I’ve officially been back at work longer than I was on maternity leave. And ironically, if I were at my old job, this would be right around the time I would be returning to work. The end of maternity leave came out of nowhere this time around, which makes sense since it was 8 weeks versus 20 weeks.
Since this was my second time around, I was able to hit the ground running without the false expectations I had as a mom-to-be. Oh that silly naïve almost mom, thinking Maternity Leave was going to be this glorious and relaxing time. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Here are some maternity leave tips and hacks to help you survive
Leave the house at least once a day
Being stuck inside all day, every day, with a newborn is challenging, boring and lonely. Newborns basically do three things – sleep, poop, eat, and repeat. Of course, it is incredible to just snuggle all day with them because they can’t escape. Take in their smell. Enjoy the feeling of them laying in your arms. Because once they figure out how to crawl, they want nothing less than to break free of your embrace. And forget about getting a toddler to sit down for more than three seconds. That often ends with boogers on your cheek and a block down your shirt.
Everyday, make a plan to leave the house, even if just to go for a walk around your neighborhood. Too cold to go outside? Drive to your nearest mall or department store (or even grocery store) and just walk around. On both of my leaves, I spent countless hours wondering the aisles of Target. It’s during those times that I discovered just how many different types of organizational bins exist (and how badly I needed them for my house). Side note: You do not need those bins. If you’re anything like me, they are still sitting in your basement. I had such big goals of organizing the basement while on leave. Which brings me to my maternity leave tip.
Set one (realistic) goal per day
And by goal, I do not mean to clean your entire house or organize your garage. I mean, something that you can actually accomplish between feedings and diaper changes. My daily goals ranged from drinking one hot cup of coffee to actually making dinner. Neither rarely happened but at least I set them.
With my second leave, I went a little deeper with my goals and was able to actually put laundry away on certain days and take the dog (and baby) out on the trail. With my first, it was pretty hard to even leave the house. It took a while before I felt comfortable enough leaving without an entire department store piled into my diaper bag. The first time around, I was prepared with enough formula and diapers to be stranded for days. Abby was set for any and all circumstances. Because you never know when you’ll be stranded in suburbia and needing five different baby tutus. The answer is never. You will never need five tutus to get coffee. With my second, I was lucky if I remembered to pack clothes. Gregory often ended up in a public place just wearing a diaper after a poop explosion. But at least I remembered the diaper (even if one time it was his older sister’s diaper.)
Tell people to visit
When you first have a baby, people flock to see the new bundle. They bring food, stories from the outside, and often, coffee. But after a little while, the crowds lessen and you’re on your own again, wishing someone would come over to let you sleep or give you the opportunity to speak with another adult. It’s not their fault. People work during the day. Life gets a bit busy. And, in many cases, they think you’d prefer to be alone.
After my maternity leave with Abby ended, I often spoke about how lonely I would get during the day with no one to talk to except an infant who barely kept her eyes open and a pup who didn’t understand this tiny creature with ear-pinching noises. (The cat was rarely seen). And the most common responses I received were “Why didn’t you tell me, I would have been happy to visit. I just assumed you wanted alone time with your baby.” People believe you want space. And yes, in some cases you do want to be alone to enjoy your baby, but on some days you crave the outside world. Pick up the phone and tell someone you need a visitor. You just had a baby. A tiny human just escaped from your body and is demanding your attention constantly. You are allowed to be selfish and tell someone you need them.
Do something that makes you feel human everyday
It is really easy for the days to blend together. One minute it’s the early morning and your pouring yourself a cup a coffee, and the next minute it’s 6 pm and you realize you never even tasted it. I can’t tell you how many days John would come home from work and I hadn’t moved from the couch once. I’d find myself frustrated and surrounded by wet bibs and empty boxes of cereal (the only thing I was able to eat all day), wearing three-day old pajamas. I often felt outside of my element, exhausted, and often smelly.
My second time around on maternity leave, I made a plan to shower and enjoy one hot cup of coffee to myself each day. A small victory, but something that made me feel more like “me”. And once I was cleared to workout by my doctor, I would go for a walk (and later a run). I’m not saying these were easy to accomplish. It often involved waking up at 5 am in between feedings and diaper changes. And that hot cup of coffee usually happened at around 4 pm right after Gregory went down for a nap and Abby was at daycare. There was little chance of enjoying a hot cup with a toddler attempting to pull you away from a newborn.
Give yourself a break
If you can swing it, take a few hours off one day. Ask a family member or a close friend to watch your baby and take yourself out. Grab lunch alone. Go see a movie. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk without a baby in tow. During my time with Abby, John took an entire day off of work, giving me the opportunity to just worry about myself for the day. Since my time was so short with Gregory, John took an evening with both kids and I went out to dinner with a friend. Another day, I went out with just Abby and John spent the day with Gregory. Having even just a few hours to do something other than taking care of a newborn (even if it still involves the responsibility of mom) rejuvenates you like you wouldn’t believe.
So go make the most of your maternity leave. And remember, you’re a Rockstar! You got this!