For the past three months I’ve been on paternity leave. Heading into it, I was nervous about how I’d happily fill my days with a six-month-old. Boredom – sometimes exhausting boredom – seemed a distinct possibility, especially because I so value a busy and engaging schedule at work and at home. Three months in I can report that my concerns of being bored have mostly come to naught. Days go by and while they usually aren’t too exciting, they are fulfilling and manageable. I think there are certain steps that have made the transition more successful. Here are five tips for a successful paternity leave or, for some great tips on finding morning efficiency with a little one, click here:
Live in the moment
It’s a very Buddhist thing to say, but living in the moment, beyond longing for something different is a surefire way to enjoy the company of a cute, gurgling and occasionally whiny baby. With my son, I try to think about what he’s experiencing and engage him with various toys and mini-tasks. We practice “walking”, climbing, singing and other mini-exercises. And when living in the moment just gets too tedious, don’t push it. Maintain your sanity. There’s always podcasts.
Use community resources
Getting out into the community has been critical to both my son’s and my own sanity. I’ve never realized all the great things you can do in the community until I had a baby. Each day we take long walks in our neighbourhood, visit our local Strong Start, join the kids at the local neighbourhood house for sing along, hit up the community pool, go to the local library’s Storytime or go grocery shopping. This list of community amenities available keeps us active and engaged outside. They fill time in the day and help us feel like we’ve accomplished something. They get us out of the house and most importantly they ensure we are active and engaged.
Structure, structure, structure
We usually structure a morning and an afternoon activity the day before and this also gives us goals to shoot for which fills the hours of the day. Mix in baby’s naps, taking the dog for a walk, fixing lunch and dinner and baby’s feeding time and we quickly have chewed up a giant chunk of the day. An important part of this structure is being inflexible around nap time and shooting to always have baby back home in bed. Without structure, I think both of us would go bananas.
Stay connected with work (a little)
I’ve been lucky to have a boss who is interested in staying engaged over the course of my paternity leave. We meet once a month for lunch or coffee and she catches me up on the rhythms of business, big projects the team is working on and general odds and ends. It’s not a lot of contact, but it is just enough to leave me feeling connected with my team, despite my absence, and excited to return in the coming months. If your boss isn’t game to do this, see if you can find a colleague or team member to stay in touch with.
Arrange adult-only time
Being with baby throughout the day, week after week, is great, but we all need adult time. Whether that’s a weekend away with your friends, a cup of coffee with a friend on the Drive or just an evening of drinks with a buddy, scheduling in (and looking forward) to adult only time is a great way to keep your sanity when it’s poop-ageddon and you’re just barely keeping it together.