If someone asked you to imagine what life looks like on maternity leave, what comes to mind? Before I went on leave, I imagined it to be a lot of Netflix and being chained to the couch with the baby, and just thinking about it gave me stirrings of cabin fever. Now, half a year into my leave, I still haven’t finished Mad Men (the first show on my long “must watch” queue), and instead, find myself entrenched in a completely foreign world of mommy dates, baby yoga, and song circles.
Within my first few weeks of leave, it became painstakingly clear how much socialization and activity I needed to stay sane. I knew I wasn’t going to get it unless I did some hardcore architecting, so I got to work. It was a lot more difficult at first—juggling the endless needs of a newborn while managing to make it out for coffee dates and picnics in the park (ahh the good ol’ summer days of mat leave) was a nightmare. The little milk monster had to eat 8 times a day, and seemed to poop and sleep just as much, so there was always something I needed to tend to.
But compared to Jasper at 6 weeks, Jasper now at 6 months is a walk in the park (not literally, winter sucks!). For the past few months, we’ve been rocking and rolling to a routine that makes both mum and babe pretty happy, so I thought I’d share it with all my 9-to-5’ers and hustle-and-grinders who are curious about what a new mom does all day. Here’s what a typical day on mat leave looks like for me:
LIFE OF A MAT LEAVE MOM
8:30AM – RISE AND SHINE, SLEEPYHEAD. Sam and I hear Jasper stirring in her nursery through our baby monitor, and bring her over to our room. I pop her the boob for breakfast, and she gets some play time with Sam before he takes off for work. Then, true to our bum-life status, Jasper and I both drift off to sleep again…
9:30AM – GOOD MORNING, MOMMY. I wake up from my little catnap and am ready to start my day! I usually have about half an hour of peace and quiet to get a healthy breakfast and a good, strong cup of coffee in while catching up on news and social media. Then, it’s game time.
10AM – GAME TIME. Jasper is up for the day! I fit her into a fresh diaper and an even fresher outfit and bring her into her play space to begin yet another fun day. She’s most energetic during this stretch because she’ll have typically slept for 13 hours, so she’ll roll around on her play mat, or practice sitting and standing with my help. Usually after an hour or so, she’ll get tired and I’ll pop her into her booster seat and arrange some toys in front of her. She pops each of them into her mouth while I run around getting as much housework done as possible (laundry, dishes, cleaning). While I’m getting shit done, I typically narrate what I’m doing (“Mommy is mopping to keep the floors clean”) to familiarize her with the sound of words, and so she knows I’m around.
12PM – LUNCHTIME. I pop her the boob, then she joins me at the table and watches me eat lunch (leftovers from last night’s dinner) as she plays with toys in her booster seat. After lunch, we get ready to head out for our afternoon activity. She gets excited as soon as I put on her winter fleece because she knows it’s adventure time!
1PM – SNOOZEVILLE. We’re out the door for our activity of the day. I pop Jasper in the carrier or stroller and the motion of it almost always puts her to sleep. I usually try to time my walks during her nap times so that she’s used to having at least one nap “on the go” and also so her awake time isn’t wasted just sitting in a bucket seat without stimulation. If it’s a shorter walk, I try to get some errands done along the way (bank, groceries, post office) to lengthen the travel time so that she gets a solid nap in by the time we arrive at our destination.
2PM – ADVENTURE TIME. Our afternoon activity varies by day of the week. There are tons of mommy and baby activities in our neighbourhood, so I usually have a few things to pick from, depending on what I’m in the mood for that day. My regulars include baby drop-in at Early Years Learning Centres, story time at libraries, baby yoga/pilates/barre at Yoga Mamas, or meeting up with other mums and babes for coffee or drinks. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I’ll hit up two events, but the cold weather is making me lazy these days so it’s been more the exception.
3:30PM – AFTERNOON WALK. After an hour or two of play, she’s ready for her afternoon snack so I pop her the boob again. By now, I’ve nursed her in all sorts of places (coffee shops, bars, parks, buses, my office) so it ain’t no thing but a chicken wing. We get ready to head home, and on days when I have her in the carrier, she loooves looking around and flashing big smiles to passersby, which always garners a lot of attention. But she rarely makes it halfway home before the motion and warmth of the carrier rocks her to sleep again.
