When Your Nesting Instinct Doesn't Kick In Until the End of Mat Leave

When Your Nesting Instinct Doesn't Kick In Until the End of Mat Leave

Did you ‘nest’ in the final weeks of your pregnancy?

I think I’m finally experiencing the instinctual kick of adrenaline that has you obsessed with scrubbing floors, organizing the pantry, prepping freezer meals, and climbing up on ladders to clear away teeny tiny dust bunnies. There’s just one small inconsistency to the fact I’m experiencing it. You see, I’m not pregnant. In fact, I’m the opposite: preparing to go back to work after a year-long maternity leave.

There’s now an obsessive rotating ‘things-to-do-before-mat-leave-is-over’ reel playing in my mind.

I’m three weeks away from my alarm going off at 5:30am, being forced out of bed to get showered, dressed, wake up the kids, breastfeed the baby, get everyone fed and out the door by 7:30, get in my car and drive the hour in to work. And I guess I need to go inside when I get there and work for 8 hours.

The beginning of mat leave feels like a dream. A whole year off of work, stretched out in front of you. Four seasons. Christmas time. A whole summer off to be outside in the sunshine, laying in the grass and enjoying the warm months from the other side of the office window you’re regularly trapped behind.

“Dreamy” might not be the most fitting word for me, considering in the beginning of my maternity leave I had a newborn who wouldn’t sleep and a 2 year old who was still having night wakings, but the point is, work was really far away.

Now that back to work is around the corner, the nesting instinct that was totally absent for me at the end of my pregnancies has kicked in and I can’t turn it off. I feel compelled to finally declutter my closet and to finish the basement renovation that started two years ago. Not to mention I have an overwhelming desire to create a magical filing system for the shoes, mail, stickers, toys, and clothes that find their way onto my floors and counter tops each day.

I know I should be focusing on spending these precious last few weeks playing, cuddling, and enjoying my kids before I go back to work, but I just want to nest. I want to make my house an organized, stress-free space that will feel warm and welcoming when I walk in the door at the end of the work day.

I thought I’d have time to declutter and organize throughout my maternity leave. I thought this even though this isn’t my first maternity leave. How did I let that happen? I thought I’d be able to be home with the kids all day, plus have time for:

  • Weekly Picnics, visits to Museums, and other aspirational family adventures
  • Visits with friends I haven’t seen in a while (sorry, everyone)
  • Lovingly creating and printing baby books, and maybe even a wedding album
  • Planning birthday parties, or at least the one coming up in two weeks
  • Redecorating my living room
  • Organizing my pantry
  • Reading novels
  • Exercise
  • Hair cuts
  • Walking my dogs
  • Showering
  • Brushing my hair
  • Going to the bathroom alone
  • Eating a full meal without getting up 5 times

There’s a weird expectation around maternity leave which is that you will be able to do so much more than you could while you were working. And in a way, it’s true. But for some reason, there doesn’t seem to be much time for anything else between the naps, the feedings, and the sheer laziness that results from being up half the night for months on end.

I’ve had people ask me what it is I do all day, as if they’re expecting a list of amazing productive tasks or exciting adventures I’ve somehow had the energy for with a baby at home. It’s a narrative that needs a bit of a facelift. It’s really hard for a lot of moms on mat leave to tackle tasks and adventures. Often, one outing a day (e.g., groceries) is the maximum in terms of energy, patience, and straight up time.

I’m going to try and push away this intense nest-and-complete-entire-to-do-list feeling and cut myself a break. I’m going to force myself to remember that maternity leave is there, not as time to tackle a side business or fix up your entire house, but to bond and connect with your new child. I promise I’m going to try and remember that. Just as soon as I have a few ideas for that new organizational system for shoes.

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