No matter how much time you have home with baby before returning to work, it’s important to get as much out of your maternity leave as possible. Of course, maximum cuddle time is high on that list (along with napping as much as possible while baby is sleeping). However, there are a few other things you might want to add to your final to-do list to really maximize your time and feel ready to head to back to work.
1. Consider a Trip (Just a Little One)
While the idea of packing up your newborn and hitting the open road might seem silly, hear me out. The truth is, taking a trip, even a super-short one, will never be as easy as it is right now. For starters, you aren’t working, so you won’t have to ask for time off and be at the mercy of other colleagues’ vacations. Of course, your significant other is another story, but at least that’s just one person jockeying for time, not two.
Plus, newborns are the best travelers. They sleep most of the time, they ride for free on planes, and you won’t have to worry about keeping up with a crawling, walking, running toddler. (Of course, no matter where you plan to travel, run it by your kid’s pediatrician first.) If you can manage to pick a place that won’t stress you out, it’s a great time to start making family travel memories. Just plan for something low-key and relaxing. Bungee-jumping is probably off the menu.
2. Put Together Those Newborn Albums & Keepsakes
You probably think you’re too tired to spend hours on Shutterfly sorting through the hundreds of photos you take of your child a day to put together an album (speaking of which, we’ve got some ways to save on that here) — and you’re likely right. But consider how much more tired you’ll be when you go back to work. Plus, all those newborn memories are fresh in your mind, since you spend 24/7 with your bundle of joy, so you can write the most sentimental and memorable captions to go along with those tons of photos.
3. Figure Out Childcare
If you haven’t already, now would be the time to figure out who will watch your baby when you go back to work. In all honesty I waited too long — we didn’t post our ad seeking a nanny until three weeks before I was going to start working again. Finding the right provider for your child, or the right daycare setting, takes time, so if you haven’t started looking before baby was born, try to start as soon as you can once they arrive.
4. Take Time for Yourself
It’s great to have some plans for your maternity leave, but if nothing happens at all other than feed, burp, pump, rest, repeat, that’s more than OK. Some moms have plenty of extra energy to fill their days with closet reorganizations and daily park visits, while others feel more tired and are happy to just relax during any down time.
If you can muster even just a little extra energy though, it might be worth leaving baby with someone for just a couple hours at some point for some alone time. Go for a drive. Get your nails done. Grab a coffee and sit in the park. Whatever you decide to do and for however long you can, taking a little bit of time to rest and recharge by yourself will likely do your whole family a world of good.
5. Reassess How it All Went
Were you using your maternity leave as a way of helping you decide whether or not you would return to work once it was over? If so, be gentle with yourself if it didn’t go exactly according to plan. Taking care of a newborn is no joke, and doing it 24/7 is more than a full-time job, often filled with days where your only adult conversations are in the morning and/or at night when your significant other gets home from work. If you decide that staying home full-time really isn’t for you and heading back to work will provide you with the mental stimulation and creativity you crave, that’s totally fine.
Alternately, if you decide you will stay home, be sure to reassess what a new budget would look like without your pay, including things like where your health insurance will come from and how you’ll save for retirement. (You can get an idea of where your finances stand and how much debt you’re carrying by viewing your free credit report on Credit.com.)
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.