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Maternity Leave Milestones

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

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’ve 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?

Thanks!

Overachiever

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.

My 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 copy writing assignments from my company.

9. Blog.

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. Send out birth announcements and thank-you notes. 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. Regular weekly lunch with friends from work. 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. Regular weekly lunch with husband at his work. Once! I did this once.

4. Daily walk around neighborhood with baby and dog. 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. Have non-work friends and relatives over to meet the baby at least once. 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. Attend Mommy & Me events in the area, such as movies, playgroups, exercise classes. 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.

7. Re-organize closet (i.e. pack up maternity and swap out seasonal clothing). No.

8. Two or three contract copy writing assignments from my company. No.

9. Blog. 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. Resist all daytime television, except for maybe The Price Is Right, because come on. 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 I had Ezra and 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.

Hypothetical (and More Realistic) Maternity Leave Plans

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. Leave 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. Repeat 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 want. Like when 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. Find alternative ways to connect with people you love and miss. 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. Count every time you leave the house as an outing. 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. 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!)

10. 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.

You may also enjoy:
The SAHM Gig: What Am I Supposed To DO All Day?

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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cagey
Guest

That is a great, reasonable list of things to do in the first month or so with a new baby! I would also like to add breastfeeding support groups to the list, if the new mom is planning on breastfeeding. With my firstborn, I went to my hospital’s support group and it was GREAT. It was a nice, comfortable place where I did not have to stress or struggle with the whole “breastfeeding in public” aspect. I felt safe there from judgment (because oh YES, folks judge when you breastfeed in public.) It allowed me to gradually get comfortable and… Read more »

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen

miriam
Guest
miriam

second that. i had all sorts of ambitious plans– catch up on my reading, get back into shape, finish shower thank-you notes…
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!
12 weeks flies by. Work on: 1) learn how to take care of baby, and 2) recover from pregnancy. Once you’ve mastered that, feel free to learn a new language or something…

Emily
Guest

I think Bob Barker is still alive.

Ingrid
Guest
Ingrid

Is Bob Barker dead?

Sheila
Guest
Sheila

My baby was born last Dec. 31st so maternity leave is in my not-too-distant past… and yet I can hardly remember any of it. I was on modified bed rest for 6 weeks before she was born, so the two periods somehow blend together in my memory and I can’t quite remember what I did all day. I think Amy’s advice is great, but I will disagree on one point. For me, the 12 weeks did not fly by. The first half dragged on and seemed like it would never end. I remember crying to my mom that I must… Read more »

Sheila
Guest
Sheila

My baby was born last Dec. 31st so maternity leave is in my not-too-distant past… and yet I can hardly remember any of it. I was on modified bed rest for 6 weeks before she was born, so the two periods somehow blend together in my memory and I can’t quite remember what I did all day. I think Amy’s advice is great, but I will disagree on one point. For me, the 12 weeks did not fly by. The first half dragged on and seemed like it would never end. I remember crying to my mom that I must… Read more »

Linsey
Guest
Linsey

Hahahahaha… Bob Barker is still alive and well!

Bliz
Guest
Bliz

Another great post. Just chiming in on behalf of Bob Barker, who is actually not yet dead! Just enjoying his golden years free from the clutches of overly-excited and screamy contestants!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Ha!! Ha, ha, ha, ha!! Oh, I really don’t mean to sound so condescending, but oh man. I think what you will be able to do and accomplish in the first few months will depend a lot on what particular flavor of baby you have birthed. I have several friends who had very easy going, non screamy babies and they got out a lot, well you know, relatively a lot. And then, there was my son, the one who screamed hours and hours and hours a day. We didn’t get out hardly at all, and when we did, I lived… Read more »

Heidi T
Guest
Heidi T

Ummmm.. Bob Barker isn’t dead….
As for the rest of the post, I totally agree…. You will have exactly enough time to take care of your baby and that’s really about it. LOL

all things BD
Guest

This is wonderful advice, which I would have LOVED to have back in the day. And not to completely miss the point of the post, but Bob Barker isn’t dead. Just thought I’d head off any rampant rumors at the pass. 🙂

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

Amazingly and happily, Bob Barker is not dead.

