Our writer shares her best tips and tricks to make the most of your maternity or paternity leave
While maternity leave is a great time to lean into your new role as a parent (or a parent to another child) it is also a long stretch of time to spend alone with your baby.
And only your new baby.
Not only are you trying to learn how to be a parent on the job, you are also facing day after day with minimal adult interaction. If all your friends are at work and your family is not readily available how are you supposed to fill eight hours a day? How are you supposed to stay sane?
When I went on maternity leave with my first daughter I was terrified. I was determined not to become a pale shut-in bingeing on kid’s shows and wearing the same outfits for days at a time. I wanted to enjoy my time with my daughter, but I wasn’t sure how to do that. How could I fill the days in a way that was beneficial for her and for me? Luckily, I was able to find many great coping mechanisms throughout my three maternity leaves and I want to share my expertise with my fellow PLNers.
Find your people-Finding other parents with children the same age as you is not only a great way to share information and commiserate about your lack of sleep, it’s also a great way to get out of the house. The best news is that finding your fellow parents is actually pretty easy.
Join a Lamaze class-Even if you aren’t planning on a natural birth you can meet fellow expecting parents to befriend and get some good information and birth preparation and newborn care
Join a breastfeeding support group– if you are breastfeeding you can get expert advice and meet fellow moms!
Take a free class or visit a drop in-There are many provincial programs that are tailor-made for parents and their little ones.
Ontario: I attended Babyville, which is a group support program where parents gather with a public health nurse weekly to discuss a variety of topics and trade tips and information.
Ontario Early Years offers drop-in programs where you can get out of the house and meet fellow parents. This is a great option if you have other children as well since the centers are designed for children newborn to six years old.
Manitoba has a rich resource for expecting and new parents called Manitoba Parent Zone. You can follow this link and enter your area to find resources in your area.
Saskatchewan-In Saskatchewan they have Early Years programs offering music, play, and literary programs.
Alberta has family and support services that offer children’s development programs, occasional parent relief and programs for single parents.
British Columbia has the BC Association of Family Resource programs which offers play, early literacy, and support programs. It is often referred to as ‘The Family Place’.
Nova Scotia Family Support Services offer programs, services, and support for local families.
Newfoundland-In Newfoundland there are low-cost (free under two years) drop in programs run through the city of St. Johns.
P.E.I – in Charlottetown, Chances offers programs for both expecting parents and young families.
Yukon-I was only able to find resources for parents of children with developmental delays, but the Yukon government announced a funding plan in 2018 for further programming.
Northwest Territories-There are a variety of programs for families in Northwest Territories! From nutrition, parenting and early education there is something for everyone. New parents can get a home visit from health and support services for information and support.
Nunavut-You can get access to the library, literary and parenting programs through the government website.
Be social. While the thought of leaving your home with your baby may feel daunting, trust me, it is the key to keeping your wits about you. Not only are you able to talk to other adults (yay) you can meet up and have fun. Go for a walk, (hit the local mall when it’s cold) take in a baby-friendly movie (many theatres offer baby-friendly showings during the day) or host a coffee date. If you can’t get together in person, you can always connect online. Check out the Parent Life Network Facebook Group for some great support and advice.
Get outside. Spending time outside is great for you and baby-no matter the season. When I had my first daughter I would put her in the stroller for her afternoon nap every day without fail. It got us outside for some much-needed fresh air and vitamin D. In the winter I simply put up the rain shield to protect her from the wind. I would listen to music and walk to the local library or even grab a few ingredients from the supermarket for dinner. It made all the difference for me and helped me shed the baby weight.
Focus on your career. Now, this may seem like a weird one. How can you focus on your career when you aren’t working? Take some time to focus on what your career goals are and figure out what you need to do to achieve them. You may be considering going back to school to upgrade your education (you can check out our Facebook live Q and A about heading back to class as a parent) or check out some motivational podcasts. Now is the time to plan your next move.
Capture the moments-The baby days go fast. Take the time to capture every moment in a way you enjoy. I wrote several blogs to capture my babies first days, but if you aren’t a writer there are lots of other options. You can take pictures, do DIY crafts or even make vlogs to capture your parenting adventure.
The baby days go by so fast but they are not always going to be enjoyable. Sharing the journey with those around you is going to give you the support you need to be the best parent you can be. Plus your baby will have little buddies to grow up with! Let us know in the comments what helped keep your sanity during those baby days.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.