I remember well how hard it was – both while pregnant and in the early days of having a baby – to think much past the next day or next major event. When I was pregnant with my first, I (for good reason!) couldn’t even imagine what life would be like once he arrived, so found it difficult to plan for post-baby life. And after he was born, simply surviving the days – and nights – took all the energy I had in the world. Forget planning ahead months and months.
But going through the having-a-baby-and-returning-from-maternity-leave thing one time made me wiser about it the second time around. I think much more these days about the idea that if something isn’t on a calendar, it simply doesn’t happen. And about how important it is to my own state of calm and sanity to block days and weekends for doing absolutely nothing.
So in the spirit of the approaching New Year, resolutions, planning and all, I offer you, new mamas, a few ideas for how to take control of your calendar, even before your baby gets here:
- Block the First Few Weekends after Your Return to Work: The first days of returning to work and having someone else watch your baby are exhausting and emotionally draining. I expected to be tired, but I don’t think I anticipated how wiped out my baby would be, too. It’s a good idea to keep those first few weekends after your return to work completely clear to take care of yourself, regroup, and reconnect with your munchkin.
- Put Pump-Holds On Your Work Calendar: If you are planning to breastfeed, it’s never too early to put some pumping “holds” on your work calendar for your return. Well before I returned to the office, I put 3 half-hour holds on my calendar – one in the morning, one around lunch, and one in the mid-afternoon, to reserve time for pumping. With my first baby I needed to pump that many times a day to keep up my supply, but with my second, I only needed to pump twice a day. Having blocked that lunch time pumping session made me feel like I had some “bonus” breathing time, though!
- Plan Vacations Around Your Childcare Calendar: Are there certain days of the year when your daycare will be closed? When your nanny will be out of town? Find out as soon as you can what the yearly calendar is, and schedule yours around it. My daycare is closed the entire last week of August. Guess when we go on vacation…
- Consider a Post-Baby No Fly Zone: Everyone has a different approach to how many visitors they’d like to see and when upon baby’s arrival. My husband and I decided we wanted some time alone with our first before the onslaught of friends and relatives, so we blocked a “one week no fly zone” post-baby. People were allowed to drop off food at our door and leave, but nothing more. It worked out well for us and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. The key here, was setting expectations in advance, though, so well-meaning baby-adorers didn’t get offended.
Blocking the calendar seems to be a muscle that gets stronger and stronger for me as I keep doing it over time. Now that my kids are little older (almost 4 and almost 2), I’m able to block time for a weekly yoga class, and my husband blocks exercise time on his calendar. We plan in advance and commit to a monthly date night. And we take one of those end-of-year days when daycare is open but we’re off of work for annual planning, to map out what we want the coming year to look like.
From what I can tell, blocking time on the calendar in advance never hurts. You can always take those holds off the calendar later if you don’t need them, but it’s harder to get the time back if someone else managed grab that time to from you.
So block that calendar now. Your calmer self will thank you later.
Want more practical advice on how to transition back to work after maternity leave? Check out the Mindful Return E-Course here. New sessions start soon.