If mat leave fatigue is setting in, here are a few perk-you-ups courtesy of Samantha Dooey-Miles...
How are you amusing yourself on maternity leave? Ways you amuse the baby which you tolerate because it’s good for them do not count. For some reason a constant thought in the mind of a lot of new mothers is ‘am I doing enough for the baby or are they bored?’. As if being fed on demand, sleeping when they like and every day seeing things they have never in their whole life experienced before could be boring. You however, may find that you are regularly teetering on the edge of boredom as you walk around the same park you have done for the past 21 days. If boredom is not far away then look at this list and use it on the days you have spare energy and can be arsed, to amuse you - yes, you.
Old things you loved
Maybe you are a really super organised balanced person who never drops a ball in life, in which case move on to the next point. If not, then almost certainly in the process of living your life you’ve managed to stop doing things that you loved. Working long hours put a stop to yoga, once you moved in with your partner knitting didn’t seem like a way to spend a romantic evening with the one you love. Now is an amazing time to get back to that thing you stopped doing. In those quiet moments while the baby plays under the baby gym or snoozes in the middle of the day remind yourself how good downward dog feels on your aching body, knit whatever the hell you like.
Explore your neighbourhood
Visit shops you pass every day but never venture in. Walk down streets that you don’t know where they lead as long as, you know, you’ve not been avoiding it because of the huge crime numbers in that area. The biggest exploration I did whilst on maternity leave was going into the huge kosher bakery in my neighbourhood. I’d avoided it as the amazing looking delicacies had no signs next to them indicating what they were. As I'm not Jewish I’d never been in through fear of not knowing what to ask for. One day, not caring how stupid I looked but with hope in my heart that I’d get a good cake, I went in. I got a great cake, it proved to be a wise thing to do. I know it’s not up there with climbing Everest but when you’ve just had a baby, your Everest is allowed to be a bakery or a path you think might lead to the shops but just as well might be a dead end.
Galleries and museums
In the UK we are spoiled with access to free art and culture in our galleries and museums. If you live in or near a big city you’ll have some properly amazing ones to explore but don’t be put off if you’re not living somewhere super urban. Even in the tiny wee place I come from there’s a free museum about the town with the exhibits changing semi-regularly. If I had not gone to it when I was visiting my mum, I would never have discovered one of the old Dukes of my hometown insisted on being buried in a genuine Egyptian sarcophagus which had the nickname ‘El Magnifico’ carved on the lid. I learnt local history, I went somewhere different so it felt like I was really doing something with my day and I got to judge a long-dead rich man for thinking the nickname ‘El Magnifico’ was cool.
Shift working friends
We all have friends who we love but who work mad hours on shifts which mean the times you spend together are few and far between. On maternity leave you are on your own special shift work. One which involves dreadful sleeping patterns, limited tea breaks and the chance to meet people at times you would never have chosen before. Meet your shift working friend for breakfast once they finish nights. Invite them round for a cup of tea when they clock off in the evening because your little one doesn’t go down properly for an hour or two. Make the most of your new, irregular hours.
One handed hobbies
I’ll give you a moment to get your mind out of the gutters with this headline. Done? Good, I’ll continue. During feeding and the naps your little cherub insists on taking on you afterwards, you will find a lot of the first few months of maternity leave are spent with one hand free and another wrapped around a baby. Watching TV and films during this time is a fantastic use of time. Why live in the age of Netflix if you don’t embrace the chance to watch boxset after boxset after boxset? There are times though when it feels like three boxsets in a week is probably enough and maybe, just maybe, it’d be nice to do something else with the time stuck under baby. If this is how you feel, you find yourself in the ideal position for a one handed hobby. Reading, drawing, writing, crosswords, or if you are particularly nimble with the free hand maybe some cross stitch. Keep the bits you need close to the sofa and you’ll never be forced into watching any more Orange is the New Black than you want.
In the context of maternity leave lots of things seem challenging; getting out of your comfies, putting on a load of washing, emptying the dishwasher. The challenges I am referring to are things you actually want to do but always find a way to get out. Like doing a YouTube exercise video when the baby has a nap or making your own bread from scratch. Challenge yourself to do the things you want to make time for, a certain number of days a week. Make a list or put it in a calendar and tick off the days you do what you set out to. There is a great satisfaction in ticking things off a list, especially when what you’ve achieved is not, for a change, a solely baby related task.