I used to think that maternity leave was one big, extended holiday.
I pictured strolling round sunny parks and sitting in quaint cafes with my cute-as-a-button baby, not a care in the world. I’d often imagine endless hours in which I’d need nothing but a cup of tea and Netflix to binge on.
That was until I started my own maternity leave and realised that work isn’t just there to make us money. It gives us something to do; a purpose and a meaning to our day. Whether we like it or not, we often get sucked into the structure of our working hours.
Suddenly, I had all this free time and no idea what to do with it. Netflix can only get you so far people.
Of course, there is the infant that you have to raise from sheer newborn helplessness to functioning human. And in my case, she is damn cute-as-a-button.
But for me, with the endless hours of ‘nothing’ to do today, I realised that there had to be more. I needed to know I was still heading in some sort of direction.
While working, I’d always dreamed of having the time to pursue a writing or freelancing career – and shortly after Moo was born, it finally clicked that maternity leave was the perfect opportunity.
I set up this blog, and even though my once ‘free time’ is now filled with to-do lists and a jam-packed email inbox, I feel so much more fulfilled. I’m taking steps towards both mine and my daughter’s future.
So how can I maximise my maternity leave?
I’ve put together 21 fantastic ideas to help you get ahead 0f the game:
1) Learn a new skill
Whether it be a language, coding or even juggling, learn something you’ve never had time to before.
2) Take evening classes
If you want a new, shiny qualification under your belt to take back to work (or a new career) try an evening class at your local college.
3) Read more books
Fiction, non-fiction, blogs (not books but totally similar); read for pleasure and to open your mind to new ideas. What you find may surprise you.
4) Listen to podcasts
Again, it’s all about finding different sources of inspiration (and it may be the only human voice you hear all day!).
5) Broaden your horizons
Go somewhere you wouldn’t usually go – even if it’s just a local town you don’t visit much. Getting out regularly to try different things is a great way to remain sane during the early stages of parenting.
6) Start that creative/business idea
When is there ever going to be a better time to start a business than when you have a napping baby?
7) Write a book
If it’s always been a dream, see if you can make it a reality. All you need to do is start.
8) Start a blog
Take a leaf out of my book and express yourself in a blog while learning some amazing new digital skills.
9) Take on challenge
Be it a 5k, half-marathon or raising funds for charity in an original way – do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
10) Get your home/personal affairs/finances in order
Take the time to break them down into projects and tackle each one bit by bit.
11) Get fit and healthy
Exercise is a new mum’s best friend. It might not feel like it, but trust me, once you start (and it doesn’t have to be much), you feel so much better!
12) Educate yourself about food
Drop the fad diets and learn about balancing the food you eat. Try new, exciting recipes and learn how to eat healthily for life.
13) Get out of the house
Go to the park, or to town, or just round the block. Getting out of the house as much as possible is a great way to dust off the cobwebs and fire up instant energy.
14) Assess where you are and where you want to be
Take a moment to think about the path you’re currently on and if you need to adjust it to reach your goals. Now is the time to plan how you’re going to do this.
15) Consider a career change
Don’t feel like going back to your day job? Think about what it is you do want to do and find out how to get there. It might not be a quick switch, but taking the first step now will fire up the passion to pursue it.
16) Network at mum & baby events
If you want to get a business off the ground, join a mama tribe, or simply find a friend for coffee, you’ll be treated to all sorts of individuals at mother and baby events. From SAHMs to CEOs – you might meet just who you’ve been looking for.
17) Visit places during the week that are usually too busy at weekends
Think hip cafes, family attractions and historical buildings, to name but a few.
18) Rethink your wardrobe
Whether you’re like me and can’t quite fit into pre-baby clothes yet, or just need a shake-up, spending time updating your wardrobe will have you feeling like a yummy mummy in no time.
19) Look after your skin
Try to minimise the make-up on days when you won’t be seeing anyone you know. I go make-up free most days now I’m not at work and my skin has cleared up so much.
20) Create memory scrapbooks
Stick photos and other sentimental items in a scrapbook and fill it with thoughts and stories to read with your little one when they’re old enough. You’ll treasure the memories.
21) Make vision boards
To inspire you to aim toward the life you want to lead with your family. Vision boards will help you maintain focus through the days when all you really want to do is nap in front of TV.
Those are my 21 top tips – if you have any more, I’d love to hear them! Comment below and let me know what I should add to my list 🙂