Chances are you have vague ideas of maternity leave spent snuggling your baby and watching daytime TV. Yes, there will certainly be days like that, but if you want to make the most of your maternity leave, you’ll need to give it a little thought. In the not-too-distant future, there will be a little human being demanding time and attention, so it’s worth giving your maternity leave some advance thought before sleepless nights and the needs of a newborn interfere with a clear head.
Here are our top 10 ways to make the most out of your maternity leave:
1. Slow Down
If you’ve been working up until your leave started, then maternity leave is the time to take things back a notch. In just a few years you’ll be running around after a wilful toddler, then embarking on years of overflowing your mind with primary school commitments and activities. For now, with a non-mobile baby, slow down. Take time, cherish this blink of an eye, and try not to let it rush by in a frenzy of ‘doing’.
2. Focus on baby, but also on you
It goes without saying that the number one focus of your maternity leave will be on your baby. However, pregnancy and childbirth, as well as motherhood, are enormous changes both emotionally and physically. To stay well and healthy as your baby grows, it is important to realise that maternity leave is a marathon not a sprint. To have the stamina to keep going you will need to prioritise yourself at times. That may be simple acts such as ignoring the housework whilst you have a cup of tea, or even arranging a babysitter once you feel ready.
3. Recover and Rejuvenate
This one is tough as for many there’s going to be a little person making every effort to ensure your sleep banks are running on empty. However, maternity leave should be about recovering. This will also mean focusing on your health and fitness, both psychically and mentally. Find out about local classes in your area. From pram boot camp to postnatal yoga, there will be something for you.
4. Bond with your baby
As any experienced parent will tell you, babyhood whizzes by in a flash. This is hard to understand when you’re living the relentlessness of sleepless nights and another regurgitated bottle. However, your baby is only a baby once. The milestones only happen once. Photograph, journal, and simply be with your baby.
5. Build your support network
When you’re on maternity leave there’s always someone on hand for your baby – you. However, you’re only as strong as the support network around you. Your maternity leave is an ideal time to find others living the same life stage as you and make a local support network. There’s no one else who quite gets the concerns of weaning as another parent going through it at the same time. These friends will likely become the ones who are there in the future when you need favours or help (and you will) so nurture these relationships. Baby classes, from swimming to library rhyme time, are a great way of meeting others in the same boat.
6. Communicate with your baby
Research shows that the more a baby is talked to, the greater their cognitive development. That’s why we instinctively do baby talk. Maternity leave is an important time to capitalise on this. Chat with your baby, give a running commentary of your day, and engage them in sound play such as peek-a-boo. You’re laying down the foundations of their language development.
7. Get out in the community
When you were working, you probably didn’t always feel connected to your home community. Your workplace may have become your proxy community instead. Having children puts you in the heart of the community. In not too long, your baby will be heading off to preschool, and then school, which will further cement your community ties, but in the meantime, start forging these links for yourself. Take baby for a walk to the local library. Use the local coffee shops and independent traders. Get to know the familiar faces on the high street.
8. Enjoy daytime luxuries
A whole sub-culture goes on around you whilst the rest of the world is at work. Shopping on a weekday in the middle of the day will be considerably more relaxing than on a Saturday in the crowds. You can also go to special baby screenings at the cinema. These viewings are normally inexpensive and offer a little lighting and lower volumes. Baby gets a nice snuggle with mum and you get to enjoy the latest release and feel like an adult again.
9. Make the most of holidays
If you’re used to jostling with the diary and annual leave allowances, then maternity leave can seem like a wonderful opportunity. There are no conditions on you having to be anywhere or fitting trips away in to small windows of time. You can pick a holiday based on one partner’s work commitments only. You can have weekends away and not worry about having enough time at home. Also, whilst your baby is little you won’t have to pay for them, so now is the time to take advantage.
10. Think about the future
Whilst it’s important to cherish the present and focus on playing and enjoying the here and now, maternity leave is also a perfect time for you to reassess your goals, hopes and ambitions for the future. Think about your future career wishes, whether you want to return to work, and even about your baby’s future. You can even start to save for their future with tax-exempt savings for children.