As I naively signed off my computer on my last day of work before "clocking off" for seven months of maternity leave, I could not have been more excited.

Dreaming of days of cups of tea in my lush new Peter Alexander robe, holding my sleeping bundle of joy and catching up on the latest episodes of Ellen were all high on my agenda.

I invested in the cutest stroller for all of our leisurely walks and even updated my activewear collection. 'Bring on seven months of new mum bliss,' I thought to myself.

For what I was about to experience, I could not have been more wrong.


To put it mildly, it was really bloody hard. My dressing gown is stained with baby puke, my baby doesn't like sleep at all and I didn't watch one episode of Ellen.

So it's been a real reality check upon returning to work, where I have been inundated with queries of how my "time off" was.

My email inbox is full of people, with the best intentions, asking if I had a "nice break"? And I truly nearly cyber karate kicked to the head the person who told me "the big holiday is finally over".

Call me crazy, but 212 days of sleep deprivation, 42 days of recovery from giving birth to a 9lbs13 baby, and countless tears as I attempted to simply survive this, wasn't even close to a bloody holiday.

But I couldn't say any of that could I?

• Scroll down for a timeline of what a day looks like with a 7-month-old baby

So I thanked the well-wishers, showed off the baby photos and went back to work as if I hadn't just been through the depths of postnatal lows and just wiped baby vomit off the butt of my trousers.

So last week when UK mum and journalist Anna Whitehouse shared an open letter on her Instagram expressing these exact sentiments, I was so relieved to finally feel like I wasn't alone.


Whitehouse explained it perfectly, noting that those months of emotional highs and lows, physical changes and lack of sleep are not a holiday in any way shape or form.

They are painfully primal, manic and anxiety-ridden.

Her Instagram post read:

"A reminder to businesses: maternity/paternity leave is not a holiday. It's not 'a nice break' and it is not time off," Whitehouse wrote.

"It's a heady cocktail of anticipation, expectation, arrival and survival. It's stripping yourself back to a primal state and nakedly navigating blocked milk ducts, torn stitches, bloody sheets, broken minds, manically Googling blackout blinds."

Importantly, in my opinion, Whitehouse also noted the position of privilege we are in when we become parents. A blessing that brings the purest form of happiness, that I am forever grateful for, but also brings the lowest of lows.

"You are needed. Every second you are needed. If not in person, in mind. It is a job. Without sick days. Without fair remuneration. It is the most privileged position in the world but it takes balls, guts (often with no glory), boobs and any other extremity you can put to work," she explained.

"It's the purest happiness. It's the starkest of contrasts. It's hobbling to the park post-birth, riding an Oxytocin high; returning home, crumpling into fetal position, succumbing to a postnatal low. It's life in its purest, ugliest, most startlingly beautiful form and it is raising others higher, above your hunger, above your exhaustion, above your needs. It is raising the next generation."

And that's just it - you are putting the needs of this tiny little person ahead of your own 24/7 with no let-up in sight. No matter how exhausted you are, you just have to keep going.

You find ways to make it work physically, emotionally and financially, but it's really, truly bloody hard.

I totally get why for me and so many others hearing this incredibly vulnerable time referred to as a "holiday", stings more than the first pee after childbirth.

On no holiday I have ever been on did I drink a cup of water that the cat had just drunk from, because a tiny human was asleep on me, and if he woke up my entire world and boobs might implode.

So the next time you see a new parent, or even an expecting one. They are not on holiday, they are not going on holiday, they have never even been on holiday. They have simply been surviving.