Don’t Let Maternity Leave Turn into a Nightmare: 6 Maternity Leave Tips

Back in 2009, when I first became a mom, I imagined my maternity leave would be one long, blissful and productive experience. I daydreamed about the day that I could walk out the work door and hole up in my little bungalow cooking, tidying, and waiting patiently for precious girl to arrive.

Once she did, I lay in the hospital bed imagining bringing her home and the two of us having casual, relaxed days getting to know and enjoy one another. Enter 2017, and two more kids later, and I now know-maternity leaves are not leaves of anything, but in fact, crap tons more work!

Now don't get me wrong; I did love being able to take time off from work after my children were born, but the “maternity leave” portion of my life was far from what I expected. The main difference in my fantasy of ML versus my actual ML experience, was that I sorely underestimated the lack of sleep and its effects. SORELY. UNDERESTIMATED.

It's the kind of tired that you can only experience to understand. It's not like the tired from my 20s when we partied all hours and went again the next day. This tired is excruciatingly tired. Any hope of a semi-normal routine is lost, and it becomes glaringly obvious by the second full night home. This loss of routine and sleep combined can really send your days upside down. They all become one big, run-on blur in those first few weeks and months. I'm not here to scare you. Just to warn you. Don't have too high of expectations for this time in your life like I did. 

maternity leave tips
Image via Pixabay

Know Before You Go

For many people in the States, after one year on the job they are allowed 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave (even less for paternity). Ask your employer about their FMLA rules. Some employers with under 50 employees don't have to comply, so it's good to ask.  As they say, know before you go, what your back-to-work expectations and hopes are so it's not a shock to you or your boss. 

Enjoy the Last Moments of Pregnancy

I know it's exhausting being at the end of your pregnancy, but trust me, the bathroom runs in the middle of the night now will pale in comparison to getting up and feeding a baby every two hours. So take this time pre-baby to try and relax. Get out of the house, get your errands done, test the new baby gear, watch your favorite shows (in quiet), walk around your neighborhood and begin a fitness routine you can possibly keep up post-baby. Possibly.  

{ MORE: Depression after Maternity Leave Ends }

Don't Expect a Miracle

It is sooo easy to get bogged down by how little it seems you are accomplishing after bringing a newborn home. I took one look at the state of my house and realized there was no way all the cleaning could possibly get done, let alone all the “cute” motherly things I had hoped to accomplish, like daily journaling. (Ha!) I had to be talked through more than one near-panic attack because of the tremendous feeling of being lost. Cut yourself a break and allow time to get acquainted with your new role, and this new person. Accept help, and even feel free to reach out for it! 

Don't Wish it Away

Again, along the lines of expecting a miracle, once you see the state of disarray (for me anyway) that can happen after a new baby, you will immediately think you can manage it all. You will convince yourself that you can do it all! And you will try. And you will fail. Don't worry so much about all the things that need to be done, so much as try to focus on the job at hand — bonding with your baby.

After my daughter was born I fretted over things like my house not being as clean as I wanted, or not using the cute little formal clothes before she outgrew them. The Pottery Barn Pinterest ideal bubble I had carried in my head was now popped. I wish I would have savored the moments communicating with my baby more instead of worrying about the next thing. 

Accept Mood Swings

Face it, a woman's body undergoes amazing transitions throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. It's no wonder one minute you can be elated at your baby's coos and in tears the next minute. Your body needs time to level out so give yourself a little understanding when you snap at your partner. I vividly remember being so annoyed from lack of sleep that I resented my husband for not having to get up and breastfeed. Impossible, I know … nevertheless there it was. And for God's sake, don't try to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes!  

{ MORE: It's OK To Complain About Pregnancy }

Maternity Leave Can be Lonely

If you're used to being surrounded by coworkers on the daily, then leaving that lifestyle behind for a while may be hard for you. Try to find opportunities to interact with other moms or just other people in general. It can get lonely only talking to an infant all day, everyday. If you don't get the chance to leave the house, that's fine too. Maybe try to connect online in new mom forums or just read a funny mom blog you admire to be in the company of like-minded individuals.

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Don’t Let Maternity Leave Turn into a Nightmare: 6 Maternity Leave Tips

Nichole Richardson is a St.Louis based freelance writer with a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Missouri-St.Louis. Richardson was selected and attended the National Media Convention hosted in Orlando, Florida and worked at Barnes Jewish Hospital (ranked in the top ten in the nation) in Public Relations writing press releases, online, and print copy. She has had articles published in BJC Today, BJH website, Suite101.com, The Current, The Independent News, and Patch.com amongst others. ... More

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