Before going on maternity leave the prospect of being a stay at home mum was a light at the end of my tunnel. I had used having a baby as my end goal for several years of slugging it in the corporate world.
Then a few weeks of ‘new baby’ visitors passed and the loneliness creeped in.
You see, I am someone who needs a purpose to my days or I get very stagnant and this usually leads to a minor depression. I know this sounds ridiculous to some; I have a new baby! What more purpose could I possibly need?
Don’t get me wrong I love spending time with Jax and not having to work for a little while is a bonus. But there is only so much a newborn has to offer in forms of conversation and engagement. They also sleep a lot… like HEAPS!
The main thing I found I had to do to feel purposeful was to make sure I kept busy. I would spend my days cleaning the house and washing baby clothes but it was clear that this was not going to cut it.
My career as head of a property management department at a leading real estate agency meant that I was used to high-pressure situations, often dealing with contracts, complaints and legislation. The environment was fast-paced and high-stress and I dealt with people (adult people) all day long.
This was a polar opposite to being a stay at home mum. In fact, this got me thinking, this must be the case with many careers. The shift took a major adjustment and this prompted me to think about how I could help other women going through this and feeling awful because of it.
So here it is, my tips on surviving the shift from full time work to stay at home mum.
Tip 1: Do 1 thing for you everyday
This has got to be the most important tip I can give you. If you are not looking after yourself properly then you can not expect to be in sound mind to look after a screaming baby.
It is clear that ‘it’s not about you anymore’ but this is no excuse to neglect your basic human rights. Of course, some days you may not get out to the gym or even get to drink a hot coffee in full but if your partner is at work all day then once they come home make sure you get in some ‘me-time’.
Schedule in a 30 minute window once bubs goes to sleep for the night. If he wakes in that time its up to hubby to pop his pacifier back in while you soak in the tub.
Talking to your partner about the importance of self-preservation during the wonder-weeks and sleep training etc. can help this be implemented.
Here are my number 1 things i love to do as part of my ‘me-time’
- Long hot shower or bath
- Coffee without bubs, in the backyard sunshine
- DIY beauty treatment (face mask, foot soak, mani/pedi)
- Read something non baby related – a trashy magazine is perfect
- Head out for a massage
Tip 2: Leave the house at least once a day
It’s easy to bum around in your PJ’s all day watching day time television. Quickly you will forget the difference between Monday and Thursday and the days and weeks will just melt together.
This may be a great way to spend the first few weeks with bubs as you soak in the magnificence of your new arrival. But at some point, you will have to break out of your love bubble and those four walls will likely become very drab very quickly. At least they did for me.
The key is to catch yourself before you become stir crazy and come down with a serious case of cabin fever.
From when Jax was 7 days old (and while Alan was still on leave from work) we made an effort to go for a walk. At first, we made it once around the block and slowly worked our way up. It’s is now part of my daily routine with Jax.
It’s great for both of us to get some fresh air and bonus is putting him to sleep for a solid nap! Not to mention walking is great for your physique after baby. You just can’t lose.
Whether you walk or drive, its nice to head out and interact with society often to keep you in touch with reality. A little too much reality TV can start to make you question what’s real so a quick duck to the local milk bar for a loaf of bread can snap you out of your MAFS haze.
After bubs has had his first round of vaccinations you can also have a go at getting the stroller out and walking around the local shopping center to combine the two.
Don’t stress if the day disappears and you haven’t managed to get out with bubs, it happens. An attempt at a quick supermarket trip solo when hubby gets home to look after bubs is another idea.
Or, sometimes a trip to the mailbox at the end of the driveway is all that’s going to happen; and that’s ok too. Just reset and try again the next day.
Tip 3: Get ready for the day, everyday
Whether you are planning an outing or not, do not stick around in your PJ’s all day. PJs are for sleeping (except when you are sick).
When you are used to getting up and getting ready for work every morning it is a huge change to not have to get ready for anything in particular. This can be nice sometimes but remember that stagnation creeps in whenever there is a lack of purpose. So pretending you have somewhere to be can ward this feeling away.
Change your clothes, brush your hair and don’t be afraid of the mirror. You don’t need to dress to impress but freshening up each day will make it more likely that you will be more productive. Simple as that.
