How to really make the most of your maternity leave
Calling maternity leave a rollercoaster is one hell of an understatement. From the peaks (aaaah, the baby’s smiling), to the troughs (why won’t they take the boob?!), to the endless loop-the-loops (will you ever sleep again?), maternity leave is a ride like no other.
Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll have lots of issues to contend with. In the US you might be facing minimal time off, in the UK you’re probably trying to work out what pay you’re entitled to and for how long. So as you figure all that out, you’re probably feeling a range of emotions.
Scared about becoming a mother? Excited about the time away from work? Worried about losing your identity? These are all valid emotions that most mamas will battle with at least one point during their maternity leave. And while it’s going to be a bloody slog at some points, there are some things you can try to keep in mind to make sure you have the best maternity leave possible. So here’s the Elvie guide to making the most out of your maternity leave. Because you deserve it, mama.
Reckon you’ve already got this?
If you’re financially secure, have a good support network, and are looking forward to becoming a mom, then you might be feeling like you’ve got this whole maternity leave thing covered. And good for you. The most important thing here is to remember to stay present. It can whizz by in a bit of a blur, so try and make the most out of the little moments.
Start a journal
Just jotting down a few thoughts and feelings a day or adding some of your little one’s milestones will mean you’ll have something to look back on. You could also add photos to turn it into a sort of maternity leave scrapbook. Nothing fancy, just a few scribbles and the odd photograph to record this precious time.
LOL mindfulness and motherhood might be a bit of an oxymoron, but if you can, steal a few minutes a day to meditate. And if that’s not possible, at least stay in the moment. For example, if you’re playing with your baby don’t look at your phone at the same time. While there’s no problem with scrolling, carve out separate times so you can be present with whatever you’re doing.
Enjoy the little things
From breastfeeding through the night to watching them interact with the world around them, try and enjoy all the small things. Night feeds might seem like an absolute ball-ache at the time, but they do say you miss them when they’re gone. 😅
Most mamas will be feeling at least a little bit apprehensive about maternity leave. So arm yourself with a few practical tips and ideas that will help you tackle maternity leave like the absolute champ that you are.
Don’t try and do everything at once
So you’ve told yourself you won’t be one of those moms, who stays home all day and changes their life to suit their baby. And good for you. But if you sometimes don’t fancy going out, that’s OK too. Staying home, canceling the playdate, rescheduling that gym class. It’s all totally understandable. Do a few things a week with your full attention instead of wearing yourself trying to do everything all at once.
Planning is pretty pointless
Your timekeeping will probably go out the window, at least for the first few weeks of maternity leave. You might arrange to meet a friend at 11 am for a quick coffee and not realize you need about 4 hours to pack the nappy bag. So at first, try not to make plans that are too concrete. Living in the moment is one of those cliche and annoying pieces of advice that might just save you in the early days.
Don’t be a people pleaser
Everyone will want to come and meet the baby in the first week (and who can blame them, it’s obviously the cutest baby ever), but if you’re not feeling ready, then be honest. Ask them to hold off a week, or even ask your partner to contact them. If they love you, they’ll totally understand.
Me time is not selfish
Whatever you did before the baby, keep doing it. Whether that was reading, writing, painting, playing music, or watching SATC reruns on repeat, taking some time to do something that you love will be good for you, and good for your baby. And when you’re sitting back at your desk a year from now, you definitely won’t regret taking that time for yourself.
Find some mom friends
Making friends as an adult can be intimidating, but nothing breaks the ice like a baby. Within minutes of meeting moms, they’ll be telling you about their C-section scars, the color of their baby’s poop, and the struggles they’re having with their pelvic floor. So find some fellow mamas to share the load with.
Get back to exercising
We have an aversion to bounce-back culture and we promise you’ll never find us suggesting you need to lose the baby weight. But exercise can be hella good for your mental health. From a slow jog listening to your favorite podcast to a 10-minute yoga session in your living room, there are plenty of exercises you can do with a new baby that will help you feel like your old self again.
Don’t completely forget about work
It can be tempting to shut your laptop, put your OOO on and not think about work again until the Sunday evening before you return 6 months later. But trust us when we say, keeping a connection with work, will make going back easier. Meet up with colleagues who are also your friends so they can keep you in the loop. Plus, you’ll appreciate the watercooler chat after a few weeks of peek-a-boo.
Go easy on yourself
In the now-infamous words of Adele, Go easssssy on me. You’ve just given birth to a whole human, it’s quite a shock. So be kind to yourself and don’t ask too much of your body or mind.
You’ve got this mama
Maternity leave is one of those periods of time that will feel like 5 minutes and 5 years all at once. So much will happen, so much will change, yet the day-to-day goings-on will probably feel rather stationary. So try and appreciate the little moments. You won’t get this time back.