About three weeks into my maternity leave, I was tired beyond belief. Every day seemed the same, with feeding my tiny newborn and my lack of sleep and exhaustion.

I remember taking my daughter for a walk in her carriage in the halls of our apartment building, and I texted my friend: “Maternity leave is REALLY boring.”

Yes, it is! It’s the only time in your life when you’re not working, and your sole job is to recover from birth and take care of your new little human. Are there ways to make it exciting?

In this list, find a few ways to stay sane on maternity leave, to spice things up and avoid boredom. It’s hard, but I hope this list helps you out!

Disclaimers (because I have to say this)

In this list, I’m going to give ideas for a wide variety of things to do. I am fully acknowledging that some women (like me) are tired, exhausted and feeling crappy for the ENTIRE duration of maternity leave. This is especially true for 1) breastfeeding mothers and 2) C-section mothers.

For other moms, they might bounce back fast. They might be ready for action, getting out of the house, doing activities and taking the baby on the go. I can’t picture this for myself, but I hope it will be this way for me when I have future pregnancies and maternity leaves. Personally, I found it impossible to find time for myself with a newborn.

Second, this is not a stressful “must-do” or “essential things to do” while on maternity leave list. Those stress me out: there should be no big “goals” or things to do on maternity leave to make you feel “productive.” Taking care of a newborn is enough, as is taking care of YOUR health as a new mom.

Take a day trip

I’m telling you: I was a sad zombie for most of my maternity leave, and it didn’t help that it was the dead of winter in the Northeast. My days were cold, dark and long; there was snow, there was lots of windy days and there was almost nothing to do.

I should’ve taken more day trips.

With a day trip, the pressure is off to pack bags for an entire night’s stay somewhere, and you can still take fun day trips that let you go and leave on your and your newborn’s clock.

I hardly went anywhere during my maternity leave, and I think that is why I got so frustrated. My best memory of a day trip was to the Bronx, to visit my grandfather who lives there, and for him to meet my daughter. It was a sure way to get out of the house, be around family and be around the joy we all got by how his face lit up when he met our baby.

Other ideas for day trips are…

  • A short hike somewhere new
  • A cute nearby town with boutique shopping
  • A destination restaurant for a meal to enjoy
  • A friend’s house in a nearby city or state
  • Something seasonal, like a holiday village or a summer pop-up
  • Special events like festivals or fairs

Go to a new parents meetup

Something that changed my maternity leave completely was finding “my people” at a New Parents Meetup. I am telling you: this meetup saved my sanity, and was the sole way I made a group of new mom friends in my new town, all with babies born within five months of one another.

The meetup was called New Babies and Coffee, and it took place (at the time) at a local Mexican restaurant with great food, and a lot of outdoor seating in a tent. Every Thursday morning, anywhere between 5 and 12 or 15 moms and dads (all on parental leave) would meet up and sit at big picnic tables in the tent, talking about babies, feeding babies and bouncing babies to sleep.

It was the camaraderie from other new parents that I needed, and my biggest regret was that I didn’t go to my first meetup until I had already had a baby for a month. It was the highlight of my week for every week of maternity leave, until my baby went to daycare!

Better yet, become the organizer of the meetup!

This isn’t for everyone, but it certainly was for me, once I came out of my newborn cave: I became the organizer of the “New babies” meetup.

This put me back in my leadership shoes. I love being in charge, and I love being the glue to a group, so that I can introduce people to other people, and get to know everyone in a room. It’s a position in which I thrive.

So, to get my sanity back, when the current organizer of the event posted that she would be stepping down to go back to work, I felt like I had it in me to take the reins.

And after getting laid off on maternity leave, I was able to amazingly organize this event for another 6 months to come!

Take great newborn photos

Whether you hire a photographer or take them yourself, newborn photos are something you’ll want to look back on!

While I was on maternity leave and Dan was also on his parental leave for the first five weeks of our baby’s life, we took newborn photos together one day. And do you know what? I wish we took tons more newborn photos so we could look back and see them.

But I was too tired.

In any case, check out our article on taking your own newborn photos or hiring a professional to see the pros and cons of each method.

Plan a trip (for the future)

Sure, you might not want to do this at all until two months into your leave, or at least six weeks into recovering from birth. Planning a trip doesn’t mean you have to hop a flight to the Bahamas or Mexico and pack a bag for your newborn to go sit on a beach. No way. First off, I couldn’t picture myself doing this for ages after giving birth, but I wanted to show myself that there was a future past the newborn days.

So here’s my suggestion: plan a future trip that excites you for when your baby is five, six or seven months old. There will be a world of a difference by that point: fewer night feedings, less exhaustion, more smiles and giggles and adorable outfits. Maybe even crawling!

You can take your spare time (if you have any) during maternity leave to plan a FUTURE trip for the family. It’s having a trip to look forward to that makes me the most excited!

Get together with your oldest friends

One of the other best days of my maternity leave was when two of my college roommates (and also best friends to this day) came over to meet my new baby (and see me, of course).

We ordered sushi, and everyone held the baby and we took lots of photos all together to send to our families and other friends from our college crew. It was especially inspiring that one of my friends brought her nine-month-old, and it gave me hope that one day I’d be out of the newborn phase with all my exhaustion and boredom.

Her nine-month-old was crawling around the floor and eating Cheerios, which was adorable, and enlightening for me!

Take up a new hobby

Another disclaimer here: I had no time to enjoy myself while on maternity leave. I was lucky if I got away from my constantly-feeding newborn for 45 minutes.

