Maybe you’re preparing for maternity leave, or maybe one of your friends is expecting a baby and wondering what to expect.
Whatever the case, it can be a huge transition: going from a world where you're childless and most of your responsibilities revolve around your job, to this new realm where a tiny, helpless creature relies on you for nearly every need you could imagine.
When it comes to how much time you’ll get off work and whether you’ll be paid for any of it, that depends on what state you live in, and any policies that might be in place at your current company. So we’re not going to go down that avenue -- you’ll have to look up the specifics regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act and talk to your human resources department when the time is right. But until then, we thought we’d go over what the experience itself will look like.
Of course, it goes without saying that the challenges one new mother faces might not be the same as another new mom down the block. We just thought we'd share some misconceptions from our own experiences.
Misconception No. 1: Being at home with a new baby all day will be so much easier than work.
It sounds like it'd be easier, doesn't it?
Sure, you've heard that you might be tired and your sleep schedule will be all over the place, but hang on. It's so much more than all that.
At least when it comes to your job, you typically know how to make your boss or your coworkers happy: Put your nose to the grindstone, log some extra hours, hone your skills, show more initiative or take on a new project. But a new baby, on the other hand, can be totally beyond your control. You can't just put in more work and satisfy all of your baby's need. You might have a random sleep regression, or the baby will be struggling with teething, or nursing, or you might just not know what to do. So frustrating! So, staying home with a new baby isn't necessarily hard like work can be hard, but it's FAR from easy.
Misconception No. 2: It’ll be relaxing.
This is similar to No. 1, in theory. You've probably heard that these first few weeks would be tough, but not strenuous. Personally, I thought, “Lying on the couch, nursing my new baby, at least that’s relaxing and we'll be sharing some special bonding time.” And maybe that can be you, after all, if you’re lucky. However, that's not always the case for everyone -- especially not right away.
Yes, the early weeks are precious and oh so special, but "relaxing" wouldn't be the right word to use to describe them. Doctors are sometimes asking for weekly or bi-weekly weight checks, if your baby is struggling to gain or get back to birth weight. Your schedule is all over the place. Days and nights are sometimes confused. You're wondering if the baby is eating productively, or why (s)he's so fussy. You're hungry, and the baby is napping on your chest, all the while your snacks are across the room. Your body might still hurt. And maybe even your spouse had to return to work already, so you're balancing a new baby all day. ... None of that sounds relaxing.
Misconception No. 3: You’ll catch up on cooking, cleaning, pleasure reading.
Good luck! Let us know how it goes.
Misconception No. 4: You’ll be busy running around the whole time.
Sure, some days, you might be up for a few actual tasks. Other days, to the outside world, you’ll have checked NOTHING off your to-do list. Actually, why don't you toss that thing aside for a few months, if you have one?
Anyway, sure, you haven't done much (eye roll) -- except nurse, if that’s something you’re doing; learn about your baby; and learn to pick up on his or her unique cues. Have we mentioned that those tasks are quite involved and make up about 98 percent of what "having an infant" is all about?
Clear your schedule. No one asked you to be super mom. Heck, just by nurturing that baby all day, you're super mom already. Remember, you’re here to feed (in any form you’d like!), love on, cuddle, and bond with your little one. No, you certainly won't be “busy” as you used to know the word, but you're now a different kind of busy -- the best kind of busy.
It can be exhausting, but embrace this time while you can. Just like everyone says, it'll all be a distant memory before you know it.
Misconception No 5: There's time to start getting into a good workout routine again.
Well, we're not saying it's a hard no, but this might not be top of mind as soon as you might imagine.
We're all for health and wellness, of course. Go for a walk; getting some fresh air with the baby can feel refreshing and invigorating, if that's a seasonally appropriate thing to do where you live. But be aware, you'll have to get cleared by your doctor before you jump back in to any workout regime -- and this usually takes about six to eight weeks. If you underwent a Caesarean section, prepare to wait a bit longer. Also, see above when it comes to your main job right now: snuggling a baby. You might not want to plan on much, outside of simply existing, for a while.
We once heard that you should do about three tasks a day as an absolute maximum. These should be small things, such as "take a shower," "empty the dishwasher" and then "load dishwasher." (Yikes, some days, those three examples might seem like a lot!) The point is, you should use this time to give yourself some grace. Take it easy. Ask for help. Let your spouse wait on you a bit, if he's able to. Your body just went through a major life event. Nourish yourself. Rest. There will be time to find that to-do list of yours later.
Misconception No. 6: People will come by with meals.
If they do, then you, my friend, have an amazing village. Just know that this isn’t always the case. Maybe you live out of state. Maybe your baby was born around the holidays and people who said they’d drop by, got busy with their own commitments. Maybe the weather will be less-than-stellar. But hey, even if you receive a few pots of soup from friends and family members, it's better to see those as a bonus: don’t count on them.
Having visitors can be stressful at times, anyway. Your house might not be perfectly clean, you might feel a bit frazzled, and sometimes, people overstay their welcome. Pro tip to any future visitors: An hour, maximum, is an appropriate amount of time to stay.
When it comes to nourishment, expect that you'll be very hungry and short on time, most days. You should probably prepare some snacks and meals beforehand. Healthy ones are the best, because they’ll make you feel better, mentally and physically. Also, these meals don't have to be the perfect picture of health, such as tofu-quinoa bowls and kale salads. Just aim to keep them balanced and hearty, especially if you're nursing. Chicken, potatoes and broccoli, lasagna and a salad, a big pot of chili or soup: all fantastic options. For snacks, we're thinking you could stock almonds, string cheese, crackers, yogurt, and pre-cut fruits and vegetables. Make sure to keep some pantry staples around too, so your spouse or partner can throw together quick and easy meals.
Misconception No. 7: You’ll be at home the whole time.
You certainly might be for weeks one through four, or maybe even until week eight. Heck, maybe we're off-base on this one and you’ll want to barricade inside your house the whole time you're on leave. Germs are scary, especially for new babies during flu season.
But hey, on the flip side, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s no reason you can't venture out if you’re up to it. If your baby is sleeping well and there are family or friends you want to go visit -- even if you're feeling a little stir crazy -- then go for it. Don't worry about messing up a sleep schedule. Babies nap a lot in their first few weeks, so do whatever makes you happy.
As much of a hard transition as this time can be, as you enter into motherhood, it's also indescribably special and memorable. The challenging parts are SO worth it, and they'll fade into the distance before you know it (cliche but true). A sweet baby nuzzling on your chest, or napping on you, or even your first family outing together -- be sure to take it all in! You'll want to freeze time some days. Lean into the sleepy days and remember that this is just a short chapter.
And just remember, so long as you keep yourself and your new baby top of mind, nothing you do is wrong. Trust your gut and enjoy it!