Maternity leave isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I suppose I shouldn’t say that out loud, but it’s true. And I should know; this is my first week back in the office after giving birth in early August to my third BOY.
Maternity leave is supposed to be a time to bond, a break to let your body heal from childbirth, an opportunity to adjust to big familial change. And it IS all those things.
But if you’re like me – always going, always doing, not accustomed or inclined to sit still – that sudden jolt of relative isolation can be just as daunting as the other new changes in your life.
Let’s face it – the outside world is no place for a newborn. They do best crying, sleeping, eating and cuddling surrounded by the comforts of home.
My first child was born in 2004. He cried A LOT. By divine grace, one of my best friends was going through an almost identical experience with her baby girl. We spent many, many late nights emailing back and forth, trying to encourage and keep each other sane. Oh, if only we had had access to the vast social network available today.
With my second child, things went much smoother, but there were still plenty of late nights and long days cooped up in the house. Social media was also still in its infancy – no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no public Facebook. So, I spent way too much time watching late night reruns and QVC. When I actually started ORDERING things from QVC, my husband suggested it might be time to go back to work. That was 2006.
This leave of absence was different, though…and better. Who would have guessed that the same tools I use every day as a content marketing strategist would help me as a mom?
Social media helped me stay connected while I stayed put.
If I couldn’t get out as much as I’d like, I’d just have to bring the outside world to me, via my trusty iPad of course. (Seriously, moms-to-be, treat yourself to an iPad. It’s an essential.) In the process, I managed to practice what I preach to our clients every day: use multiple channels to connect and share.
Obviously, I connected with friends and family via Facebook. What’s a baby’s birth or a wedding these days without it? I had friends tell me that my baby’s birth wasn’t official until it was “Facebook Official” and that they’d be “watching Facebook” for baby news. Sure enough, we called and texted close family and friends and (somewhat lazily) relied on Facebook to announce our news to everyone else. In the days to follow, we received countless words of encouragement and congratulations, almost all via Facebook.
I also spent a lot of time on Twitter.
The network’s round-the-clock short conversations suited my crazy schedule and shortened attention span. I was able to keep up on political news (I think there’s an election or something coming up?), local happenings, and social media trends, all in 140 characters or less. I was able to tweet my own scattered thoughts and exchange quips with Twitter friends. More importantly, it helped me feel not so isolated – connecting with other moms in the same boat (up at 3 AM, still in PJs at 3 PM) was a tremendous comfort.
My Netflix app made late nights and long feeding sessions go by faster. OK, so it’s not social media, but it’s pretty awesome. Being able to stream shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad on my iPad was a lifesaver (I just won’t be taking Nancy’s or Walt’s advice on how to parent).
Instagram kept me connected with far-flung relatives who are too cool for Facebook. It also provided a handy outlet for my gratuitous baby pics. Pinterest was a great way to bounce around nursery design ideas with my mom who lives three states away. And FaceTime let us make video calls to family who couldn’t be with us but wanted to see that baby!
So what are my top takeaways if you’re going on maternity leave? These are my sanity-saving tips:
- Get yourself an iPad or other tablet device. Holy cow, it’s SO worth the money. Much easier than firing up a laptop or being confined to a desktop, plus you can hold it in one hand while holding the baby in the other. Like I said, a necessity!
- Load up said iPad with apps. Obviously all the social networks have apps, but there are some other ones that are great for busy new moms: Flipboard for customized (and beautiful!) news, White Noise for calming baby, and Spotify for music that travels with you from room to room.
- Get a Netflix subscription for those late nights. I can hardly think of a better way to spend $8/month. Even better, the whole family can enjoy Netflix through the TV, laptop and desktop.
- Don’t confine your social interactions to Facebook. Each social network has its own “flavor,” and there’s lots to enjoy – on Twitter in particular. Explore hashtags, nearby users, and your favorite celebs/journalists on Twitter and make new friends.
- Use Google Reader to easily subscribe to your favorite blogs in one place. It’s my reader of choice – easy readability and clear organization.
- Use Pinterest to search and store all sorts of ideas to make your new crazy life easier: freezer meals, organization ideas, kid-friendly household cleaning products.
- Get your family and friends on some sort of video chat if they’re not already – Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout. It’s the next best thing to in-person interactions, and they’ll be so excited about baby they won’t notice your lack of makeup.
Honestly, reflecting back, I’m not sure how I made it through my other leaves without an iPad loaded up with apps. (But of course I did.)
Being able to connect with friends, family and even strangers via social media – it helped this content marketing gal stay (somewhat) sane while I stayed in one place.
Now? Back to work!