In my 39 weeks of maternity leave I found the reality is most of it seemed to be snuggling, sleeping, pulling funny faces, singing and the inevitable slog of cleaning, laundry, crying and pulling my hair out. But it’s fun to dream and make plans and I think that you need a little something to think about during maternity that isn’t how recently your tiny new addition to the family fed, burped and pooped. These are the five things I think that every parent should do on maternity leave. Let me know in the comments if you have a better idea!
Been planning a room change? Want to scrub up that bathroom? Add a splash of paint to the kitchen? It doesn’t have to be huge. It can be buy some new accessories for the living room or get a matching bedspread and curtains for the bedroom. Something that’s fun to research (I recommend pinterest!) and leaves you smiling to look at. I think that maternity leave is a time when you might be feeling a little bit down and restricted and I know that I often felt out of control in those early months, which can leave us very vulnerable to mental health problems. Creativity and artistic expression is well known to help improve mood and sprucing up our surroundings can help feel relaxed when at home.
Plan a vacation
For me, vacation planning is almost as fun as actually going on the vacation. Am I weird? Sometimes just looking at holiday options can be fun. A lot of people thought we were crazy for traveling with a baby, but as far as I’m concerned, you should continue to do what you love. Yes, there’s no denying things will be different. Our holidays are not the same now. But our first major vacation with our son was 2 weeks driving around the Scottish Highlands and we loved almost every minute of it. So don’t feel like you can’t plan something that you want to do or look forward to things in the future. If you don’t like planning holidays, then this one isn’t for you – but take away the same message from it. You can plan to do things that you used to do, or new things that you want to do, even with a baby in tow, and when you’re wedged on the sofa with a sleeping newborn and can just about reach your phone but can’t possibly move, that’s an ideal time to start researching something you will enjoy.
Have a baby photoshoot
No I don’t mean you have to hire one of those ridiculously expensive photographers who charge £80 for a print. You can of course get some really beautiful photos by going pro – but why not have the fun of planning and carrying out a photo shoot for yourself? Find a location, take a few outfits, grab a camera and get snapping! It can be at home on the sofa if you pick the right material and have plenty of lighting. You don’t have to go all out but sometimes a little forethought and planning can make for some really nice pics, even if all you’ve got is a phone to work with.
Plop them up on Instagram if you fancy, or just share them with your nearest and dearest. The majority of the hundreds of photos I took I didn’t share with anyone, but looking back at my pictures is really special to me and I’m glad I took so many!
Eat out at new places
I’ve been pushing myself outside of my usual boundaries and eating out where budget allows. And yup, I’m taking the baby with me! With more free time I’ve been able to research more restaurants on TripAdvisor and from advice from fellow mums. I’ve been able to read reviews and send the restaurant a quick message on Facebook or email asking if they have space for a baby at the table. If I was at work all day I probably wouldn’t have the energy, so I’m taking advantage of the time I have now. You can do it with a baby in your arms as he naps too – just grab your phone and get the TripAdvisor app. Like everything, having a baby means that the way you do things has changed, so perhaps your old haunts won’t be suitable any more, but I do believe there are family friendly options and that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t continue to eat out with a baby.
Make new friends
Kids are a great opportunity to make new friends. You’ve got something in common – you’re all probably a bit fed up and want to complain about the lack of sleep and how there seems to be regurgitated milk half way up the living room wall. You also all want to talk about his first smile and those cute little fingers and how smart he’s going to be because he definitely looked like he was thinking about something as he stared at the pampers bag earlier. Probably already doing complex maths in his head and it totally wasn’t wind.
Of course making new friends is always hard, especially as you get older, but there are a lot of parent and baby groups out there that you can go to for an ice-breaker and it’s never been easier to keep in touch online with Facebook, WhatsApp or just good old fashioned texting. I can’t believe I just called texting old fashioned. Coffee shops and cake seem to be very popular with new mums and no one ever turns down cake – need that extra energy! I talk about two apps that can help you find people locally very easily (and they’re free!) in my must-have apps for parenting guide.
I think that’s enough to get on with for now. I’m exhausted just thinking about all the things I want to do. Let’s hope I get around to some of them… maybe I should have added watch all the TV shows on Netflix to my list as that’s the real goal for me!
After maternity leave is over, going back to work can be really daunting as it’s a big change to how you’ve spent the last 9 months. You have the added stress and anxiety of juggling a workplace and being present for your family and a lot of people struggle with confidence and self-esteem after taking an extended leave. That’s why you need to think positively, and think about all the things there are to look forward to when returning to work after maternity leave!