Maximise your maternity leave
Maternity leave. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Months and months of time, where all you have to do is play with your baby and meet up with friends for coffee.
While maternity leave is a joyful and special time, if you have experienced it already you’ll know that it doesn’t always run smoothly. It can be stressful, frantic and often lonely. Maternity leave might seem like a very long stretch of time, most people take six months or more, (imagine, six months of no work, what will you do with yourself?) but those months fly by and are over in a flash. As with most things baby-related, the days may seem long, but the months fly by. So, what can you do to ensure that you enjoy and make the most of your maternity leave? We’ve spoken to a few different moms to see what they would change about their maternity leave if they could go back and start again.
Suzanne, mom to Ben aged 2
“If I could do maternity leave again, I would take away all the pressure I put on myself. I was so set on getting Ben dressed in the morning and getting out of the house to do things. I wanted to fit loads of experiences into those months and looking back it just wasn’t achievable. If I didn’t do whatever I’d planned to do that day, even if it was just going to the supermarket, I’d feel disappointed in myself, like I’d failed. And I spent a lot of time jamming a grumpy baby into clothes and strapping him into the car when it would have been much better for us to have a pyjama day and just relax together. With my next baby, I’ll slow down and take each day as it comes, I’ll still plan things, but now I know that babies aren’t robots and my schedule has to fit around them, as well as what I want to do.”
Georgina, mom to Joshua aged 8 months
“Oh, I’d say NO, loudly and often, to a lot of things. No, it doesn’t suit us for you to visit sometime on Monday. No you can’t hold my baby. No it doesn’t suit me to meet you in a busy shopping centre with my 6 week old. No I don’t need your advice on how to help him sleep and no I don’t want to hear how you managed to breast feed without any problems. Just NO!”
Roisin, Mom to Zoe and Anthony, aged 1 and 3 and a half
“On my second maternity leave I was much more relaxed. I’d learned to accept the chaos. I didn’t try to get my home showhouse tidy. I still cleaned, but I know now that babies bring mess and that’s not the end of the world. If the laundry piled up I didn’t get annoyed with myself for not getting it done, I knew I’d get to it when I had time.”
Niamh, mom to Willow, aged 1 and a half
“If I could go back and give myself advice about maternity leave, I’d say join a mom and baby group earlier. I waited till Willow was nearly six months before I joined our local mom and baby group and I immediately realised that I’d missed out on help, support and understanding, that would have been great when she was much smaller. I had known that the group was there, but I was embarrassed about how hard I was finding being a new mom, I felt ashamed that I was giving my baby a bottle instead of breast feeding and I thought they’d judge my dirty hair and exhausted face. But then I met them and realised that they were all exactly like me and far from judging they understood and sympathised. I’m convinced that other moms are the best support you can find when you have a little one. I wish I’d taken the plunge sooner.”
Maire, mom to Rose aged 4
“Looking back I wish I’d taken a little break before I headed back to work, just the three of us. I was so stressed about putting Rose in a creche and getting back to work that I didn’t realise how much I’d miss being at home with her. I wish we’d gone somewhere, just for a weekend to mark the end of this special time.”
Sharon, mom to Sarah (8), Cian (10), Christopher (13), Lana (15), Grainne (18)
“If I could go back I’d sit still. I was always rushing around. I wish I’d taken the time to stop and sit and hold my babies more. To smell them and cuddle them and just enjoy them. They grow up so quickly. It’s like the poem says “The cleaning and cooking will wait till tomorrow, children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow, so quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”