The other day I was in line to buy lunch. I was at work, visiting friends. They were sitting outside with the Baby while I lined up, sans pram, like a normal person. The man in front of me was my first-ever public service boss, 10 years ago. Now we work on the same floor, because Canberra is like that. He’s kind of socially awkward and has a way of interacting that makes you wonder if he’s secretly laughing at you, even if you’re not saying anything that could be funny on any level. I asked what he was doing at the moment and he had some story about being moved into a different team for a while and blah blah. He asked me what I was doing, in a “Oh I haven’t seen you around for a while” kind of way. I said, “I’m at home. With a baby.”
“Oh,” he says. He doesn’t know what to say. He’s a middle-aged gay man and he doesn’t seem the family type. I happen to know he left the job where he was my boss to go and live alone on Oxford Street and basically party 24/7. Maybe he wrote a novel? “That’s not very exciting,” he adds.
He’s pretty much the only person who has really hit the nail on the head, of what maternity leave isn’t. Exciting.
“It’s not,” I say. “It’s lovely, but it’s not exciting.”
I am saved from further conversation about my ambivalent feelings towards maternity leave by the appearance of other people who know me, female people who have children of their own, whose first words when I announced my pregnancy a year ago were, “How exciting!”
Having a baby is exciting. There’s no other word that covers the same mix of joy and terror, of life changing completely, of inviting a brand new person into your family. Staying at home with said baby, day in, day out? Not so much.
I miss writing. My job – in this big shiny office building where I was visiting – involved lots of writing. All day. To all kinds of people. I miss creating sentences, paragraphs, putting my point across with words. I miss adult interaction. I miss being able to turn around and say, “What do you think about this?” I miss feeling productive and I miss feeling intellectually challenged.
And so, yet another blog is born.