Camille
Guest
Camille

Bob Barker died? I had 8 weeks maternity and ended up working fully part-time hours (i.e. at least 20 hours per week) for a number of reasons (related to my employer, not to the need for the income). My husband is the at-home dad now that I’m back at the office, but both of us were home during my leave so that made it possible. What I WISH I had done (she says trying to cover up the tone of resentment) is started and made some progress on our daughter’s baby book and a photojournal because now I feel like… Read more »

Floyd
Guest

Amy, totally love you and this is totally irrelevant but um….Bob Barker’s not dead.

Christin
Guest
Christin

Good advice Amy – but – Bob Barker isn’t dead!

Erin
Guest
Erin

Oh my gosh, as a type A mom just back at her first week of work, relish, relish, relish your 12 weeks. There were times when I would feel guilty for “not getting anything done,” but then I would remind myself that no, just staring at the baby and cuddling her is completely okay.

Liz
Guest
Liz

My mornings totally revolved around getting the baby to nap for an hour at 9 am so I could watch Gilmore Girl reruns. This actually helped establish a morning nap pattern down the line! I liked to strap the baby on and Swiffer (baby didn’t like to stay in one place and thinking of ways to stay mobile was challenging). Walks were key, and regular lunches with a co-worker worked well for me (fingers were always crossed for a sleepy baby). If all else fails, put the baby in the car and head to a drive-through Starbucks. You get some… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

One thing – Bob Barker is still alive, just retired from Price is Right. I found my second maternity leave much more productive than my first. There were several reasons for this. 1. Much more experienced mom the 2nd time around. 2. I knew how fast it would go by and put no pressure on myself. 3. Older child was in preschool so those were some really productive hours while she was gone. 4. Number one biggest reason – baby number 2 was supremely mellow. That first maternity leave, there’s just SOOOOO much to figure out. As you say, getting… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Seriously, after the baby was born my daily to do list consisted of:
Feed the baby
Change the baby
Try not to cry
Take a shower
And, let me tell you, after that shower, I felt so accomplished! Even though sometimes I didn’t get one until 4pm.
Good luck with your goals! Becoming a mother is life-changing – some things that seemed so important to achieve before the baby, suddenly seem not so important after all.

Kim
Guest
Kim

So…the only thing that I picked up is that you said that Bob Barker passed away. I thought I missed something…He’s NOT dead! Don’t scare me like that! Besides that…I have a 3 week old and a 16 month old. As much as I would love to leave the house and go to Target every day, just the thought of getting out with 2 kids makes me just want to stay inside. Once you get a routine, it will become a lot easier to take the baby out and about. In the meantime, take this opportunity to enjoy your baby.… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Ok, I can help with this one as I just returned from maternity leave this week. Amy is absolutely right that the time flies by and its easy to have lofty goals that aren’t totally grounded in reality. I also planned daily walks that um, didn’t happen nearly as often as I imagined. On my list was to get the baby’s professional newborn portraits. Which I did both times. Woo! Go me. Ahem. Numerous dr appointments for the baby and me (I had a c-section). Took the baby to both my office and my husband’s to show him off. We… Read more »

Bitts
Guest
Bitts

One of the thing I’ve learned, after 2 postpartum times after my 2 kids is that you just DON’T KNOW what it’s going to be like when you bring that baby home from the hospital. Even when you’ve done it before and you *think* you know, you DON’T. I’m a Type-A ‘planner’ like @Overachiever, but it didn’t take long after bringing my first home to discover that my plans were pie-in-the-sky when faced with the concrete reality of a newborn. That’s not to say that nothing got done — life just didn’t look the way I thought it would. Also,… Read more »

eva
Guest

In my area the local community centres hold weekly drop ins in partnership with the Health Authority from 1-3pm and there are community health nurses there helping you with breastfeeding, weighing your baby, and giving talks about relevant baby subjects like feeding, safety etc. Totally loved this because there was the 2 hour window, so I was usually able to get in there at some point no matter how long it took to get out the door with my daughter. I met two good momma friends this way! I also did a mom and baby boot camp for most of… Read more »

Fawn Amber
Guest

LMAO…dude… Bob Barker isn’t dead, just retired. And my oldest is now 15, so this is all a distant memory now. I just remember being oh. so. tired.