4:30PM – AFTERNOON PLAYTIME. By the time we’re home, she fresh and ready for another couple of hours of play! I try to mix it up from what she’s been doing earlier in the day, which can mean reading her books, singing nursery rhymes, or practicing sitting or walking with her. After about half an hour of this, I go off to prep dinner and pop her into her booster seat with a bunch of toys so that she can play on her own.
6PM – DADDY COMES HOME. When Sam gets home from work, they’re usually super excited to see each other. The two of them get a bit of playtime in while I finish dinner prep, and then we swap. Sam does his magic in the kitchen (he’s definitely the cook of the family) and I pop Jasper the boob before the three of us sit down at the table for a family dinner.
6:30PM – FAMILY DINNER. Dinner with the three of us is my favourite time. Jasper knows when it’s dinnertime and starts slamming the booster seat tray as soon as we put her down in front of a table full of food. She gobbles up most things we feed her, and particularly loves bananas, sweet potato, and butternut squash. These days, she’s more fond of feeding herself, and keeps trying to grab the incoming spoon of food, so we’ll be moving onto baby-led weaning soon!
7PM – LAST NAP. After dinner, Jasper goes down for her third and final nap. Sam likes to unwind with a beer and some TV, and I take this time to clean up after dinner and tidy up to get the house in order for another day of chaos. While I’m tidying, I’m typically barraging Sam with a million questions about the outside world, getting in some much-needed adult interaction even though he just wants to chill. Sorry, not sorry, Sammu.
7:30PM – DADDY & DAUGHTER TIME. Jasper wakes up from her nap and enters her major stretch of playtime with daddy! The best thing about Jasper being a late sleeper is that she gets solid father/daughter time every night. I’ve been told that it’s sometimes really hard for fathers to bond with their babies in the first few months, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for Sam and Jasper. Evening playtime is both of their favourite time of day, and Sam’s silliness and bursts of energy never fail to make Jasper chortle with glee.
8:30PM – WINDING DOWN. We bottle feed Jasper (to get her used to it) and give her a bath (which she loooves) if it’s bath day, and Sam will read her bedtime stories to wind down for the night. I slip her the boob for her last meal, and then it’s off to bed for Jasper.
9PM – GOODNIGHT, JASPER. Our bedtime routine for Jasper consists of changing her into a fresh set of jammies, singing her two lullabies, saying good night to 5 things in her room, and giving her a kiss on the cheek each. Some nights she’ll go down without a peep, some nights she’ll roll around and grumble for a solid half hour before drifting off until 9am the next day.
9:30PM – HAPPY HOUR. Sam and I high five each other on another successful day, and then it’s Happy Hour at the Kim’s residence! This is when we get in 2-3 hours of adult/alone time, when I’ll enjoy a glass of whiskey with Sam or a glass of wine by myself, and we’ll catch up with each other. Eventually, we’ll put on a game in the background or throw on something on Netflix, while I update the world about my mundane day and Sam does whatever Sam does.
MIDNIGHT – LIGHTS OUT. Another 8-9 hours until the whole thing starts again!
Once or twice a week, we’ll have friends over in the evenings, or I’ll go downtown to grab coffee, lunch, or dinner with friends or coworkers. We try to spend weekends with family and friends as well. Otherwise, life is pretty simple and structured.
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
People ask me if I’ve been enjoying mat leave, and it’s hard to answer that. There are days when I feel incredibly lucky to spend so much time with such a good-natured baby who’s filled with giggles and smiles all day. Other days, I feel like one more day of nursery rhymes and baby talk will make my head explode, and find myself pining for something more interesting and meaningful.
My prediction is that in 4 months, when it’s time for me to go back to work, it will be a bittersweet moment for me. In the same way I yearn for intellectual stimulation and meaningful work while I’m at home, I’m sure that once I go back to work, I’ll be yearning for the days when life was leisurely and I could spend seemingly unlimited time playing with Jasper and watching her shine.
One definite positive of me going back to work early is that Sam will get the same chance to experience daily life with Jasper. I’ve gotten to know Jasper’s habits and temperament in a way that only someone who spends 24/7 with her could. There certainly is a special connection that comes from that.
I know that the 2 months Sam spends with her will be special and filled with fun times and joyful moments (ie. daily trips to Leslie Spit, who are we kidding :P).
And as for me… I look forward to experiencing something new: being able to come home from a long day’s work and see Jasper’s shining, beaming face as if it’s for the first time. <3