Working hard or hardly working?
I’m gearing up for maternity leave now, and, quite frankly, I can’t wait. As a freelancer, I’m really lucky that the dates my current contracts end falls on when I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant. That’s four weeks before I’m due and it’s when I intend to sign off from any other responsibility other than looking after me and my baby. ‘But Amy!’ I hear you cry, ‘my friend worked right up until the day she gave birth, she’s just one of those women, you know, a really hard worker.’ Well done to your friend. You’re correct, she is just one of those women, where as I, on the other hand, am a lazy woman, with no ambition. I have simply built myself a completely self- sustained career as a freelance artist as a laugh and now I just can’t be bothered to work. You and Rishi Sunak are right, it’s all been pointless.
It has nothing to do with the fact I get out of breath just putting my socks on, that my brain feels like someone has taken it out of my head and taken it apart and put it back together wrong, that I think I might faint if I stand up for longer than 5 minutes, that I haven’t slept through the night for months or that I am growing a human inside me. Your friend, who worked right up until the end, is just a harder worker than me. Or, maybe, she was under financial pressure or the ridiculous pressure on women to ‘have it all’ or maybe she felt fine and she wanted to. Every women’s experience of pregnancy is different. Some women stop working at 26 weeks, some at full term, some at 36 weeks. The bottom line is all these times are legitimate and all of them are no one else’s business.
‘And when will you be returning to work?’ I hear you bellow. Whenever the fuck I want (within the time I can afford). I have never done this before. It’s the most important and overwhelming thing that has ever happened to me. I’m not taking time off work; I’m having a baby. They are two hugely different things. People keep talking to me like I’m going to a spa for 6 months. ‘I’m sure you can still dip in, though can’t you? send us over the odd bit of writing, run a workshop? bob in for the odd gig or meeting?’ No. Well, maybe. But the point is I don’t know, and I definitely don’t want to feel like I need to. I’ll be quite busy learning how to keep someone else alive after I have pushed them out of my vagina, so sorry if my material isn’t on point. On the other hand. I might want to be creative. ‘But won’t you miss the baby too much?’ maybe. Or maybe the space to do something that makes me feel like me before the baby will be a good thing for both of us.
I just do not know how I will feel. I want to feel free of judgement or guilt to make these decisions whenever I want. There are so many opinions on ‘working mums’ or ‘stay at home mums’ that make me feel like whatever I do, it’ll be wrong. If I don’t go back to work, I’ll be a ‘look what she could’ve been’ woman and if I do, I’ll be a ‘should she even have had a baby’ woman. I don’t want to be either. With every decision I make and every feeling I have I feel like I’m being judged. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this as I have been a woman my whole life. I just hoped that we might get cut some slack while we’re trying to navigate the hardest job in the world.
I’ve concluded that whatever we pregnant women and mums do it’s going to be wrong in some people’s eyes. So, all we can do is what we feel is best. Anyone who wants to chip in with their opinion can kindly go eat a shitty nappy.