My second maternity leave looks very different than my first. In my first article for 2020, I mentioned that maternity leave is work and not a vacation. It’s getting the family used to the “new normal” of being and operating as a family of four. I have treated my second round of maternity leave with this in mind.
Parents and colleagues ask me all the time, “Why are you out? Didn’t you just give birth?” My response has been, “I need to be.” Life does not stop, because of the arrival of our second daughter, Alice. In fact, it’s busier, because we still have our older daughter Ilse to think about. To make the most of my maternity leave and maintain my sanity, I rely on three existing habits.
Waking Up at 5:30 AM
Since our second child is bottle-fed, my husband takes the night shift with her. I wake up with him at our usual time of 5:30 AM to make our older daughter’s lunch and enjoy a little coffee klatch with him. Adhering to my pre-maternity leave schedule means my body clock won’t need readjusting when I return to work. It also allows me to gauge how much more time we may need in the morning to get ready once I return to work.
Getting Made-up and Dressed Daily
Now that we are a family of four, one rule we have instituted is to prep ourselves before we prep our children. It’s like that PSA on the airplane with the oxygen mask. Take care of yourself before helping others. I love putting on make-up and getting dressed up for the day, even if it’s just to wear slacks and a t-shirt. Looking good helps me feel good. When I am dressed for the day, I am ready to take on the day. It reminds me that daily self-care is just as important as other daily chores I do.
Walking As Much As I Can
I loathe working out. My favorite way to get fit post-partum is to walk. When I transferred to an office in my neighborhood last summer, I was excited about the prospect of not being a slave to my SUV or Muni, because I walk everywhere, especially now with my newborn Alice. We walk Ilse to and from school every day. We walk to our doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, and any other neighborhood spot within a 30-minute walk from our apartment. Walking gets me outside for exercise and allows me to accomplish a few errands. It’s a workout with a purpose!
To make the most of my maternity leave this second time around, I have treated this time away from my work routine like work, by remolding existing habits to match our larger family. Our days run smoothly when we have a plan and good habits in place. It makes the endless laundry and dishwashing that much more manageable.