Tip 4: Talk to someone (other than your spouse) everyday
While cooing and raspberries provides endless entertainment for your little one, this is not enough to satisfy an adult vocabulary.
I can actually say that I have never had so many Freudian slips since starting to talk to Jax in babbles all day long. Its like my tongue and mind are both so excited to talk to my hubby when he gets home that they forget to work together sometimes.
If you don’t manage to make it out to the shops to chat about the weather with the lady at the register, a phone call to a sister, mother, or friend is a great way to break up the day. Although if your family is like mine, they LOVE to yarn on the phone for HOURS whereas I’m more of a 10-20-minute kind of conversationalist. If you have had enough, just tell them that baby is awake from his nap and rush them off the phone… and conveniently forget to call them back (works every time… hey, mum brain has to come in handy somehow!).
Even a chat with the postie or neighbor totally counts.
The reason I say someone other than your spouse is you may tend to dump on them right as they walk in the door if you have been depraved of social interaction all day.
Remember that they have had a long day too and while they are keen to hear about everything you have done to entertain yourself for the day, it can be easy to forget to even ask them how their day has been.
Just remember that conversation goes both ways!
Tip 5: Set yourself missions for the next day before you go to sleep
Before having a baby if I didn’t have anything planned the next day I would just sleep in until noon. This is a horrible habit as I would then get up with half the day gone and no drive to accomplish anything. Fine for a lazy Sunday, not fine as a daily lifestyle. At least not for me.
Adding a baby to that just meant an earlier day but mixed with a sense of confusion as to how to make use of the day. Do I go out, do I stay in, do I try that new recipe, new craft idea or do I watch Netflix all day? The result to this thought pattern? I do nothing at all. This usually ends up with a sense of guilt having wasted a perfectly good day. The number of times I have heard Alan’s car pull in and been hit with the realization that I had achieved absolutely nothing all day is ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes Jax would be completely unsettled and it was a hell of a day dealing with cluster-feeding, nap refusal and poo-splosions. And nothing else would be done. Those days I call write-offs.
But when Jax has been in a cheerful mood and has been sleeping perfectly and I still manage to achieve not even 1 load of washing? That’s when I can’t deal.
So, to combat this I set myself tasks for the next day. These are not necessarily urgent or important tasks but I like to set myself up for productivity. This way if they don’t get done because of unpredictable events of the day then I just re-shift these to the next available day.
So, what things do I have on my radar for each day?
Before having Jax I didn’t really have any hobbies as such. I went to a Personal Trainer if that counts? Now I have blogging, going to the gym and doing weights training with my sister-in-law. I also like cooking so I try and incorporate fun ways to spice up the daily dinner by trying new recipes.
Planning your ‘mum-chores’ like cleaning, washing, cooking, shopping etc. is a good way to fill your days with productivity the whole family can enjoy! (sarcasm)… but seriously telling yourself you are going to find time to vacuum the next day makes it more likely to happen.
You know that draw on the dresser that keeps annoying the s**t out of you? Well tomorrow you are going to pull it apart and figure it out. You are also going to put WD-40 on ALL the door hinges because so help me if baby wakes up from me letting the meowing cat out again in the middle of the night!
Plan to fix these little things that pile up because you don’t have the luxury of dropping everything on the spot when you remember to do them.
I like to have a list stuck to the fridge for when I notice these things and they get written down as part of my to do list.
You can add anything on this list, groceries you need to get, birthday presents you need to buy, things you need to Google etc.
These tips have truly helped me overcome what I believe to be the early signs of depression. Every time I feel myself slipping into this void, I make sure to shake up my routine to avoid becoming stagnant.
Having come from a very unpredictable working life (where everyday is different) to having to alternate between a finite number of activities (that are baby friendly) has been a huge shift.
One thing this shift has taught me though is to slow down and enjoy the little quality time I have with Jaxon. I have also come to realise that not every day has to be jam-packed with activity and social interaction. I just need enough to keep me sane and engaged with the world. This time as a stay at home mum wont last long and I will be back at work (part-time) before I know it and probably kicking myself for not stopping to breath in the freedom I have right now.
Are you on maternity leave and finding it difficult to navigate? Maybe you also feel a sense of loneliness now that the novelty that is your new baby has worn off the people in your life? If that’s the case I would love to hear that these tips help you in some way.
Do you have any other tips on how to stay sane during maternity leave? Please leave a comment below!