Emma Martel (Lee)
Call us on: (03) 9975 4133
Like most Type A expectant mothers, I had grand plans for my maternity leave. Coffee dates with friends, leisurely strolls in the sunshine, mums and bubs movies at the cinema and jet setting to introduce our son to interstate and international relatives. It was going to be a jam packed social schedule and something I had been looking forward to for years!
Our adorable son Ezra was born in November 2019 before the pandemic hit, but all parents know that those first few months are a hazy steep learning curve. The coffees were downed quickly as means of survival not pleasure, and the ’leisurely strolls’ were brisk power laps around the block in order to keep the baby asleep! We eventually emerged from the newborn fog, roaring and ready to commence the aforementioned social schedule…. just as the global pandemic was announced.
The Parallels of Mat Leave and Covid
When COVID hit, my lifestyle didn’t change all that dramatically. COVID stay at home orders imposed a lifestyle on Melbourneans that was surprisingly similar to life on mat leave with a challenging non sleeping newborn!
On mat leave, it’s a good day when you get out of your pyjamas before noon AND brush your teeth before dinnertime, yet many would admit that COVIDs work from home orders have enabled you to attend a zoom work meeting in your pajamas with unbrushed teeth!
A large portion of mat leave is spent confined to your home, as life becomes dictated by milk feeds, mealtime and sleep routines. COVID stay at home orders have essentially turned everyone into home hostages!
On mat leave, there is no differentiation between weekdays or weekends – you are on call 24/7! Working from home during COVID has meant that many people are struggling to switch off (or on!) and to differentiate between work and leisure. Humans aren’t designed to sleep, work, eat and relax- all in the same room!
Having a baby provides a great excuse for overlooking household chores, yet the COVID restrictions on us all mean the chance of someone dropping by for a visit are essentially nil. Not a soul will witness your unmade bed or the fact that you pushed the cleaning back by another week… or three!
During mat leave, parents in the masses take to the streets with their prams for their daily afternoon walk in an attempt to escape the confinement of home and to get some fresh air and headspace. The streets are now joined by…. well everyone…. utilising their allocated exercise allowance and similarly seeking a change in scenery from the monotonous walls of home as they grasp at their sanity.
To avoid being the parent whose child is disturbing the peace at a restaurant/cafe pre-COVID, we had already been recreating our favourite Melbourne brunch at home and exploring the world of home baked sourdough. When COVID hit, our sourdough starter became a sought after commodity, as Melbourneans everywhere tried their hand at baking and reproducing their favourite cafe and restaurant meals.
During mat leave, there are certainly moments of loneliness, isolation, and nostalgia for your ‘old’ fancy-free social life. COVID restrictions have left everyone experiencing some form of isolation and loneliness as we crave connection, and desire a hug from our friends and relatives. Who doesn’t wish that our lives would go back to ‘normal’, and realise how unappreciative we were of the freedom we enjoyed back in those pre-COVID days.
Melbourneans have essentially unknowingly experienced a 6 month term of mat leave without the night waking but also without the reward of adorable baby cuddles!
The blessing of COVID
The circumstances of the world are unprecedented right now and everyone is writing the survival rulebook as we go. It’s true that new parents have missed out on a lot during COVID; the physical interaction and support of other parents, baby playdates, experiencing milestones in person with friends and family, and the practical help on those really tough days. My son has spent ⅔ of his life in a global pandemic, and hasn’t been held by more than a handful of people this year!
On the flipside, COVID has made us stop and look at who we are, what we value and how we feel when certain things are taken away from us. COVID has meant that my parents short visit turned into a 3 month help-fest as they were stuck in Melbourne during stage 4 restrictions. COVID has allowed my husband and I to have much richer 1:1 time with our son without the pull and distraction of a social life. COVID has opened up the world of zoom and video chats with out-of-touch friends and family, who can now share the same level of familiarity and connection with our son as anyone outside of our household! COVID has meant that the FOMO I felt from missing out on work and social engagements whilst on mat leave is shared with the rest of the city!
For me, being on mat leave during COVID has confirmed that I am an overwhelming extrovert as I craved company and face to face interaction/connection. My favourite part about being a physio has always been the privilege of the 1:1 time I get to spend with my patients.
I am excited to be starting back at work, and I can’t help but feel hopeful that we are emerging on the other side of COVID as the smell of spring blossom fills the air. I’m not sure that my new skillset of silly faces and fart noises will be a great value add to my physio appointments, but I can’t wait to get back into the clinic and see you all on October 15th, 2020.
About the Author
Emma Martel (Lee) — Consultant Physiotherapist
Emma values the importance of listening to her patients to fully understand their symptoms and treatment goals. Through skilled biomechanical analysis of the whole body, her objective lies not only in treating symptoms but identifying the true origin of the problem and working with her patients to prevent future episodes of pain and injury.