Maternity Leave Milestones
What can I reasonably expect to get done during my maternity leave?
I’m getting ready to have my baaayyyybbbeee, which is super exciting and I just can’t wait. But there’s a little something I’m worrying about. Maternity leave. I’m taking at least 12 weeks, maybe a little more. And 12 weeks is starting to seem like a looooooooong time to be away from work for a type A girl like myself. I get a little crazed when I’m bored… So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a list of achievable projects or just things to do to keep me occupied while I’m on leave, little things to make me feel like I done *something, anything* each day. For example, our local theater has a Mommy/Baby movie morning on Wednesdays–so I’ll go to that. But what to do with the other mornings, and mid days, and afternoons? TV in my living room seems like a bad idea.
Do you have any advice on things that are worth adding to the list? Obviously I won’t be renovating my kitchen during this time, but what sorts of things can I reasonably expect to do while I’m on leave?
Oh hey, you remind me of ME. The me of just a little over four years ago, who was also about to go on leave and had All Sorts Of Plans for my leave. Some of those All Sorts Of Plans included:
1) Send out birth announcements and thank-you notes.
2) Regular weekly lunch with friends from work.
3) Regular weekly lunch with husband at his work.
4) Daily walk around neighborhood with baby and dog.
5) Have non-work friends and relatives over to meet the baby at least once.
6) Attend Mommy & Me events in the area, such as movies, playgroups, exercise classes
7) Re-organize closet (i.e. pack up maternity and swap out seasonal clothing)
8) Two or three contract copywriting assignments from my company
10) Resist all daytime television, except for maybe The Price Is Right, because come on.
See? All perfectly reasonable, in all honesty. Nothing that I previously couldn’t manage to do in a single weekend, or on top of an 8-hour workday.
So how’d I do?
1) Done! With some help from my mom, who came to help out around week three. We churned these suckers out…while sitting on the couch and watching television. (It was at least a DVD, and not soaps or Dr. Phil.)
2) Nope. Never happened. Turned out that getting out of the house with a newborn was a lot tougher than I ever anticipated — I needed a good two hours’ lead time to get us both up and cleaned and dressed, and then suddenly there was ALWAYS another poopy diaper or spit-up all over both of us. Since I was trying to accommodate my working friends’ understandably tight lunch break schedules, I had to cancel both of my attempts to meet them because I just always seemed to be running too late.
3) Once! I did this once.
4) I did take walks. They were far from daily, but I did take a few. The weather did not really cooperate the way I expected.
5) Yes, we had plenty of visits from friends and family. I actually preferred when my friends would invite us OUT with the baby, either to early dinners at family-friendly restaurants or for casual get-togethers at their house. That way I didn’t have to stress over my lack of hostessing skills or my messy house, and it was always, ALWAYS easier to get out of the house with Jason around to help than when I made solo attempts. So if your friends want to see the baby, consider fishing for an invitation OUT OF YOUR OWN HOUSE.
6) I went to one mother & baby movie screening, after probably two or three weeks of failed attempts. Again…I don’t know, I just sucked at getting us up and out of the house on time. I misjudged how flipping TIRED I would be, and how that sleep deprivation would effect my general life skills. Like I got theaters mixed up, misread schedules, got turned around in parking garages, would drive halfway there and realize that I forgot to pack a single extra diaper.
9) Yes! I did. A lot. And I’m so glad, because those are some of the most hideously embarrassing entries I’ve ever written, but HOT DAMN, I was tired.
10) I’m also grateful for all those mornings I got to spend with Bob Barker before he passed away retired (update: sorry for the confusion Bob. We love you!). It was a really special time.
I don’t mean to sound snarky here — those really were my goals and my results. I was not happy with them, for a long time, since I felt like such a clueless failure for not being able to leave the house without it being a big, rushed, late, frantic production. I wish someone had sat me down and taught me the great art of STREAMLINING with a newborn (something I didn’t learn until Ezra, until necessity forced me to). (Key points: sling or carrier instead of carseat/travel-system; the bigger your diaper bag, the more useless/pointless crap you will carry around with you while still forgetting essentials; keep essentials like diapers, wipes, spare outfits in your car, so if you do forget something you don’t have to abandon everything and go home.)
I guess I’m still trying to say that 1) it’s good to have goals, and 2) it’s good to be kind to yourself if you don’t actually meet those goals, in between all this business of caring for a new human being, being completely tied to the capricious wills of a new human being, and of being so tired you don’t even mind walking face-first into a wall because OH THANK GOD, the wall woke you up right before you were about to fall down the stairs.
Oh, and 3) those 12 weeks are going to go by so fast. You won’t even believe it.
So. If I had to come up with some new goals for a hypothetical maternity leave, it would look something like this:
1) Send out birth announcements and thank-you notes.
2) Bring baby to meet coworkers at the office, leaving the day and time non-specific so you don’t feel pressured if you’re running late or the baby is particularly off his schedule that day.
3) Same thing for your partner’s office and coworkers. Forget the lunch hour thing, just commit to getting over there so s/he can show off the baby at least once.
4) Walk around neighborhood whenever you feel a bit stir-crazy, or it’s a beautiful day, or you’re having trouble getting the baby down for a nap. If it doesn’t happen some days, eh. Experiment with carriers or the stroller, drive to a mall and walk around if the weather is bad. (I strapped Noah into a Bjorn and went up and down our condo building’s steps just to satisfy my need to get some physical activity in some days.)
5) Attend Mommy & Me events in the area, such as movies, playgroups, exercise classes. So…I sucked at these, but they exist for a reason. If you enjoy them, get on a local moms’ message board and find more. If they stress you out or bore you, cross ’em off your list without a second thought.
6) If you can’t swing visits and outings, embrace easier, low-maintenance ways to keep in touch. Talk on the phone. Get a webcam so far-away relatives can “see” the baby. Spend as much time on Facebook as you want without guilt.
7) Take photos and/or video of your baby every day. Start a scrapbook or or online baby book or SOMETHING to start the good practice of keeping every organized and (especially for digital photos) backed-up in case of a hard drive failure.
8) Leaving the house is a goal in and of itself, and that includes the seemingly endless appointments with your pediatrician, lactation consultant, and OB/GYN. Hooray! You did it! And you remembered to wear pants!
9) And lastly, remember that taking care of your baby is also a goal. And kind of the whole point. The first few weeks that means feedings every two to three hours. Lots of diaper changing and laundry and then more changing. Then there’s pumping for your return to work, finalizing daycare, getting him or her on some semblance of a schedule…all while trying to get some rest and sleep yourself. It’s not as brutal as it sounds, honest, but it IS anything but boring.
10) Bookmark, read, live, learn and love RookieMoms.com. I KNOW I’ve recommended this site before but seriously. Click on the “months 1-3” button for tons of practical easy activities you can do with your baby during maternity leave. For the most part, the activities are realistic, doable goals that should satisfy the Type-A in you while also appealing to the sleep-deprived Type-Zzzzzz reality. (There’s a book, too!)
You may also enjoy:
– The SAHM Gig: What Am I Supposed To DO All Day?
Have you heard of P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign? Alphamom contributors are sharing motherhood advice on how moms can be helpful at particularly stressful times (ahem, postpartum) times and encouraging you all to tell your moms how much you appreciate them. Submit your story and you could win $1,000 for a special visit with your mom! Each month there are 15 winners. The contest runs through November 30.