Now I’m back at work, I have been thinking about how much I enjoyed maternity leave. It is one of the most amazing and terrifying times of your life bringing a little baby into the world, and is easy to regret not doing certain things when you have this time to dedicate to your new addition.
I have decided to share my experiences of maternity leave by outlining the 10 things I have learned during the 14 months I have been lucky to have to share with my girl without having to worry about work.
1: Get out of the house
It is tough being cooped up at home with a screaming newborn or a cranky six-month-old and going for a coffee, to the shops or just out a drive in the car sometimes really helps. Getting fresh air when out a walk (when the weather is ok of course) is also an amazing stress-buster and helps clear the head.
2: It is a great chance to do things in the house
But it can also be impossible! I definitely didn’t use the time to its full potential particularly as we had just moved house before our daughter arrived but once she was able to play on her own for a little while, I would choose a part of the room she was in to organise/clean/tidy. Of course, there are also times when your baby just needs you and your full attention when you can’t get things done and that’s fine too. There’s always tomorrow!
3: Take time to play
This may sound like a complete contradiction of the previous point but just because you’re in the house doesn’t mean you need to be doing housework all the time. Make sure you take time to enjoy your baby while you are off. Choose some toys and show them how to use them, read them books or sing them songs. They will get so much out of this that you won’t even realise at the time. And this attention can bring out the best smiles and laughter in your child.
4: Sign up to classes even if they cost money
I’ve been lucky to have a budget for activities for my baby while off and I know not everyone has this luxury. Although there are plenty of free and cheap things to do, sometimes those you pay for are just a bit better. We attended a class weekly for around four months of my maternity leave and, although it cost, it was the best activity we have done. I enjoyed it and so did my daughter. I was so sad we had to stop going once I returned to work but was pleased I decided to sign her up for the class. The look on the instructor’s face when she saw my girl interacting and developing was really rewarding for all of us.
5: Go to soft play while your baby can get in for free
This is definitely something I wish we had done a bit earlier because a lot of soft plays allow free admission to children under one. My daughter got so much out of going to soft play that she was exhausted and had a massive nap afterwards which was great as it gave me a little bit of downtime too.
6: Nap with your baby when you are feeling tired
I didn’t do this as regularly as I could have but when I did it felt great. It is nice to curl up with your little one when you are both needing to recharge the batteries and is certainly something you won’t get away with for long as they’ll soon get to the age where they want to be on their own. To see their little face when they wake in your arms is so beautiful and you also have the added bonus that you have managed to get a few extra minutes of sleep.
7: Spend some time away from your baby
Although it’s amazing to have quality time with your little one, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. I didn’t realise the importance of having my own time even if it was just to do some housework or to go for a haircut or massage. When you see your baby’s face on your return, you love them just a little bit more each time. And this also makes it easier once you have to be away for longer periods when you are back at work.
8: Pay a visit to work and keep in touch with colleagues
I’m lucky to have some lovely friends in my office who I was happy to keep in touch with while off but I didn’t realise how worthwhile this was on my return as I felt like I was still in the loop and knew what was going on. Even paying a visit to the workplace during maternity with or without baby is worth taking the time to do just so it doesn’t feel like an alien environment when you are back.
9: Enjoy eating cake and drinking nice coffees
If you’re like me, the day will come soon enough when you want to try and fit into certain clothes again but, for the meantime, enjoy the sweet treats and yummy frothy cappuccinos. Why not? You have brought a human into the world and deserve a treat from time to time.
10: Treasure the time you have together as it is something you can never repeat