What should you with your time while you’re on maternity leave?
Look after your self and your baby. The end!
Seriously though if you have time for anything over and above keeping a tiny person and yourself alive then all credit to you. What you should not succumb to is pressure do anything other than what you feel capable of. Maternity leave is for looking after your baby and yourself, settling into life as a parent and taking a break from having to worry about work. If you have the urge to learn a new skill or hobby and actually manage to do it then see it as a bonus.
I admit I haven’t always practised what I preach here. First time around I had a huge list of stuff I intended to do on maternity leave including learn Spanish, learn to drive, start a business, renovate the house. This list was mostly written with the naive assumption that I would have a baby who slept and some time to spare. I had neither. Some of these tasks are still a work in progress four years on. Others have never been started (those Beginners Spanish CD’s are still gathering dust!).
There are a few things though that I would highly recommend you do during that lovely period when you’ve finished work and before baby arrives. You don’t know it at the time but this is arguably the best bit of maternity leave (I’m joking, sort of).
Go out for lunch, have afternoon tea, enjoy some fancy dinners. This is your time to ‘eat for two’ so embrace it. Go out with your partner and your friends. Chat, socialise, order a hot drink and actually drink it while it’s hot. Go to places up steps with quiet dining areas, narrow aisles and no high chairs. These are places you won’t see the inside of for at least a couple of years and if you do venture in you’ll instantly regret that decision when your child starts throwing pureed squash on the floor.
Growing a human is tiring and once you’re on maternity leave you can enjoy the holy grail of pregnancy, the afternoon nap. You might hear people tell you to ‘nap when the baby naps’ and it sounds like the most obvious advice so of course, you will do this. You won’t. You’ll sit watching them sleep to make sure they are breathing or feel the sudden urge to tidy up the whirlwind they’ve left behind. Baby might only want to nap on you in which case you’ll be stuck on the sofa terrified to nod off in case you suffocate them. If you’re very unlucky they won’t nap at all and every time someone tells you to ‘nap when they nap’ you’ll die a little bit inside (I’m speaking from experience here).
Babies are not really compatible with cinemas. Not if you actually want to see the film anyway. Lots of cinemas have baby-friendly screenings which is great but it’s not really the same when there is a chorus of other peoples babies crying. Before baby arrives go watch a film in the middle of the day armed with all your favourite cinema food just because you can.
When you’re heavily pregnant and longing for your baby to arrive it’s hard to understand why people tell you to enjoy alone time. You’ve been alone all your life so far and now you’re ready for one to become two but you really won’t get a minute to yourself once baby shows up.
If you already have children it’s probably some time since you’ve been alone for any amount of time. If you have some childcare or a willing relative to help out it’s really lovely to have a bit of time alone. Go for a walk, read a book, enjoy a bubble bath and if nothing else use it as a time to rest and recharge in preparation for birth.
Reward your body for the amazing job it’s doing and treat yourself to a massage. If you don’t feel like getting your kit off a foot massage feels amazing when you’re heavily pregnant and reflexology can help with many pregnancy ailments too. The period before baby arrives can be an anxious wait especially for first time mums and massage is a great stress reliever. Take some time for yourself, look after your body and relax.
Enjoy every moment of your time before baby arrives, spoil yourself a little even because you deserve it. Take care of yourself now so that you are fully charged for birth and beyond. You cannot pour from an empty cup so fill up that cup while you can!