Maternity leave can be over and done before you know it. It’s one time in your baby’s life (and yours for that matter!) that you can’t buy back. Use it wisely, and you’ll get the rest and balance you need before going back to work. Here are some tips to make your maternity leave more meaningful.

1. Remember what maternity leave is for

It’s a time of respite and to bond with your new baby. That’s the end goal. If you return to work feeling more exhausted than when you left you’ll be hard pressed to get much sympathy from colleagues who think you’ve had six, nine or 12 months dosage around.

It might be great to get a new kitchen fitted, or take on a big project to while away those quiet moments, but you must be sure to spend your energy on the right things – you and your baby. Don’t let the guilt creep in.

2. Plan to take a break from your business

Sometimes, it feels like being self-employed doesn’t even give you the flexibility to take time off during maternity leave. But did you plan to take time off?

Yes, it will cost you money, but could you outsource some tasks to another person and keep in touch once a day on the phone or email? Can a trusted family member, friend or former colleague take the reins for a couple of weeks so you can get some respite?

3. Entertain yourself during night feeds

This can often be the hardest part of the maternity leave – the unrelenting night feeds can seem so lonely, even though it’s a great time to bond with your baby.

Why not set up your phone or iPad and watch a movie, or some YouTube videos while you feed? Or read your favourite book? Yes, it may be the last thing you want to do when you’re sleep deprived, but instead of struggling through the late nights and early mornings bored out of your mind, why not make it as enjoyable as possible?

4. Keep food simple and easy

If you’ve got all the energy in the world to plan and cook a three-course meal every day of the week then all kudos to you. But if you just about manage to prise yourself away from your baby long enough to make dinner, you’ve done well – especially in the early days when you’re both getting used to each other.

For the first few weeks, if you’re cooking, take the strain away from yourself and go for simple meals – stir fries, soups and stews, jacket potatoes etc. Basically, meals you can whip up in next to no time without spending an hour or so in the kitchen.

Save the longer deals for when you’ve got someone else at home to look after the baby.

5. Don’t keep saying ‘No’

One sure way to feel overwhelmed is to try to do everything yourself. Being a new mum has all sorts of pressures, and most comes from our own misconceptions about what we ‘should’ be able to cope with and what we ‘should’ be doing to make us a perfect mum. Don’t put yourself under so much pressure – learn to accept and ask for help! Saying ‘No’ overtime someone asks to help you out with something will get you nowhere…

6. Get out and about…if you want to

Some mums really get a boost from having a purpose for their day, and so get a lot out of popping along to local mother and baby groups. If you miss some adult company, can should look into some local groups and join them. Many people have made friends for life through these.

Some mums can’t stand the groups – whether it’s because the topic always revolves around motherhood and parenting, or because they feel they have nothing in common with the other mums, it just isn;t for them. Don’t feel you have to go to mother and baby groups because it’s the thing to do. If you genuinely hate it, then find another way to get out – meet working friends for lunch in their town of work, go window shopping, or just…stay at home. Do what works best for you.

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