Trying to remember, or even imagine what your life was like before your Maternity Leave might seem impossible. Your world now revolves around this tiny human that you spent the better part of a year growing. And now they’re finally here, maintaining a social life seems out of the question.
A social life? What’s one of those? A faded memory of dropping everything last minute to go out for a night on the town with your friends. Stumbling through the door at early hours the next morning. Waking up on the sofa next to a half-eaten kebab. Ah, the good old days.
Not to say that your new life as a mum has destroyed all that. But let’s face it, your social life has taken a nose-dive. And trying to juggle the responsibilities that come with having a baby, along with maintaining a social life can be difficult – but it doesn’t have to be!
Depending on what you’ve agreed with your employer, your Maternity leave can last up to a year. And that’s exciting, all that time ahead to really bond with your baby. However, it can seem daunting and perhaps even isolating. I’m not really selling motherhood here, am I? But stick with me.
As a new mum, it’s important to acknowledge your own feelings and emotions. Anxieties surrounding Maternity leave are perfectly natural, and we cover those off in some of our other articles on Maternity Leave, such as It’s Impact on Your Career – forget the ‘mumfluencers’ on Instagram who appear to be nailing it. It’s not easy. Remember, you were a person with a life and an identity prior to your little bundle of joy. I’m not saying you drop the formula bottle in exchange for a wine bottle and a night out on the tiles in the hopes of reclaiming a social life, but maybe we can combine the two. Minus the wine, obvs.
Juggling family and friends with a new-born
With a new baby around, sleep deprivation is an absolute certainty. Trying to keep up with friends and having a social life is probably way down on the list of priorities – mainly because nowadays you’re always so bloody knackered.
As a new parent, particularly if you are still on Maternity Leave, you might feel the pressure of portraying to the rest of the world that you’re coping just fine. Stop that. Be honest with your feelings. Good friends and family will not judge you, and if you’re in need of a little bit of support then accept it if it’s offered to you, whether it’s watching the little one for five minutes while you hang out the washing or making a cuppa. If the house is a mess, then the good people who care about you will not bat an eyelid.
You might feel like friends are distancing themselves from you because they assume you’re going to be knee deep in dirty nappies and general ‘mum stuff’. Especially if you’re the first of the group to have a baby. Drop them a text and let them know that you still want to hang out.
On the days you don’t feel like seeing anybody, that’s okay too. Naturally, you want to spend all your time with your little one. And why wouldn’t you? But try to strike a balance. Let people know when you’re ready for visitors – they will understand more than you probably think. Try not to get too overwhelmed, and most importantly – be honest with yourself! Maternity Leave exists for a reason, and staying social is good for the soul – of course you will need adult time, and loved ones will be there as and when you’re ready to let them in. Going for walks with a friend and taking baby with you is a good start.
Keeping in touch with the workplace
Maternity leave doesn’t mean kissing goodbye to your career. Taking time off to have a baby means that by law you are legally entitled to up to twelve months paid leave, with all your employee rights still intact. However long a Maternity leave you decide to take, the time away could seem like a nightmare – especially if you’re a career driven person. A lot can change whilst you’re away, so keeping in touch with your employer to keep you updated with any changes at work, vacancies or new opportunities is important. In fact, your employer is entitled to make reasonable contact with you whilst you’re on Maternity leave, to inform you of work-related news.
‘Keeping in touch days’ are optional, and a mutual agreement between the employer and yourself. You can also work up to 10 days during your Maternity leave, without losing any benefits, maternal pay or ending your leave altogether. Don’t push yourself too hard though, spread the 10 days across your leave so as not to over do it.
‘Keeping in touch days’ are also a good opportunity to catch up with your work colleagues. Those who you have nothing in common with other than the fact that you work together but get along with anyway. Again, it’s another way of reclaiming your identity that some new mums can feel like they’ve lost whilst on Maternity leave.
Flexible hours and staggered days can also be an option if you’re itching to get back to the office.
Groups for mums and tots
There are several websites that can provide you with opportunities for meetups with other new mums. As we’ve already mentioned, Maternity leave can leave you feeling lonely, and that doesn’t have to be the case. Wherever you’re based throughout the UK, a quick Google search will bring back websites advertising groups for you to attend with your baby. Have a look at MumsMeetUp for a bit of inspiration.
Social media is also great for this, just have a look on Facebook and you can soon find local groups for new mums to get together. There are plenty of fun classes that you can get involved in too, whether it’s sensory or musical.
Classes and groups for new mum’s can seem a little intimidating, and maybe a bit ‘cliquey’ at first. Look out for the other new mum who’s also just joined and say hello. You’re both going to be shattered, particularly if you are still on Maternity Leave, so you know you’ve got that in common at least.
Larger groups in your area may advertise but ask around at a community centre or a church. Even checking in the local newspaper.
Amazingly, there’s even an app similar to Tinder to help you find other new mums. The Peanut App will help you find other Mums who are at a similar stage of their Journey, and is rapidly growing in popularity!
Socialising isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re a bit of an introvert. No-one is forcing you to step out of your comfort zone and if all of the above sounds hellish, then that’s fine as well. Just remember to be kind and patient with yourself – if you’re feeling lonely, then reach out to those around you and let them know. If you’re circle is small or non-existent, then look online. Okay, spontaneity might not be an option for you right now whilst you’re taking care of a new-born on Maternity leave – but it doesn’t have to be boring. Or lonely.