Being on maternity leave is not always fun. The reality of being a mother is hard work as you are in high demand and have limited control over your schedule. It is easy to feel burnt, sad or irritable. The transition to parenting may require support, depending on how you feel about your new role as a mom.
Many parents experience sadness at the loss of freedom and options available after having children. It can take time to mourn your former life and integrate your old identity and interests with your new identity as a parent. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you figure out what you need in order to manage your mat leave. Let go of judgments and expectations of what mat leave should look like and embrace a creative approach that meets your specific needs.
There are many ways to be on maternity leave. For example, some women like to stay connected to work by attending meetings or working part-time. How did you plan your leave? Is the plan working for you? Do you want to modify the plan? Some options to lift the blues include: staying social through mom or baby groups, finding childcare so that you can have breaks during the week to be on your own and engage in work or activities that provide mental, emotional and intellectual stimulation. Try out different strategies to see what works best for you.
Returning to Work
The return to work after spending time on leave can be a very difficult transition given that you are used to spending your days with your little one. You might feel more emotional, sad, anxious or worried. It is challenging to find the right childcare arrangements. Find ways to support yourself during this transition including a graduated return, setting up childcare arrangements prior to your return and temporarily outsourcing some tasks so that you will have more time to spend with your child when you are not at work.
Whether you return to work full-time, part-time or stay-at-home full-time it is important to find balance. There is a lot to juggle between work, kids, partner/spouse, family, friends, responsibilities, hobbies and activities. Balance is elusive, in that there is constant change and flux. It is helpful to prioritize the various aspects of your life (regular dates with spouse, exercise) and let go of less important factors (redecorating, etc.). You have a finite amount of energy in a given day. Find manageable ways to complete tasks by lowering expectations, asking for help or outsourcing if that is an option (getting take-out some nights or having a cleaner).
Beyond the Blues
Most people experience challenges from the significant change of having a child, or having a second or third child. It is important, however, to look for signs and symptoms that warrant treatment. If you or a loved one is having feelings that are beyond their normal range of emotions (inability to get out of bed, excessive crying, obsessive cleaning, no need for sleep, compulsive shopping) that impede the ability to function on a daily basis it is important to seek help. Get in touch with a Psychologist, Naturopath, Family Doctor, Nurse or Psychiatrist. If you are in crisis, call a 24 hour crisis line such as the Distress Centre: 416.408.4357
Good Books to Read on Mat Leave:
Momma Zen and Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller
The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood by Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett
The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal by Renee Peterson Trudeau
Great Sex for Moms by Valerie Davis Raskin