solitarysunrise
Guest
solitarysunrise

I am about to return to work after 3+ months of maternity leave. Beleive me, it went by so fast! Just yesterday I finally cleaned/reorganized my closet and put my maternity clothes into the garage for storage. Don’t stress about getting nothing done, you will be busy enough with the baby. Since this is my second son, I definetly had to learn to be way more relaxed with him and a preschooler demanding my attention. Sometimes just going to the park for some fresh air seems like a major accomplishment. I agree about streamlining your baby goods, smaller bag is… Read more »

lindswing
Guest

I, too, had high hopes for my maternity leave. Currently, it’s almost noon a month in, and I’m still in bed. I’m in grad school, so I have things due right now (and last week and the week before…) that I haven’t even close to touched, while historically, I’m an academic perfectionist who would be horrified by the thought of turning something in late and half-assed. Now I’m just happy to be getting it in at ALL. There are new mom/breastfeeding support groups in town that I’ve tried to attend every week since my son’s birth, and I’ve barely made… Read more »

kakaty
Guest

I agree with everything Amy said for the most part. However, I wasn’t confident enough to go to the Mommy & Me Movie until the last few weeks and wished I had done it more. I love those times out of the house and my girl slept through them all (tip: take a Boppy or pillow and your baby can sleep in your lap & your arms won’t go to sleep). We did 2 trips to my office, 1 trip to my hubbys office, a few outdoor walks and spent a TON of time at the mall (September baby). after… Read more »

Genevieve
Guest
Genevieve

I think everyone has offered a lot of good advice. Some days your major accomplishment is brushing your teeth -before noon. You should also take the time to enjoy your new baby. There is a great deal of fun to be had in just cuddling a little baby. I just had my second baby a little over six weeks ago. In many ways it is easier this go around and for the first time yesterday I took both kids (the other one isn’t quite three yet) with me to the grocery store. That was a major accomplishment thankyouverymuch. Often our… Read more »

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

My only addition is to plug the mother-baby groups you can join as a new mom, to meet other new moms. This was huge for me, to give me opportunities to leave the house in a very casual setting. Plus, almost 3 years later, those women are some of my best friends and go-to playdates.
Our hospital offers a “class” that’s really just a setting for establishing these relationships, but try meetup.com or craig’s list.

Della
Guest
Della

As someone whose first five years of employment consisted only of caring for other peoples’ kids – multiple kids at each of my regular households, I might add – I was no newbie to babies. But I was a newbie to having a newborn, in my own care, all day, every day. It is SHOCKING how much time they eat up. That “eating 2-3 hours apart” thing? Sometimes it would take 45-60 minutes to complete a feeding, then diaper change and oops blowout change his clothes too! and suddenly it was only 30 minutes until the next feeding was supposed… Read more »

class factotum
Guest

This question made me laugh (not in a mean way, though) because 1. I can identify with the writer. I don’t have a baby, but I lost my job four years ago. Then I got married. Then I wanted to work because I thought, Oh, I’ll be SOOO bored if I stay at home. Guess what? I’m not. It’s really fun just to go to the gym and hang out with my friends. And there is always plenty to do around the house. I am retired, baby. 2. My friend who used to negotiate union contracts and is one of… Read more »

Jaymee
Guest
Jaymee

OMG a whole list of things to do!?!? I consider myself lucky if I get to change my shirt after being spit up on!! My husband was deployed when our son was 2 weeks old. My days go something like this: Feed the baby, change the baby’s diaper, change the baby’s clothes because he spit up all over himself(and me, but I’m usually not lucky enough to change my own clothes), change baby’s diaper again because in the amount of time it took to change his clothes his diaper is full again, and let the dog outside just in time… Read more »

Margie
Guest
Margie

Yes to all of this, with one addition: If you plan to breastfeed, it may be helpful to know that one of the many cool benefits of the oxytocin you’ll release is that it makes you more able to handle monotony. I’m not even sure what I did those first six weeks, especially, but I know I gazed at the baby a LOT and not much else, and I was so happy, just like all these other commenters described. I held her so much that my hubby even made lunches for me that I could prepare and eat one handed… Read more »

Lori
Guest
Lori

I agree with a lot of these comments. I wouldn’t even try to make a list of stuff to accomplish that is longer than 4 things:
1. GET TO KNOW YOUR BABY
2. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BABY
3. SLEEP
4. SHOWER
Yeah, that’s about it. I spent 12 weeks doing that and it flew by. I did get one lunch out w/coworkers but that was right before I went back to work! It took that long to get my stuff together. 😉 Good luck!