The one thing every woman should do on maternity leave

New mom Jessica Borowick, two weeks before returning to work. Photo by Matt Borowick

New mom Jessica Borowick, two weeks before returning to work. Photo by Matt Borowick

Fly fish in Argentina, obviously. No, no, I'm teasing. But only kind of.

Many women coming back from leave have some version of the same complaint: a well-intended but clueless colleague welcomes them back and asks how they enjoyed their "break." Break! A break in which they fed a small human being 12 times a day, recovered from childbirth or even major surgery, and did it all on Guantanamo-torture levels of sleep deprivation. Not exactly the same thing as a vacation.

And yet, I'd like to make a case for maternity leaves (paternity leaves too) that are long enough (and paid enough) that taking an actual, restorative vacation during those weeks is possible. New mama Jessie Borowick, who's pictured here two weeks before she went back to work at her Manhattan law firm, did just that. I did too, back when my babies were 5 weeks old. And while it's true that a getaway with a newborn is really more of a relocation than a vacation, it's really, really fortifying.

I called one new father the other day to fact-check his quotes for my book manuscript. Turns out, he was just back from a surfing vacation following the birth of his second son. He and his wife were both on leave, and she "generously, amazingly," he told me, encouraged him to get away on his own for a few days. "With our first baby we never would have dreamed of it," he told me. "But this time we knew what was ahead of us,"—and knew the value of taking time for self care. "I definitely had thoughts of what am I doing here with my surfboard....I missed this so much," he told me. "Coming home I saw everyone differently and so gratefully. I just wanted to squeeze them. I feel like this trip accelerated our lives as parents." They both—husband and wife—got a glimpse of what life would look like eventually, beyond the newborn years, and that steadied them through the present and made them excited for the future.