One of my biggest anxieties early in this postpartum period was how I would manage 12 weeks of maternity leave. When I went down to visit my mom, I literally cried on the phone to Bobby about how I should have only requested six weeks. I wanted to call S’s day care and see if they could start him earlier. I thought about dialing up the HR office at work and having them change my return date.
Now I’m glad I didn’t do that.
Like I said in my last post, having a newborn is hard work. But I’m honestly learning to have fun on my maternity leave, too. My list of personal maternity leave commandments (and a short explanation of each) is below.
Baby nap time = Me time
I know most folks say to sleep when the baby sleeps, and I do sleep or rest when I feel like I need it. But mostly I’ve implemented a rule that I will do something I enjoy while the baby naps. I also, with few exceptions, will not do any sort of housework while he sleeps (unless, like yesterday, I desperately need to wash bottles). And the other part of this “rule” is that I will not feel guilty about it. On my maternity leave with N, I felt so pressured to do everything perfectly, and that if I wasn’t cleaning and cooking I wasn’t doing my job. I’m taking it easier this time, and I’m much less stressed.
Baby awake time = Chore time
Admittedly, I spend a good amount of time feeding and holding the baby, but he also is usually pretty content to chill in the Mamaroo or Rock and Play for 20-30 minutes of his awake time after his bottle. I try to come up with one or two tasks that I want to get done around the house every day, and I focus on those while he’s awake and content. Yesterday, my task was to wash and change out all the bedclothes (in Bobby’s and my bedroom, on N’s bed and in S’s crib). This was a fairly small job, but it was so nice getting into bed with clean sheets last night, and Bobby commented on how much he appreciated it. Breaking the housework up into more manageable pieces helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something without feeling overwhelmed.
Get out of the house
With the exception of Tuesday, which was just a pretty horrendous day after not getting much sleep Monday night, S and I have gotten out of the house for a little while every day this week. Wednesday and yesterday, we took lunch to Bobby at work and did some shopping afterward. Last time I was so anxious about taking N out of the house by myself, but this time I am embracing it, and it’s much less depressing and tiring than sitting around the house all day. It’s actually pretty fun, because I have time to do some things that I normally wouldn’t while I am working.
Connect with friends
I’m making an effort to maintain friendships rather than putting them on hold until the baby’s older/sleeping better/is in day care/etc. This also helps sometimes with getting out of the house, like yesterday when S and I went to visit our friend Natalie and her two daughters at their house. It was fun and fairly stress-free, and spending time with a friend made me feel happier.
Get back to ‘normal’ life
I told Bobby a few weeks ago that even though it might be difficult, I really wanted us to get back to our ‘normal’ routine as quickly as possible. Obviously it’s going to change somewhat with the addition of a new, very small and needy family member, but it allows us both to have time away from the kids, time with our friends and time to do things we enjoy. On Thursday, Bobby hung out with some guys from our church group while I stayed home with the boys. Today (Saturday) during N’s nap time, I’m planning to have a few hours to myself (probably going to go get a pedicure!).
These are just things I’ve found helpful so far. I’d imagine the same would hold true if I was staying home full-time after my leave. For me, I think it would be easy to get so lost in taking care of the kids and the house that I never did anything for myself, and I think that’s when I would get overly stressed, anxious and, honestly, angry. So keeping these “commandments” for myself in mind is helping me be able to really enjoy maternity leave.