I take a lot fewer cat selfies and a lot more baby selfies.
I’ve had a job and earned some sort of income since I was sixteen. From working at a drugstore, to Starbucks, to insurance, to getting into PR and social media, earning my own money and building my career has been a defining part of my adult life. Now, as a new mom, I’m enjoying Canada’s year-plus long maternity leave benefits as I spend time at home with my son. It’s the longest stretch I’ve gone without working a traditional job in nearly half my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful or this time and I’m sure it will go by far too quickly, but growing accustomed to not going to work every day has been a major adjustment. After getting through the first few sleep-deprived weeks of parenthood, I started craving some sort of routine for myself to give structure to this very unique period of my life.
I’ve been on leave from work for five months now. Every day is different, but when people ask, “how’s mat leave going?” this is typically how I answer.
Parent and baby fitness is everything
I never thought of myself as a particularly active person (I’ve always wished I worked out more than I do) but at the end of my pregnancy and during my postpartum recovery when I couldn’t exercise, I learned that moving my body is an integral part of who I am as a person. I’m not me when I’m not moving.
Once I was cleared to workout again, I began researching parent and baby fitness classes in my area. Gabe and I have since gone to yoga, barre and cardio classes and we both LOVE them. I make sure to try to get him to nap and eat right before the class starts so he’s in a good mood and wide awake for the 30-60 minute class. Of course it’s no problem for me to feed or soothe him during the class, but I do want to get as much exercise in as possible. I typically go to at least one class a week. It gets us out of the house, gets me moving, and allows me to bond with babe. Win, win, win.
I joined two mom groups in my area toward the end of my postpartum recovery when I was dying to get out of the house. It’s been a really great way to get to know families in our area and I learn a lot from other moms, many of whom are on leave with their second or third child. It’s also good for Gabe to be around other babies his age. We don’t go to these mom meetups every week (I’ve mentioned before that it’s important to be willing to change plans when you’re a new parent), but I like knowing that the meetings are happening in case I want to get us out of the house.
A restless mind
As much as parenthood can be taxing, I actually don’t find it quite as mentally challenging as work. I’m used to navigating stressful meetings, managing deadlines, sifting, sorting and replying to up to one hundred emails a day, changing priorities on a dime and dealing with the occasional crisis. Diapers and feeds and tummy time all take mental energy yes, but it’s a different kind. I find my brain needs a professional challenge and that’s a void I’m working on filling while on leave. Blogging much more frequently than I have in years is one way I’m keeping my mind active, along with inhaling audiobooks and podcasts about history, current events, interesting people, you name it. It’s been educational to figure out what my mind craves when I don’t have work taking up most of my mental energy.
Quality time with family
Gabe and I go to my parents house once a week and it’s a great way to add some structure to our lives. I’m always able to get a workout in while my parents watch Gabe, (they LOVE hanging out with him of course) and I can chat and catch up with them throughout the day. My parents are professors and it’s been nice to hear about their research and writing and get to know them better as professionals, rather than just as parents, while we all get to know Gabe.
A LOT of time at home
Speaking of leaving the house, I often don’t. And it rules. Before I had Gabe, I was the kind of person who was often out the door early in the morning and home late in the evening almost every day of the week. Whether I stayed late at work, had an event to attend, went to an evening gym session or yoga class, or was out for dinner with a friend, I was often at home just to sleep. Now, I’ll often spend entire days with no intention or desire or leave the house as I happily binge-watch a new show (seriously I’ve NEVER watched this much TV) while Gabe naps or plays on his play mat nearby. I never thought I could be such a homebody, but I’m enjoying getting to know this side of myself. Hibernation mode FTW.
Overall, I’ve learned that getting into a mat leave routine involves a lot of trial and error. Once I was through my six-week recovery I definitely overbooked myself, it’s been nice to find a happy balance of activity and home time, get to know myself as a mother and watch my son learn new skills and tricks every day.
P.S. Check out this article on Edit Seven: How to Ease into a Postpartum Wellness Routine, for more insight on living that mat leave life.