Canadian parents are fortunate when it comes to maternity and parental leave. Those who qualify can earn up to 55 percent of their salary for up to 12 months – one of the most generous plans in the world. It allows parents to be at home and witness each adorable milestone. Sounds great, right? Not to be ungrateful, but maternity leave nearly drove me crazy. For people who crave the company of others, get bored easily or really love their jobs, mat leave can seem more like house arrest than the “paid vacation” outsiders believe it is. Here’s how to survive.
Just like Baby, Mom needs a bit of a routine, too. This means getting out of your PJs at a decent hour, showering, brushing your hair and getting ready for the day. Feeling refreshed will help get you moving.
Don’t do the same thing every day. The morning rituals are one thing, but after your initial prep, shake things up. Get out of the house. Invite a friend over. Don’t fall into a rut.
Remember when people used to call each other on the phone? Now is the time to resurrect this lost art. Rather than getting lost in a world of baby talk, make time for grown-up discussions. If no one is available for a visit, call your parents, friends you haven’t connected with in a while or family members who have moved a way. Tip: don’t discuss the baby for the duration of the call. Remember to ask about the person you called.
Mindy Bell, a Brooklin, Ont., mom of two girls is pregnant with baby number three. “On my first maternity leave, I took two courses for work and wrote two courses for a local college,” she says. “On my second leave, I opened up an Etsy shop. Now what to do on my third one...?” Consider redecorating a room in your spare time (if you feel you have it), organize photos and make albums, scrapbook or work in the garden.
Not much of a cook? Make it a point to try new recipes a couple times a week. Give sewing or knitting a try, or take a photography course.
Don’t feel guilty about leaving your baby with someone for an hour or two. It doesn’t have to be the 14-year-old next door, but your mom, sibling or friend could pop by (even while Baby naps) so you can head to the gym, have a lunch date or maybe enjoy a pedicure. A quick break can be rejuvenating.
Stop putting pressure on yourself to do it all – keep a clean house, cook nutritious meals every night, put on pants, and so on. Cheryl Hickey, host of Entertainment Tonight Canada and mom of two says, “I survived my maternity leave by loading my iPad with rom coms. Every night, for two hours, I would watch movies and just laugh while I breastfed. It was a great change of pace from my TV life, so I soaked up every minute of it.”
Here's how some of our readers made it through maternity leave with their sanity intact.
“Netflix was a must during the frigid winter with a brand new baby and recovering from a c-section.” – Heather R.
“Make sure you get some me-time, date nights or girl nights without the children. You truly need adult interaction.” – Jennifer B.
“Have a schedule. For us, Mondays is Early Years Centre, Tuesdays is Family Literacy Centre, Wednesdays is a play date, Thursdays is the library, Friday is the park. Having my sister on mat leave with me helped, too (not planned but perfectly timed!).” – Brea P.
“It’s helpful to have outside-the-home groups and activities to go to with other adults and parents. Get out every day – even if it is just for a walk.” – Heather R.
“I found if I stayed at home it was easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the household chores, etc., but when I was out (even just for the morning) I could enjoy my time fully with my kids.” – Jennifer B.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July/August 2015.