As I write this, my newest baby girl will be one month old tomorrow, which means I’ve been on maternity leave for a little over 4 weeks now. I can’t believe how fast the time is going and I am grateful that I have 6 weeks left, although I am sure that those will fly by just as fast. I am thankful that I even get a paid maternity leave at all, when some moms don’t get any – but that’s a topic for a different post.
This is my second maternity leave and I have to say that I have been enjoying this one so much more than my last. It is a completely different experience this time around, in a good way! Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely not trade anything in the world for the 3 months that I got to spend at home with my first, but there was certainly no shortage of stress or tears cried as I adjusted to becoming a mother. Last time, I had dreams of a sparkling house, gourmet home cooked meals, and lots of relaxation – I clearly did not realize how much work and time it takes to take care of a tiny baby between feeding, diapering, wishing they would sleep, rocking to sleep, watching them sleep, worrying about why they aren’t waking up, and the list goes on. A lack of mom friends that could relate to me plus a severe case of cabin fever with a crying newborn would make anyone a little stir crazy, right?!
Here are a few tips that have helped me to enjoy maternity leave this time, and in turn, survive the newborn stage!
- Realize that maternity leave is not a vacation. Your job during maternity leave is to take care of a newborn, to take care of yourself, and, if you have them, spend time with your older children so they still feel special. If you can get anything else done in addition to those most important jobs, consider it a bonus, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t find the time to cook dinner every night or do a load of laundry that day.
- Find your village and use them. It really does take a village, which can include family and friends. Your husband, grandparents, mom friends, daycare teachers, they are all part of your village, and you need them! Let grandma take your older child for a weekend sleepover or go grab some coffee with friends to talk about something other than how many times a day you have to change a dirty diaper!
- Get out of the house, at least once a day. It might be tempting to stay holed up in the house in your pajamas and not pack the baby up in the car, but trust me, you need to get out of the house! Whether it be a walk around the block, wandering around aimlessly at Target while enjoying a Starbucks coffee, or on a play date, get out of the house.
- Get yourself ready for the day, even if you have nowhere to go. Even though you might spend the majority of the day glued to the couch feeding your newborn, don’t underestimate the power of a shower and some makeup!
- Don’t overbook yourself. Even though you need to get out of the house and talk to other adults to keep your sanity, don’t over commit. Don’t feel bad about saying no to invitations, especially if it will cause you stress about where and when to feed and change the baby, etc. You are allowed to decline an invitation and stay home on the couch snuggled up with your peacefully sleeping baby.
- Accept that it’s going to be difficult. This goes along with realizing that maternity leave isn’t a vacation. If it wasn’t difficult, you would still be able to go to work and not need maternity leave! There are going to be adjustments for your family, especially if you have older children. Once you accept that you are going to get minimal sleep and will be feeding and changing the baby around the clock, it makes the days easier. Understand that the baby might cry all day and there might not be anything that you can do to help it, because sometimes babies cry just because they want to. Also, if you have a baby that never cries or starts sleeping through the night early on, consider yourself lucky…and I’m jealous.
- Don’t watch the calendar. If you are going back to work and have a limited maternity leave, the time going by is bound to stress you out as you are going to have to go through another transition once you go back to work. Savor the time that you do have and don’t stress. This is easier said than done, but try to focus on all of the positive things with going back to work, like getting those cute pictures in your e-mail from daycare about their day or being able to eat your lunch while it’s still hot and in quiet!
- Find a good show to binge watch or books to read. You will be doing a lot of sitting around feeding the baby, holding them, and watching them sleep. Find a good show to binge watch or books to read to keep yourself entertained for all those times spent on the couch or in bed. My obsessions this maternity leave so far have been Parenthood and The Newsroom!
- Try to get into a routine. I had no routine whatsoever last maternity leave and was quite intimidated to even attempt to get into a routine. As a result, it was completely unpredictable when it was time for a feeding or a nap, which made it stressful to go anywhere. A routine will help you know if you can accept or need to decline an invitation and when you can get out of the house. This time, I’ve naturally fell into a routine because my older daughter still goes to daycare, so we have pick up and drop off times, and I’m exclusively pumping, which forces you to be into a routine.
- If you have older children, let them stick to their normal routines as much as possible. I contemplated taking my daughter out of daycare while I was on maternity leave, but my husband and I decided against it because we felt it would be too much change along with becoming a big sister, and I’m so thankful that we made this decision.
What tips do you have for enjoying maternity leave?