Am I nuts to think I'll actually have time for this stuff?
February 12, 2007 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Besides doing all I can to guarantee my baby becomes a genius, what can I do during my 8 months of maternity leave to be more productive and keep my brain from turning into mush?

I'm due Aug. 1, but I figure it's not too late to plan. I know the first months will be hectic and I will want to do nothing but sleep, but other than that, what can I get done? I'm thinking about making stuff to sell online at Etsy, selling stuff on Ebay, watching a ton of documentaries and TV shows from Netflix, signing up for a baby swim class or something, finding a moms group in the neighborhood, scheduling lunches with another friend who is also going to be on leave, dipping more into family genealogy, that kind of thing. I figure I'll be spending a lot of the winter months at home and I'll need to find ways to not go nuts. Any ideas? Online courses or certification type of things out there? If you had this time, what would like to do?
posted by printchick to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why not START a moms group in your neighborhood? That'll get you moving around, and then once the baby is born you'll have all the more incentive to keep going.
posted by hermitosis at 2:01 PM on February 12, 2007

Quick note, flip to Chapter 5 of "Freakonomics" to get a non-biased, researched notion of what factors actually affect the outcome of a child's life as opposed to conventional wisdoms.

e.g., Whether a mother stays home with the child from birth to kindergarten actually has no correlation to a child's intelligence or progress in school.
posted by redhotchips at 2:01 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not nuts, no but I advise keeping your expectations flexible. The baby will largely be calling the shots on your schedule for the first several months. I think it's great to come up with a list of ideas of things you'd like to do but please don't let it become The-List-You-Beat-Yourself-Over-The-Head-With-Because-You-Aren't-Getting-Stuff-Done.

The single best thing I did for my sanity during my maternity leave was to get outside daily into some fresh air and sunlight. I recommend a jogging stroller (of course you'll research which ones offer the correct support for a newborn and which ones do not) because the dinky wheels on a regular stroller severely limit where you go.

Also, related: mom + baby yoga classes are a blast.

In retrospect, it's weird how much I found myself enjoying physical activity postpartum (weird because up to that point, I was, and have largely reverted back to being, a major couch potato). I noticed the same reaction with several friends. Maybe it's a reaction to pregnancy, a sense of reclaiming one's body. Anyway, I found it to be a great way to keep baby brain mush away.
posted by jamaro at 2:25 PM on February 12, 2007

My baby is 15 months old. I spent that winter of her early months doing the usual new-mom routine of figuring out her feeding and sleeping routines but the fragmentation of my days needed something to balance it, so I focused on reading long novels in my downtime -- all the big Dickens ones worked for me. This often replaced the nap I needed while the baby slept but it was worth it to feed my head.

I also re-started a freelance writing career that's coming along nicely. I consult part-time doing enterprise web development (my former full-time job). It's good to have money-making stuff that I can pick up when I need to and say no to if I want more time with family.

I'm expecting again in September, and this time around I want to plan family meals (make a list, shop, cook, freeze, etc) so that I don't have to rouse myself every single day to put food on the table. Winter works well with casseroles or lasagnas or other big pots of yummy food.

There are mommy groups and mommy groups. I started a short-story group (like a book club) since my friends could all manage to read a short story and discuss it, but not everyone had the time or motivation read a full book before our meetings. (Not just limited to moms, of course.)

I got up to exercise at the gym every morning at 6 -- I could work out for an hour and be home by the time the baby woke up. I met another mom to do this (husbands stayed home to sleep in or hang with the kiddies). Absolutely invaluable in terms of boosting my energy level and losing the baby weight. And having someone waiting on me to pick her up got me out of bed on time.
posted by mdiskin at 2:30 PM on February 12, 2007

My wife is screaming at me, "TELL HER TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE EARLY AND OFTEN!!!!"
I think she means it is dangerous to your long-term mental health to be at home alone with a wonderful but demanding newborn all the time.
Library, Museums, Starbucks, Parks, Malls---Any place with people and space and yes, noise.
You will probably feel extra-protective about your little baby for the first two months or so, and feel like he/she will be too fragile for such stimuli. Trust me; that will change.
I'm a (mostly) stay-at-home dad, and my kid thrives on going places and seeing things. Before I had any hands-on experience, I thought that if he loses it (the books talk about "decompensating---WTF kinda term is that???), I'd be mortified about being a bad dad, that everyone would hate me and I'd hang my head in shame.
People are generally pretty kind about this. These days I am better at soothing him AND better at making a hasty retreat!
Good luck!
E-mail me if you ever need a friendly pixel to lean on.
posted by Dizzy at 2:31 PM on February 12, 2007

If you join a prenatal yoga class, you'll probably meet more moms-to-be for post-delivery lunch dates and mommy groups, etc.
posted by necessitas at 3:07 PM on February 12, 2007

Make sure you are eating plenty of omega-3 rich foods to ward off depression during pregnangy and postpartum. You probably already know this, but it's very important an worth mentioning.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 3:25 PM on February 12, 2007

I think you're being a little optimistic about how much free time you'll have, even after the first couple of months. Being home with a baby really is a full time job. My son is 7 months old now and keeping him occupied and happy takes most of my time. The rest of it goes to laundry, trying to keep on top of the clutter, and just running the household. I get stuff done when he takes naps, and when he goes to bed for the night, I'm just really grateful for a few hours to myself. It's both a lot easier and a lot harder than working at a paying job. I used to work in network morning television and this is a lot more rewarding.

