There are a number of people that don’t agree with my decision to travel during maternity leave. I have learnt this through the backlash I received in the media when our story went viral a few months ago. Peoples concerns were always the same – “You’re selfish, this is about you, not the baby” or “What about travel vaccinations?” or “How did you finance it?” I felt I could answer everyone’s questions but essentially it’s each to their own I say! No harm came to Esmé and we had the most amazing first year of her life, all together as a family.
As many of you will know, we packed up our home when our new born was ten weeks old, sold our car and rented out the house to travel. We started our trip off visiting Singapore first, a few months in New Zealand followed by an epic journey commencing in Australia and through a large proportion of South East Asia. All before our daughter turned one!
I know many people have envied our trip because they may have been too scared to do it themselves. It’s been so lovely for us to hear we have already inspired many others to take the leap since they’ve heard our story.
Let me see if I can help you to make the decision with our twelve reasons to travel during maternity leave.
1. When else will you have this period of time off again?
I just feel it’s an opportunity not to be missed. Now, I know Mums outside the U.K have different maternity leave entitlements so it makes it near impossible to do what we did if you live in America, for example. However, for the rest of us from the other places where we can have a year off, why not do something different?
2. You do not have to maintain a household
This is something I just loved! No cleaning or dealing with general household administration whilst trying to get used to being a new mum.
3. Quality uninterrupted time as a family
We did it together rather than doing it alone on my maternity leave.
4. The second parent develops an equal relationship with baby
I appreciate there are many single parents, however as Shaun was able to be with us for the majority of the year, he has an equally amazing bond with Esmé. She doesn’t just cry for Mum, she always asks for both of us which I feel is really lovely.
5. When baby is exclusively breastfed it is the best time to travel
I recently interviewed an infectious diseases Dr Sarah Logan from University College London Hospital. Her opinion was it is the best time to travel with baby when they are exclusively breastfed. This is due to the amount of immunity they get from the milk as well as the reduced risk of water / food contamination. This is such a big topic that I wrote a whole page about it here.
6. Do it now whilst they are a little less mobile
Although we still travel extensively, I really appreciate the time we spent travelling when Esmé was a baby. It is just so much easier compared to when they start walking!
7. … and before they cost an arm and a leg at age 2
I think I can safely say we have made full use of babies go for 10% before they are two. With most airlines, come two years old, it is almost full price for a toddler’s ticket making it more expensive for families.
8. It may be more cost effective than staying at home
In our financial circumstances it was more cost effective to travel during maternity leave and spend a lot of time in South East Asia. It was the difference between having a year off and not. This is due to the cost living and a mortgage in London.
9. It’s harder to spend money than you think
So you would think it’s really expensive to travel as a small family for a long period of time but the truth is it’s harder to spend money because you just can’t fit in as much as one use to pre-baby. During our time away we had to take things nice and slowly, we didn’t do all the activities for obvious reasons and we didn’t drink our own body weight in alcohol (as we would have pre-baby).
10. Its character building
Many people have said to me “she won’t remember any of it, what a waste”. I agree she won’t remember anything but as we all know baby’s brains are a sponge and absorb the most amount of information in the first year of life. Why not expose them to a multitude of sites, smells and sounds? Why not allow them to interact with a multitude of different people from other cultural backgrounds? Anyone that knows Esmé will surely tell you she is the most sociable baby going. I think that may be how the experience has impacted on her the most.
11. It may reduce the chances of post-natal depression
A large claim I know and I don’t have any scientific evidence to back it up. But I think if you are leading a fun-filled lifestyle alongside becoming a new mum, it can only help with reducing the blues, not make it worse. For me, I was lucky enough to have my partner with me for the year. His constant company definitely helped. I have no idea if I would have developed post-natal depression if I stayed at home, but I certainly can see how it happens to a number of new mums.
12. You will take the most amazing photos and create special memories
I think one reason the media went crazy on our story was because of the tonnes of amazing photos we have of Esmé as a baby in different environments. From sitting outside picturesque temples in Vietnam in her hippy Asian print dress, to enjoying the steepest cable care ride in the world, we are so lucky to have this evidence to show her when she gets older.
I would love to know if you would travel during maternity leave and if we have inspired you in any way to take the leap. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know!
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