When my son was born, I was fortunate enough to receive a three month paid maternity leave from my employer. My husband stayed home with us for four weeks, and then returned to work, so it was me and the baby home every day for two months until he arrived home from work.
That time was very special. I knew getting to spend that time bonding with our son was unique and important. Here was a span of three months that I might never get again, to stay home with him and help him on his start into this world. However, if you’ve read my post regarding Baby Sleep Training, you know that we had our challenges as well. So imagine my surprise when I returned to work when our son was a little over three months old to find that I had more time to schedule things like dinner out with friends, reading books, and of course, returning to school.
My husband and I both began our college careers about five years ago. We had finally found programs that would allow us to finish our college degrees while still working full time – as neither of us had the desire, or the finances, to work only part time or not at all to finish college. However, we also wanted to start a family, and after dealing with infertility for a couple of years, we finally had our son smack in the middle of the completion of our degrees.
I took three months off from school for the birth of our son, but my husband didn’t miss a beat, only missing school the night our son was born and returning to class the following week. But for me, I was home all day alone with the baby, with no deadlines, nowhere I had to be and a bunch of time on my hands. It seems surprising but many days I felt like I woke up in the morning, blinked, and suddenly my husband was walking in the door. The colicky phase our son went through also provided its challenges.
But by the time I returned to work, a little sad and nervous that the special bonding time with my son was over, I found myself having more free time than ever. I returned to school and excelled in my studies. I began reading again and was able to socialize with friends, family and co-workers.
I figured that what worked best for me was compartmentalizing my time accordingly. While at work, my focus was on that and when it came time to end my workday, I didn’t take my work home with me, physically, mentally, or otherwise. When I got home from work, that time was for spending with my husband and son and eating dinner together as a family. Then came bath and bedtime for our son, and then it was time for spending time alone with my husband, studying/homework, relaxing, watching a TV show, etc. My friends and family even commented on how I was juggling the work/life balance thing nicely despite having a new son. And once we had our baby sleep trained, I was sleeping through the night because our baby was sleeping through the night too. I certainly didn’t feel like a sleep-deprived new mother, and it was possible to accomplish everything that I needed to.
Another thing that helps is that I purposely set my alarm for 5:30am on weekday mornings. I don’t really need to be out of bed until about 6:20 or 6:30 in order to have enough time to get ready for my day, but that hour or so of time that I get in the morning allows me to read, play a mentally challenging game on my iPad, and just have some quiet time to myself, waking up slowly and getting my brain ready for the day. One of the things I dislike most is being rushed, so having this time to myself to quietly do as I’d like helps me avoid the morning craziness.
Of course I realize that some of you are stay-at-home parents, or maybe work a couple of different jobs with varying hours. The best thing I can suggest is to carve out time specific for what you need to get your obligations done and even allow some time for relaxation. If that means waking up a little early, saying no to a social function, or taking two classes a semester instead of three, you might feel happier and more productive than when you are spreading yourself too thin.