My first maternity leave occurred while I was in my first year of teaching. I learned a few lessons the hard way, and here are my thoughts as I prepare for my second round of maternity leave.
My mindset going into my first maternity leave:
Wow, 8 weeks at home with a baby who eats and sleeps and poops, I am going to rock this! I am going to get so much done and be so relaxed.
I was so, so wrong about everything the first time around. I was so optimistic and goal-oriented. I had a few friends who tried to tell me, but I was all, “Nah, I’m a low stress kind of girl, we’ll be fine.” Turns out there is not a lot of time to be low stress when there is a newborn in the picture.
I was frequently calling my husband, who was at work, asking, “Umm…she hasn’t slept in like 5 hours…what am I doing wrong?” or “Should I call the doctor, she hasn’t pooped for three days?” Showers, sleep, and meals (for me) were at random intervals if they happened at all. Seriously, it was touch and go for awhile there. Thank goodness for my mom and mom-in-law (life savers) and good friends who brought us dinner or we might not have ever eaten anything but take-out.
My mindset going into this maternity leave:
Wow! 9 weeks at home with a baby who eats every 5 seconds, sleeps in 15 minute intervals, and poops every 30 minutes, I am going to rock this! I am going to sleep, snuggle and enjoy (as much as I can) the time with my little snuggle bug to be.
Last time, I did almost no preparation (except lesson plans, because I had to). So I am changing my plans leading up to my leave.
Preparation thoughts and tips:
1. Feeding you and your fam while still keeping an infant happy.
- Freezer meals. Grab 2 or 3 friends and plan a freezer meal day (or 2) with other moms. You make 2 different meals, they each make 2 different meals, and you go home with 6 meals.
- Easy, but healthy breakfasts. Spend an hour rolling breakfast burritos. Make some breakfast muffins (try these on pinterest). Freeze them individually to nuke in the morning. Throw your favorite smoothie ingredients in individual baggies to freeze and blend with yogurt in the am.
- Simple, freezer soups for lunch. Spend a nap time tossing together a couple soups for the freezer (a quick, easy, healthy lunch). Easy ones include a Vegetable Beef Stew, Taco Soup or Chili. I like these because they just require dumping a few cans and bags of frozen veggies into a baggie. Thaw and heat and you have lunch for a week, if you don’t mind leftovers.
- Meal prep. Spend an evening prepping some chicken (roast in oven, cool and shred or cube) to toss into an easy chicken salad. You can do the same with pork or beef roast.
2. The nursery.
- Sort through the accumulated baby items…do you have stacks of stuff in your nursery’s closet just waiting to be sorted? We do. After we stopped using things, we didn’t really have a plan for tossing or storing them – if you don’t have a storage plan, I would suggest one.
- Stock up. Watch for sales on diapers (all sizes), wipes, milk storage bags and nursing pads (who knew you’d need so many of those), and formula. I never imagined how fast we’d go through all those things.
- Wash and sterilize. Bottles, breast pumps, pacifiers, blankets, neutral infant clothes (we don’t know the gender) – everything needs to be cleaned and ready for the new baby to slobber, spit up, and poop on…if you haven’t tried microwave sterilizing bags, you should!
3. Work life.
- Ask lots of questions. In my case (teaching), the type of preparation is easy to determine, but overwhelming (as is all long-term planning). I found it most helpful to find other teachers who had done it, and ask them how to do it. So don’t be afraid to phone a friend. Ask everyone and anyone you can think of to help you out – most will be willing – they have been there too.
- Set a schedule. Sit yourself down and look realistically at what you need to do and give yourself goals along the way to make it happen.
- Be Direct – Ask you supervisor what they need from you. Make arrangements to have a sit down with your supervisor to ask about leaving instructions, materials, passwords, keys, etc. I also found it helpful to ask for a plan (in advance) to help plan for after the baby too. For example, it helps to know what the time frame might be for pumping/nursing to try to work towards during your leave.
- Daycare. It will suck. It will be ridiculously hard, and you will very likely cry – maybe for the first few days. Make arrangements to visit your provider with your baby to do a meet and greet. Take your baby supplies in early so you don’t have to stress about it on the first day back. Oh, and I took my make-up bag to school with me the first few days and fixed myself up after the tears had been shed.