The rise of the maternity leave project

I finally caught up with my best friend in person last weekend after her return from secondment to a firm in the US for most of this year.

We were rustling up dinner to stuff our faces with, and marvelling at the fact that I now have not one but two children (eek! Somehow I’ve become a wife and mother of two in the decade since we met at university!) when she asked “so what’s the maternity project?”. I looked blankly at her until she continued.. “Everyone I know who’s been on maternity leave has come up with some project to do while they’re on it! Why is that?!”

At this point I sheepishly admitted to having started a blog, although I don’t really think of that as a maternity project per se. No, my maternity project is actually going to be… revealed below!

First, my thoughts on her question.. Why do so many of us try to have a “maternity project”? I should explain for those of you not in the UK that we’re entitled to take up to twelve months of maternity leave and still have a job to go back to at the end of that year. It’s not all paid, and the majority of it is paid at a statutory level which isn’t super high, but some employers top it up so you get at least a few months of your usual pay. If, like me, you’re fortunate enough to be able to manage it, you can therefore have a full year away from work if you want to, to focus on your lovely little ones..

.. But.. 

A year away from work is a big deal! When else in life do you have the opportunity to do that?! So, yes, it’s all about your child/children, but at the same time it’s a great chance to do something you’ve maybe always wanted to do but never had time for. To experience something new, learn a new skill, or spend a bit of time on yourself.. This is the attraction of the maternity project!

Maternity is hard work. My colleagues probably think it looks something like this:


 (Pics from our honeymoon.. Will I ever feel so relaxed and carefree again?!)

But actually it’s pretty darned tough! I’m still in the so-called fourth trimester (Baby Boy is two months old) so I haven’t had a proper nights sleep in ages and although they tell you newborn babies sleep at least 18 hours a day, the reality is that for much of their sleeping time you are actually still holding/soothing/changing/cleaning them. And if they’re like mine, they don’t sleep in long continuous stretches for the first few months at least. I had an extra long shower this morning (a whole ten minutes) as Hubby went into work later than usual so was around to watch both boys, and I kid you not, it felt like a luxury spa day or something. So the other good thing about a maternity project is that you have something to look forward to that’s just about you, which will hopefully force you to take at least a little bit of time every now and then to focus on yourself, use some non-mummy brain cells and feel like an adult and interesting human being again.
During my first maternity leave I continued a post-graduate qualification  that I had been studying for, part time around my day job, before I got pregnant. It was a lot of work to squeeze in around Toddler Boy but very rewarding. I also wanted to learn to sew. I bought a machine, took one “make a dress in a weekend” sewing course, and .. Pretty much haven’t touched the machine since. The almost-finished dress I made in the studio on that course is still sitting on my dressmakers form waiting for me to finish the sleeves and Hubby wants me to get rid of the form (her name is Teresa) on the grounds that I’m never going to use it and we don’t really have space for it.

But my project for this maternity leave is.. To learn to sew! (Deja vu, huh?)

This time I’m determined. I’ve purchased a book that kept coming up on all the sewing blogs I’ve come across, Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walden of Tilly and the Buttons and I’m planning to jump right in and start my first sewing project – a pair of pyjamas.


I’ll keep you posted (no pun intended) on progress. Even if I can only do a little bit at a time, I should be able to make some progress week by week, and I’m excited to get going! Watch this space..
Penny for your thoughts: Have you managed to carve out some me-time while on maternity leave? What did you do with it, if so? Even if you’re not on maternity leave/parenting, what projects/hobbies are you excited about right now? If you’ve been putting one off, why not go for it?! Jump right in, and let us know how you get on!


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