Let's pretend we all actually get a decent amount of maternity leave in this country. I know it's a fantasy for most of us, but just try and pretend you're in Sweden, and you've got a huge chunk of months ahead of you to bond with your baby, breastfeed for an extended amount of time, allow your body to recover. That's nice, right?
While I certainly didn't have this option when my son was born, I'm starting to realize that having to go back to work so soon may not have meant that much. To my baby, anyway. It sure did to me. However, after traveling for almost a week with my 5-year-old, I'm wishing I had maternity leave now. When she's actually conscious and learning from me.
Don't get me wrong, I would love to have that first year of my newborn's life to do all of the lovely things mentioned above. But while I'm fantasizing, I would trade that year for one in the pre-school phase. After all, my daughter is learning how to talk to people, how to treat people, what's important, and what it means to empathize. I trust her school does a fantastic job with all of these things, but watching me surely has a huge impact as well. (Note to self: more patience in traffic, your kid is watching.)
Additionally, as I head off for another trip, it may be my baby that cries at night wanting his mom. But it's my older child who really understands that I'm gone and that she doesn't like that. Proof of the value of parental time came when our road trip ended last weekend. When I asked her what was her favorite thing about going to Texas, I expected her to say, "I got ice cream almost every day." Or, "Playing with Uncle Geoff and Aunt Yancy's dogs." Instead, she looked at me and said, "Spending time with you, mama."
Yes, I died.
Even though a newborn needs his mother pretty much non-stop, your older kid needs you in different and incredibly important ways as well. Of course we should probably work out this whole "worst maternity leave in the western world" issue, first. But I, for one, would love to take some of that maternity leave time and apply it to my children's futures.
When do you think is the most important time to spend with your kids?
Image via gronger/Flickr