For women who are used to working a 9 to 5 job, maternity leave can be a bit of a shock. Of course, it’s amazing to be home with your new baby, but the reality is that the experience can be very lonely and isolating. Let's be honest, the monotony of diaper changes, naps and feeds (over and over again) can start to drive anyone crazy after a while.
I feel so lucky to have been able to be home with both of my babies for the beginning of their lives and I really enjoyed my time off with them, but I’ve also experienced feeling housebound, isolated and like I’m on the edge of losing my sanity. Some days are wonderful and easy and some days feel extra long and challenging.
Whether you’re home for just a few months or planning to be a stay-at-home mom indefinitely, here are five things I’ve found really help me enjoy my time at home and make the absolute most of it.
Get Out of the House
I know. This seems so silly and simple, but moms at home with a baby know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. When you can’t seem to find time to shower, you’ve been in the same sweatpants for 3 days and you’re beyond sleep-deprived, leaving the house can feel like an insurmountable task. But, I always found that even the simplest of outings made us all a little bit happier. Whether I just stuck the kids in the stroller for a five-minute walk to our local café for muffins and a hot coffee, or loaded them in the car to go aimlessly peruse the aisles of Costco, it was worth it. It killed time, it kept everyone entertained (for a while, anyways), and it felt great to be around other people and outside of the same four walls of my house.
Create a Routine
Having set times when you tend to feed and nap really does help to keep things running smoothly and your sanity in check. Little ones are creatures of habit and they thrive when they know what to expect and when. I also loved knowing that after lunch, the baby would go down easily for an afternoon nap and I could count on that 1-2 hours for some me-time. Routine is especially great on those rough days where nothing’s going your way - it’s so comforting to be able to count down to your next break!
…But Be Okay with Breaking that Routine
That being said, I get that Moms become reliant on a nap routine and that breaking it can be difficult, but if you NEVER let yourself be flexible, you really do miss out on chances to socialize and participate in activities around your community. Most days I adhered to our routine, but if an old friend called me to hang out and it meant I’d have to push nap time later to see her, OF COURSE I did it! I honestly think breaking from schedule once-in-a-while also teaches our babies to be a little more adaptable, too!
Do Something for YOU
Maybe you really enjoy working out or just sitting down for an hour to quietly read your book. Whatever it is, make time for what gives you joy and makes you feel like yourself. It's important for your own mental health and you will be a better parent for it. And if you need to accept help from your partner, a family member or a friend in order to do so? Do it and don't feel guilty about it. Being a mom is a selfless job and you absolutely deserve the break.
Meet Some Mom Friends
This one took me a while to learn. On my first maternity leave, I felt really shy about meeting new people. I already had my good friends and, although most of them didn't live nearby, I really didn't want to have to put myself out there again. Eventually isolation got to me and I started making an effort with the other moms in my neighbourhood. I'm so glad I did. I now have a community of amazing women around me with kids the same age. I'm able to confide in them, get their advice when I need it and even rely on them for help watching my kids when I have no one else. We have regular play dates, we watch each other's kids and we even go out for the odd 'Mom's Night Out' while our husbands stay home with the babies. So go ahead and introduce yourself to that other mom who's in the library or at the park. You can bet she's looking for company, just like you are.