bit and just...rest  let's be realistic here and say...recover.

Homeschooling

Of our 2 school aged children, one is currently homeschooling. I'm blessed with a husband was able to arrange his schedule to where he can be home during the day with our children.  He then goes to work evenings, weekends and SUMMERS!  Another bonus of extending my maternity leave will be helping  Hubbs get a jumpstart on a new school year at home!  This will give me the opportunity to help our son transition from Kindergarten to first grade with a good routine, and help us to work out the kinks that come with settling into a new homeschooling schedule.  Homeschooling and working full-time is not easy...but it's wonderful.  I'm looking forward to the time I'll get to spend with #2 while 3 and 4 are napping---(Hopefully, napping!).

Middle School

OMGoodness! I'm not sure I'm ready for this one...at all!  #1 is going off to middle school.  Being home for much of the first quarter will give me a chance to help him start the year off with a BANG in a way that might not happen if I was starting my own school year.  We will use this time to set a routine of homework, studying and organization...with a healthy dose of time to just be a kid.  Because he's the oldest, it's sometimes easy to say, "Go do your homework on your own and I'll check it when things settle down for the night."  While I don't think there is anything wrong with expecting him to work independently, I think this time will allow me to help him develop and maintain good study habits right off the bat. Let's face it he still needs as much individual attention as the others.and....he's a boy!

Truthfully,  there is a part of me that feels like I SHOULD feel guilty for extending my leave.  My school and my students need me too...but this time with my family is so, so precious and short.  It's my intention to take full advantage of every extra second I can get to nurture it and soak it all in.  Before I know it, I'll wake up and it will all be over.

What about you?  Have you battled feelings of guilt over extending your maternity leave? What were YOUR reasons for extending or not extending it?  Do you regret your decisions?  I'd love to hear about it!!!

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