Seriously - unless you plan to park the baby in front of the television for several hours a day, or have someone helping you with child care, you aren't going to have a whole lot of free time. Babies just need constant attention. The moms group is a great idea, and your community center probably has Kindermusic classes or something similar, which is a good way to meet other moms in your neighborhood. I make sure we get out every day, even if it's just to go to the mall and walk around (too cold and snowy here right now).

Email me if you want to talk more about this. It's pretty great but it's very different from Life Before.
posted by Kangaroo at 3:33 PM on February 12, 2007

Kangaroo is right about baby care as a full-time job. I'm a work from home mom and I had a hard time getting much work done in the early months. I basically gave up on a regular radio gig because there was no way I could prep and speak coherently for the test run when my son was four months old.

Still, I managed to write a blog, do some work to start ramping up my company again, write a lot, read a lot, and hang out with a lot of people. I went to a mom & baby group on Tuesdays, hung out with other moms & babies on Wednesdays, went to the doctor/ran errands on Thursdays, and went to baby library time on Fridays. I found that seeking out other bright, motivated parents was a great way to build community, share my experience, learn, network and have fun. Now I have a network of parents (moms and dads), who help on both the social and career levels!

By the time by son was eight months old or so, I found that his naps and bed times were regular and predictable enough that I could get back into my paid work.

Redhotchips: I do not have Freaknomics in front of me, but I believe that those studies focused on school test scores, not intelligence. Intelligence does not necessarily equal test score. If that's the only thing you see as a measure of intelligence, I guess test scores are important. Moreover, as I recall, Freaknomics did not look at individual silos, such as whether highly educated parents who are motivated to stay at home with their children produce children with higher test scores than highly educated parents who go off to work at 6 weeks post-partum. And so on.
posted by acoutu at 5:57 PM on February 12, 2007

printchick, I asked this question back in July, and I now that its February I think the answer really is that you need to adjust your expectation of what "getting stuff done" is. All the things you list above sound do-able, but here is my experience:

Only just now, at seven months, am I really starting to get over the bone-tired exhaustion that built up over the early months. Up until about a month ago we were still getting up with him at least twice in the night, and he's always up and ready to go by 730 am, so sleeping in is not really possible.

For at least the first eight weeks, try really really hard to sleep when the baby sleeps. You'll be oh so tempted to try and do other things, but getting enough sleep is the crucial thing to avoiding a Zombie like existence.

For the first two months at my house, basically nothing but the most basic tasks got done: feeding him, feeding me, changing diapers, shower every day, making sure the dishes were done, laundry, and very very basic cleaning of the bathroom, trip outdoors every day. And that was with the baby in a sling, so I could carry him around the house. I went back to work at 8 weeks (leaving my son with an excellent caregiver), but our 'at home' time was still very baby-labor intensive.

Getting outside every day was crucial, but I also found that it was tough to do things like schedule brunches, because just getting out of the house sometimes takes an hour more than you think it will. For me, it was better to either have people come over at a set time, or go places where I didn't need to be "on time", because the process of trying to be "on time" stressed me out so much.

For me, the internet was a real lifeline - I could contact people - smart adult people - at any time when I had ten minutes and just needed to read or talk.

I got used to doing things in 10-15 minute bursts, right at the start of his nap, or while he was having some tummy time, or with him sitting in his bouncy chair next to me. But trying to take on projects that I couldn't do in short bursts also would make me frustrated. Add in that the exhaustion sometimes makes it hard to keep track of where you left off.

I was breastfeeding, and built up a store of movies on the Tivo, and watched them while he ate - so, again, I watched a lot of movies in four or five half hour installments.

I'm a voracious reader, but I'm not sure I've read an entire book since the baby was born.

So, after all that, my best advice on how not to go nuts is:
+ stay as rested as you can. That may mean you let a LOT of other things slip by the wayside. That's ok.
+ find a way to connect with other adults every single day - either on the internet or face to face.
+ get out of the house every day.

Above all, enjoy your baby. You'll find you spend a lot of time just gazing at him ... and that's ok. I wrote elsewhere a few days ago that even though its only been seven months, my son has changed so completely, and in many ways I miss that tiny creature we brought home. I don't feel like I spent enough time soaking him into me as a newborn, because I was very focused on trying to Get Things Done. Newborns are beautiful creatures, and they love nothing more than to gaze at mommy for hours at a time. Enjoy that. Enjoy your baby.

And congratulations. My email is in my profile if you ever want to just chat.
posted by anastasiav at 7:33 AM on February 13, 2007

I'm laughing! Ha ! ha! Getting things done! I remember that. Actually, to be fair, it's hard to answer this question because your experience will be so specific to you and to your baby. My first was a crying, intense little person for the first three months, then slept and napped beautifully. My second has been happy and delightful-but stopped sleeping much at about 5 months, and really hardly naps unless someone is holding her or we're driving. So, with her, I am very limited to what I can do when home alone with her, especially now that she crawls. I can read for brief stretches, but being on the computer is pretty much impossible. Walking and jogging with her goes well-she loves to be outside-the key is being in motion. She does well being worn in a sling. Basically, I'm saying to set some goals, but don't pay for anything in advance :)
posted by purenitrous at 7:24 PM on February 13, 2007

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