I wasn’t totally sure if I was completely mad or very valiant climbing on a plane to go to a friend’s wedding with 4 month old Eve. What I didn’t expect is the boost to my self esteem. I think it is really easy to lose some of your self esteem and belief in yourself when you are on maternity leave.
I don’t know about you but when I see my mega mothering achievements – She slept! She fed! She pooed! – through others’ eyes, I don’t rank them as significant as my work achievements. Everyone has children, not everyone excels in their work place. Now it is important to pause here, and state for the record that this is all in my head. When I look objectively, I can see that bringing up a child is an amazing role and huge achievement. Emotionally though it doesn’t always feel like that – it is relentless, a long haul and as full of highs and lows as a roller coaster. My world becomes smaller. Getting into town or making it to a toddler group become major achievements and your sense of self and of courage can slip away stealth-like.
I wasn’t alone completely. And I was only going for a long weekend. (Did you see that mother who went travelling round the world on her maternity leave?!!) But I did it. All. By. Myself. (Wow, I sound like my four year old!) I flew to the south of France with a baby and took her to my friend’s wedding, and even a lunch party the next day.
I’m usually pretty protective of naps and feeding i.e. making sure there is time for these things when my little one needs them. Doing this trip meant I was always trying to work around others’ schedules – flight times, invitation times etc. Babies also are a law unto themselves, they might wake early or sleep late, or really often I found it would take an age to feed because she was distracted by everything going on around her. I started feeling bit like a maths genius in the end, constantly calculating times to work out the best way of doing everything.
The trip itself showed me what a patient, resilient, happy baby I had. It also showed me that she will let me know with a loud wail if things have gone too far and she is too tired, hungry etc. It showed me what a rapport I had already built up with her in just 4 months. It reminded me what great friends I have and how supportive they are. It also tested my problem solving skills, not just working out baby stuff but how to get the rear seats down in a Renault Scenic, driving in France, working out how to fit all our kit into the car and how to find a good restaurant to eat at.
It’s not that I’m recommending this specific thing, but I do recommend getting out of your comfort zone, whatever that may be. Because going to this wedding in France showed me what had been there all the time. You don’t notice how ‘good’ you are until you push yourself a bit. It’s hard when you’re feeling small or inadequete and it may feel quite selfish or guilty putting your baby out of her comfort zone. But challenging yourself and your baby is extremely rewarding. I think both my little one and I have both grown as a result.
At the end of the day modelling confidence and self esteem to your children is a good thing but it can only be done if you genuinely feel these things. Seeing my four year old at the arrivals gate and telling her all about our trip was great because I really felt the confidence shine out of me. My hope for both my daughters is that they will also challenge themselves and surprise themselves with the things they are capable of.
If you are flying with a baby and want some tips there are some great pieces of advice online e.g. Hither and thither
My top three tips are:
- Book the flight at a good time for your baby. We travelled out and back over her lunchtime nap. It wasn’t seemless though, she fell asleep with 20 mins left on the flight because she was so interested. However, it gave me a little break and the lack of nap on the plane meant she napped in the hire car later too.
- It helps to feed babies on take off and landing to equalise their ears. So I delayed her feed until take off, which made her a bit grisly; but we were 15 mins delayed and it takes an age for the plane to get to the runway and take it’s slot. By the time we took off and were making the changes in altitude that set your ears off, I had been feeding for half and hour and had nearly finished!
- Work out the best way to transport your baby. I had my baby sling to hand all the time but kept the car seat was better at some points in the journey like going through security, and we needed that for the hire car. Her buggy would have been too bulky to take with us.