The Difference a Year Makes

Andrea - Cambridge, United Kingdom
Entered on June 13, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood
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Two years ago I was practicing law in Canary Wharf, London’s financial district, billing clients in the requisite 6-minute increments. During the course of those days and nights, my concentration was broken by a ringing phone or the electronic beep of my computer telling me that another email had hit my inbox.

These days my time has taken a different shape – governed by 4-hourly feeds for my 5-month old twins, my thoughts now are interrupted by squeaks and squeals that come as often as my old emails used to.

These two jobs have a lot in common – I still work 24-hours a day for demanding clients whose sometimes infantile requests keep me up all night.

But of course now my life – my time – is completely different. The experience of moving from practice to motherhood has taught me that time can take many shapes. I believe in the malleability of time, and the importance of shaping your time into what you want it to be.

Now, as then, my time is not my own. Like many new parents, my husband and I wake throughout the night to feed our son and daughter, to change them, or just to give them the reassurance they need to go back to sleep. Nights blend into days, and I often lose the sense of when one night ends and a new day begins.

I spend my time with my children because I am lucky enough to live in a country that has given me a year-long maternity leave from my paid job. I have to admit that as an American this concept frightened me at first. What would I do for a whole year without the continuing arc of a career that I had come to rely on to mark my progress, my growth and yes, the passage of time itself?

Five months on I feel that every day, every night, every 4-hour block of time between feeds, is a blessing. My work now is a labor of love, comprised of small, menial tasks that together form a magical experience. I have come to love the fluidity of this time.

No, my time is not my own, and the moments I do have to myself are borrowed. But I feel I spend my time well, and it has taken the shape that I want it to.

I will return to work when my year is up, though not to Canary Wharf. Until then I will enjoy my maternity leave for what it is: a time with my children in their first months of life, which come only once, and which, after this year, will be gone forever.