Whenever I look back at my life, I consider myself a very lucky girl indeed. I’ve had a ball really, and have been fortunate enough to spend
my time with some amazing people, enjoy an interesting, fun PR career
and do a bit of world travelling to boot.
Usually, when I reflect over the past year at Christmas, I think about
far flung places I’ve been to, parties and social functions I’ve attended, glam trips to London with colleagues…but then there was this year. In 2014, I haven’t been on holiday abroad, I’ve only been on two nights out, I haven’t been to any wine tasting events or posh award ceremonies, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep and my back is shot to buggery – but it’s been my absolute favourite year. Bar none.
Of course, the reason for that is currently snoozing on my knee. My Little J came bouncing into being in March, and from that moment on, my world began to spin on a different axis.
I didn’t know what I’d think of maternity leave really. I had an inkling that I’d probably enjoy it at first, but miss the hustle and bustle of working in the city soon enough. In reality, I’ve loved, LOVED, every single second. I’ve just loved it.
I live in a lovely little market town in the Peak District (about 12 miles from Manchester). It’s surrounded by green hills and rolling purple moors, and over the past few years, the town centre has really started to flourish. Beautiful delis, independent coffee shops, vintage tea rooms and wine tasters have opened up in some of the old, shut-down shops and it’s a very fabulous place to be a new mummy. I didn’t used to love it here, as a teenager I ached to get away to live somewhere where I could be anonymous, and for several years after university, I lived with my girlfriends in various locations around Manchester. But it lured me back eventually and I feel very fortunate to be able to bring J up in such a fabulous place.
Being on maternity leave has allowed me reconnect with my hometown and has given me a sense of community previously unimagined. Rather than rushing from place to place in my car, having a baby has slowed down my pace of life to such an extent that I’ve been able to really look around me once again, and take stock of my life. Trying to get back in shape (and trying to get J to sleep) has meant hours of walking up and down streets and lanes that I’ve not walked on with my actual feet since I was a kid. I’ve actually become quite emotional on occasion as walking down certain streets has awoken forgotten childhood memories; walking in the rain with my grandma, laughing and chatting with school friends. It’s been almost magical really. I’ve even been to the library hall that once hosted my 9th birthday party (for a baby group), but I refrained from reliving the occasion by dancing to Jason Donovan and eating cheesy pineapple on sticks. Much as I wanted to.
As well as slowing down the pace, I really think maternity leave has given me a sense of ownership of my town. I feel part of something, a member of the community and, for the first time, I’ve been joining in with things that I would have usually shunned in favour of going to the pub or a city centre bar. This Christmas, Little J and I been to watch carol singers in the town centre, attended a lantern parade and been to a children’s Christmas music party at my local church. We’ve been to craft fairs and cupcake decorating sessions. Who even knew this kind of thing existed!?
Coupled with that, it’s Christmas Eve and rather than working and trying to frantically tie up all the loose ends for the year before darting out for copious amounts of alcohol, I’m in my pyjamas with a hot chocolate, curled up on the sofa watching Elf. Maternity leave does indeed ROCK.
Additionally, I’ve decided to go freelance after my leave ends, which will hopefully allow me a greater work-life balance in the future. I’m genuinely excited to see what happens, and I feel truly blessed for the opportunity.
So here’s to you, 2014. Thanks for being massively awesome. And a big MERRY CHRISTMAS and happy new year to all – and I hope your 2015 is brilliant xxxx