• Stephanie Hinds

How to make the most of mat leave

I got my first job when I was 15.

It was taking calls at the Pizza Nova call centre. I worked a few days a week after school and on the weekends.

Three years later, I got a job as a server at Shoeless Joe’s. But I held onto that Pizza Nova gig.

That was the beginning of me working two jobs, and since the age of 18, I’ve always worked two jobs. I had more bills than anyone I knew at my age and needed two incomes to stay on top—or afloat, rather.

So you can imagine how hard it was for me to accept the reality that for one whole year, I would not work.

Sure, I would be tending to a baby, but work, as I knew it, was about to take on a whole new meaning.

I had always dreamed about taking some time off. I told myself that after university I would take a leave of absence from both jobs and do something. Travel. Sleep. But then the National Student Loans Centre sent me my bill for my six years of university and, well, that plan got cancelled.

In the months leading up to my maternity leave, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my time.

So I decided to make a mat leave bucket list. The idea was mocked and laughed at. But I had a good feeling about what I’d be able to accomplish.

Here’s how you can make the most of your time off.

Make a list

The best way to start getting things done, even when you’re not on maternity leave, is to make a list. I made my list before I left work. Anytime I thought of something I wanted to do, I would ask myself whether it was plausible and tack it onto my list.

Be realistic

A few days into motherhood, I came to understand why those people mocked and laughed at my mat leave bucket list. You’re operating on very little sleep, you’re tending to a baby that really has not concept of time and you’re trying to keep your house and yourself organized and together in the meantime.

So when you’re making your list, it’s important to be realistic about what you intend to accomplish so that you don’t let yourself down if it doesn’t get done.

A few of the things on my list were to learn to knit and to become a better cook. These were things I knew I could do because I would have to cook daily, allowing me to hone my skills and improve my abilities. Knitting was another thing I could do because it was something I could pick up and put down at my leisure.

Screw the schedule

I was determined to get my daughter into a regimen within days of bringing her home. But upon realizing the difficulty of this, I decided to wing it and let her determine how things would go. There were several reasons behind this decision, but the main one was because I had been on a schedule since accepting that Pizza Nova gig at 15.

Not having a schedule isn’t the end of the world. And three months into motherhood, my kid kind of figured that when I put her in her crib and gave her a big, wet kiss on her forehead, it meant it was time to sleep.

This brings me to my next point…

Learn to work (and sleep) during off-peak hours

I say this primarily because I’m writing this piece at 7:21 a.m. and I’ve been up for two hours now.

This is the new life I live. No, I’m not a morning person, but I’m certainly learning how to operate before the sun rises because that’s what mat leave (and motherhood) is. Plus, to counteract all this early rising stuff, I shamelessly take naps throughout the day with my baby.

Be flexible. Be open-minded. And don’t be too hard on yourself!

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