How to Really Enjoy Maternity Leave

What maternity leave is really like and how to enjoy it
Absorb your new reality and leave work be for awhile. You deserve it. Getty Images/Martin Sundberg

Once your baby is born your maternity leave begins (unless other arrangements have been made due to medical conditions). When you are in the hospital things feel different. All of your attention is on your newborn, how your body is feeling, and maybe on your husband (maybe). 

Even friends and family visiting you in the hospital are focused on your new bundle of joy.

No one is asking about work. You are not thinking about work. 

Then you bring the baby home and start getting acclimated to your new family. Hopefully, your husband takes a few days or week of paternity leave so you can enjoy your new family together.

And then you are on your own with your newborn. In the peace and quiet (ok, maybe not too quiet) your mind starts to wander and your focus is taken off of your newborn. Although you are half awake you begin thinking about what projects you’d love to start now that you’re home. 

The early days of motherhood can be lonely. You are constantly with your baby, who can’t hold an adult conversation and speaks their own language. In your dream-like state, you start dreaming about your nine-to-five lifestyle. You start thinking about work.

How can you stop work brain and just truly enjoy your maternity leave?

Keep a Journal

Your routine has been wake up, go to work, and come home, the go to bed. Your newborn throws a major monkey wrench into your routine! How can you adapt to this? Luckily having a newborn around doesn’t give you much time to think about the transition, you just do what needs to be done at the moment.

But this doesn’t stop your brain from thinking about work. Especially when you are up for a 2 AM feeding. It’s hard to stop these thoughts from popping up and they are quite normal. You may feel torn between paying attention to your newborn and thinking about that project you left or that customer that was counting on you.

To help with the transition from work to maternity leave, keep a journal of your thoughts. If writing isn’t your think keep voice memos in your phone. Answer questions like,

  • What do I miss about work? Why am I passionate about it?
  • What do I wish I had completed before I had left on leave?
  • What do I feel like I’m missing out on?

The results are you are able to process how you felt about your departure and what you are looking forward to when you get back. You also are able to release any anxiety you felt about being absent because you are writing it down. Never underestimate the power of the written word.

Use This Time to Reflect

Before the baby, you knew a lot about yourself. Hopefully, you had a set of values and priorities you were using to base your decisions on.

Now that you finally have your baby you may feel a shift in your values and priorities. The family is now a personal value and taking care of your newborn is your first priority. Notice this shift in mindset. What other values are changing? How will you make future decisions based on your new priorities?

This shift is the root cause for feeling off balanced. Like I said before you had this routine and now a different set of values and priorities, then everything changes.

How you can adapt to this new life is thinking about what challenges you will have integrating work and your new life. Answer future questions now about how you’ll handle work situations. What was your work schedule like before and how do you envision it changing? How can you be more assertive in your requests?

Use your maternity leave to get mentally prepared before integrating your work into your new life. Write about this, talk to people about it, especially other working moms that you know or online in Facebook groups or forums.

Give Yourself Baby Goals

No pun intended (ok maybe it is a little joke) but give yourself baby goals to accomplish every day. Once you hit your goal celebrate! For instance, tell yourself, “I’m going to shower today!” Then bring the baby into the bathroom with you, strap them in the baby swing, and then take that shower. Yippee! No more spit up in your hair and you smell awesome

Yes, you will be very excited. Treat yourself with lotion and cold water with cucumbers in it, you’ll feel like you’re in the spa.

Before baby, and while at work, you were constantly working toward something. To give yourself that sense of accomplishment you enjoyed in your “old life” plan out small manageable goals.

Become OK With Your New Reality

While at home you may get excited about home projects. It may bother you that you haven’t started them or that you have no energy to do them. Be easy on yourself. Think about all that you are accomplishing. You are successfully learning how to care for your newborn. You and only you are honing your mother’s intuition to know what your baby needs.

Be OK with your house being disheveled. Adapting to motherhood takes a lot of work and energy. It’ll leave very little time for anything else. If you feel like you’ll be judged by others because of the appearance of your home don’t accept company for a while.

The sooner you become comfortable with a change in your housekeeping the happier you will be. A new way of keeping your house tidy will come to you, be patient while you figure things out. Overwhelm in baby gear and supplies will occur but eventually, everything will find its place. And then most of it will find a new place, and that’s OK, too.

There will be many trials and errors and even more will occur when you go back to work. Being open to change is something you’ll get used to and eventually will become really good at.

Learn to Live in the Moment

Now is a great time to learn what the power of now is all about. When you bring your attention to what is happening right now there is no room for worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. There is only what is going on, at the moment, and most likely this means you are taking care of your newborn. That is where your attention is.

Do you get sad about heading back to work? If so, it’s super important that while you're on maternity leave you learn how to live in the moment. Yes, when you head back to work it’s going to be tough, but you are not going back to work until your maternity leave is over. Which means not today.

Instead of letting your emotions run wild bring your attention to the present moment. If your baby is close by stare in their eyes. If they are asleep admire their cute fingers and feel how blessed you are to finally have a child. Practicing how thankful you are will bring your job and will, hopefully, stop any waterworks that may have sprung.

 Once you go back to work, this practice will help you get over the hump. That first day you're back at work instead of focusing on sad thoughts about your baby, you'll have taught yourself to live in the moment and at that moment you have work to do. And perhaps because you have practiced going back to work won't be so bad after all!

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