Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making the Most of Your Mat Leave

As my year of maternity leave comes to a close and Willow's first birthday approaches I find myself reflecting on the events of the past year.

I've accomplished everything and much more than I ever expected. Endless fun with my girls, an updated home, a new blog, a conquered reading list and incredible family time. With this particular post I offer myself reflection and other new mom's inspiration. So in my humble opinion these few things are key to making the most of your mat leave.

Sleep and Routines

Don't Underestimate the Importance of Sleep

Babies sleep a lot. Don't be fooled into thinking that you need to keep your baby or toddler awake all day so they sleep longer at night. In fact, more sleep during the day means more sleep at night. Over tiredness can lead to restlessness and interrupted sleep.

Young babies need 11 or 12 hours of sleep at night plus 5 or 6 hours of daytime sleep. Naps should carry on until age 3 or 4. Now I am no expert, but Kitty Raymond is and I fully embrace and endorse her workshops on sleep. As far as I'm concerned without Kitty I wouldn't be the best mom I could be.

Routine, routine, routine

Yes, three times was necessary. Routine is not just for school age children, it's for everybody, babies included. Once again, I attribute my success in this department to Kitty Raymond Parenting, where I learned that babies thrive off of routine. My girls sleep 12 hrs through the night, nap for 1.5 - 3 hr stretches during the day, eat 3 square meals a day and 1 or 2 small snacks, play well together, play independently and are so very happy. And let me tell you happy children make happy parents.

The basic principle of routines for children is Eat, Play, Sleep. And then, you do it all over again. This simple routine was started with our youngest daughter when she was just a couple of weeks old.

To Clean or Not to Clean

A Messy Home is a Fun Home

Don't get me wrong, I love a clean house and so do my children. However, it is sometimes necessary to ignore the untidyness, step outside and enjoy the day. If you focus too much on a spotless home when you're raising young children you'll quickly find that cleaning and tidying is an all consuming and never-ending task.

Naptime is Your Time

Don't make the mistake of using nap time for cooking, cleaning and other chores. Before you know it you're children will be up, ready to play and you'll be exhausted. Plan for 30 minutes of chores and an hour of time doing something you enjoy (reading, crafting, taking a nap, write a blog post, etc). When you're children wake up you'll feel ready to embrace motherhood once again.

Independent Play = Chore Time

After reading that nap time is not for chores you may be wondering when they get tackled. Children need to be given the opportunity for independent play from an early age. Although parent involvement in play is very important it doesn't need to be and shouldn't be all of the time. Set your child up with an age appropriate activity that can be supervised from a short distance away, leaving you with an opportunity to wash dishes, fold laundry, sweep floors or other chores. Independent play will also build confidence in your child.

Create Helpful Children

Tidying isn't just for the parents. Encourage children to tidy up their toys when switching to a new activity or before nap time. Children will learn responsibility and you'll be able to focus on other household tasks and time for yourself when nap time eventually comes along. Simple storage solutions like baskets will make tidying a cinch for young ones.

Live Your Life

Be Social

Adult interaction doesn't have to go by the wayside when raising little ones. Maintain relationships or create them with other mom's or dad's in your neighbourhood. Set up play dates where children can safely play alongside each other and parents can socialize.

Do What You Love

There's no need to eliminate your pre-baby activities from your life. You'll be much happier and avoid resentment if you take steps to involve your children in your favourite activities. As they grow older they may just learn to love them as much as you.

And there you have it. In a nutshell that is how I enjoyed every moment of maternity leave and how I will continue to enjoy every moment with my children as they learn and grow.

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