by Mariia Ginzburg
“In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.” – Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
What were your expectations while you were pregnant for the first time? I was the one who believed that maternity leave would allow me to finally finish all my undone stuff, to explore museums with my sleeping angel, to have more time for my friends and hobbies, to gain some new professional skills and to develop my pilot project. Well, everything I couldn’t do being full-time working career-oriented lady. I believed there would be a perfect balance between my baby, my household and my career upon return. Am I the only one who was so naive? Meeting other moms, I would say no, though some babies, different parenting styles, or having family around might allow some of us to achieve more “extra” goals that we set, but life will change, and quite significantly.
Old friends and new connections
One really good friend of mine told me, “You are our first one!” when I shared with her that I was pregnant. Well, I didn’t find it quite cool back then, and still don’t. Most of the friends and acquaintances I gained here are either families without kids or singles, which didn’t matter much as long as I was also working full-time, had common interests, could join movie nights, clubs, concerts or dinners at a restaurant. Obviously, since my little was born, going out at night became impossible, at least in the beginning, and even daytime events might be canceled last minute or suddenly collapse under the weight of a constantly changing nap schedule, and don’t forget occasional fevers and teething. Suddenly, my whole life started to revolve around my baby; I started reading and learning a lot about parenting and psychology, but missed the latest news, upcoming movies or music trends. At the same time, it appeared to be easier and more helpful to get to know other moms, to share, exchange and, most importantly, to build up “my tribe”. We are in the same boat, which makes us – mums – much closer to each other than even our best friends, who might no longer understand us, our lives and our challenges.
Society and me
It is worth it to mention the constant pressures we face as mums from others. This could be your parents or in-laws, who have been doing it differently “in their time,” or random people in shops or restaurants, who give you judging looks or even comments when your baby cries and shouts. I believe each of us has a story to tell, or could even publish a book full of random, irrelevant advice they received from stranger. On the other hand, I often meet really friendly, understanding people, too: some offer physical help to carry something or to lift the stroller up steps, open or hold doors we are entering, say something or just smile supportingly in a tough parenting moment. We often don’t meet someone’s expectations, but we also learn in the end to ignore it and to focus on what really matters.
From one couple to one family
Having a child definitely brings up new challenges in the relationship with your partner. Poor sleep, lack of time, and lots of new routine issues do not help either. If you are like us, alone in a foreign country, you know what I mean by not being able to have a proper date with your husband for a decent amount of time. However, I feel that both should feel responsible for the change that has happened and should try to work together as one family – one body, supporting each other and keeping the flame alive. It’s hard, but most of the time it’s doable.
Self-care and ME time
I think this is the one of the most difficult parts, especially during the first few months. This is not about lacking time to put on makeup, but more about getting some time to be by yourself, doing your hobby, reading a book, with your world. I am still failing at this, since my baby boy needs attention during the day and my husband obviously wants me being present for him after work. There is also huge amount of housework constantly needing to be done, and believe it or not, some sleep is required. I find it’s a mastery of perfectly managing your time and energy, and I am still in the process of learning this.
Will my career stop here?
I believe there are different types of ladies: some, unlike me, love staying at home and will do so if they can, and others, like me, can not imagine their lives without their dream job. This is obviously not black and white, and there are combinations like working from home, running your own business, non-profit activities and volunteering, etc. The point is that I have been to the office with my baby at least three times during maternity leave: once because my colleague was about to leave, the second time due to a wrong package delivery, and the third time due to a team event. And yes, I simply miss my work, my colleagues and a professional environment; I am sometimes jealous that my husband does go to work everyday. Doesn’t it sound crazy? However, I definitely fear that the moment I drop my son off at childcare and enter my office for real, I will remember with nostalgia “the golden times” when I was there for my kid 24/7. My return will also be different, as I won’t be as flexible anymore to stay overtime or to travel very often; and I am not sure I will be able to run extra activities and organise events as I did before. Will my company and colleagues accept this? Will my career freeze? This autumn might actually bring quite a few challenges.
It is nevertheless FUNtastic!
The moments you spend with your family are precious. Watching your baby smile, sit up, crawl, walk, speak, read and reach many, many more milestones will make you feel like the happiest person in the world. The baby blues go away and you start enjoying being a family of three or more and exploring new baby packages: baby concerts, baby swimming, baby singing, playgrounds, cycling and hiking with the baby, etc. Suddenly you realise you can do a lot of what you’ve been doing before the birth and much more on top of it. Even the breastfeeding phase (if you happened to have it) passes at some point, and your little one is not so little anymore, finishing school, leaving the house and starting his or her own life. Kids do grow fast and we should remember to enjoy the moment even if it is exactly the one that makes you nuts!
Mariia Ginzburg is an IT-consultant with a strong technical background, but with passions and interests far beyond technology. Before starting a new career path and family life in Munich almost four years ago, she completed her studies in Computer Science and concurrently studied Media and Journalism. Back in Ukraine, she wrote articles for different publishers and edited a small community newspaper, worked for an IT company, fully engaged in multiple social organisations and even spent one year in Belgium on a the long-term volunteering project. She also has a passion for travelling, discovering, learning and meeting new people. She has currently paused her busy energetic life in favor of caring for her son, who was born last year, but is eager to start being active again, managing to balance a family of three, going back to work, and helping other moms to effectively deal with technology.