But some people are luckier, or wiser, especially parents who bottle-feed and don’t need to be around in order to feed the baby with nursing.

If you have time to yourself each day, and if you have help from another caretaker, start a new hobby. It could be crafting, or reading, or learning a new language. It could be tidying a closet, or purging your old clothes, or shopping for new ones that fit your new mom bod.

A hobby doesn’t have to be an active one: it can be something done from your phone (yup, like learning a new language with an app) that you can do if you have even one hand free, during something like nursing or bouncing the baby to sleep.

Find ways to work out (with your new PP body)

I once treated myself to a postnatal yoga class at 10 weeks after giving birth and during my maternity leave. It felt great to give myself some time to relax, and to see my prenatal yoga teacher, who I adored!

My maternity leave body was foreign to me: I hadn’t done a Chaturanga low plank in a YEAR, but I was ready to figure out how to do it again and regain my core strength.

My suggestion to you is to find your way back to the ways you worked out before pregnancy, or find new ones, like walking, getting back into running, or yoga/pilates classes online while your baby is napping.

Listen to a ton of podcasts

Once I became a mom to a newborn, I realized that one way I could consume useful content was through podcasts.

As it was, I was listening to podcasts very often, but now that I was taking walks to get my baby to sleep, I wanted to listen to as many podcasts as I could. This was of course, to stay current in news, happenings and trends, but also to start listening to parenting podcasts. One of my favorite ones is Big Time Adulting.

Listening to podcasts was less intense than watching TV, and slightly more engaging than just looking at my phone. I found it to be one of the more helpful things I did while on parental leave.

Join a postpartum support group

Even though this idea isn’t the most fun, it actually can be, if you thrive off of connecting with others (in person or virtually). The support group I joined takes place on Zoom and was formerly in person. The fact that it’s on Zoom means no one has to worry about driving, getting there or not being able to leave home. It’s convenient.

The support group is one of the main ways I maintained my sanity during my maternity leave — that is, after I found out about it. I wished I had known about it so much sooner, as I really could’ve used the company, and the wisdom of the psychologist who leads the group. I joined at 8 weeks postpartum and was able to connect with other new moms through it, twice a week.

Reconnect with friends by phone

For all those walks I was taking with my baby while Dan was at work, I got lonely! I found solace in calling some of my best friends who were also on maternity leave at the time, or my mom, or my grandfather, to chat.

Remember: maternity leave is having time (in some sense of it) like you may never have again. It’s a very special (although weird, and frustrating) time in your life, so it’s a nice time to make connections with people who you typically may not have time to call.

Mall walking

If you have a winter baby like I did, you’ll notice that it is much too cold and windy to go out with your baby in a few blankets in the bassinet.

So what did I do? I went mall walking with my friend Allie! It was one of my more “momentous” accomplishments during maternity leave, and going mall walking spurred me to take my baby in the car without Dan for the first time. Thrilling!

Mall walking was a way to get steps, move my legs and remember that there was life outside my apartment.

Build out your baby’s wardrobe with Buy Nothing

You may know how much I love Buy Nothing, and if you’re not in a Buy Nothing Group yet, read my Buy Nothing review to see what it’s like.

One thing I did during maternity leave was browse my community’s Buy Nothing for clothing in the next size, baby toys in the “next phase” of my baby’s life and pick up products like gently-used breastfeeding items.

I also asked around for nursing clothes, and was lucky to get some second-hand breastfeeding-friendly apparel from other moms nearby who were done with theirs.

Reconfigure the nursery (or other rooms!)

With living in an apartment, Dan and I were constantly thinking up ways to better arrange our furniture. And, as we had only half-finalized our daughter’s nursery by the time she was born, my maternity leave was spent reorganizing and rearranging the furniture in there.

I followed a bunch of “nursery inspiration” Instagram accounts, and I wanted to create the nursery of my dreams, during my maternity leave. With Dan’s help, we finally had configured a lovely minimalist baby nursery.

Start a moms group chat

I hope this is a unique idea, and it’s one that I am so glad to share because for me, it happened a bit too late: start a moms group chat.

You may have heard, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I didn’t quite understand what that meant until I had met the right mom friends in my life, gathered them all together, and became a group that was stronger than any one of us on our own.

I met all these moms from the New Parents Meetup in town, and I never could’ve imagined that I’d meet such cool people who also gave birth around the same time as me.

Still to this day, we are a strong group of women who share all types of information and ideas about parenting, being a mom, working as moms and of course, our kids.

It’s a brilliant way to create some sanity during maternity leave if you can connect with moms on the same timeline as yourself.

Treat yourself to a coffee or muffin!

I was so glued to being in my rocking chair and nursing my baby that I forgot how much I loved muffins and going out for a coffee.

I had to push myself to go out to a cafe, but when I did, it was so worth it.

In the earlier days of my maternity leave when I was ready to go out with the baby in her stroller, my mom would come by and we’d go for a walk together to see how long we could go before my daughter woke up and needed a feed.

We’d go by the local vegan bakery and cafe, and I’d go all-in for a giant blueberry muffin that would make my day.

Helpful Tip

Make a list of your favorite spots for treats, and make a checklist to hit them all by the time your maternity leave is up! It’s a sweet way to show yourself some love, because you’re working so hard as a new parent.

Sleep

Yes, duh, sleep. Spend your maternity leave sleeping and resting because you deserve it.

Did I do this? Yes, I certainly tried, and you can see all the ways I “tried” to manage sleeping in my guide called “How I got some sleep when I had a newborn”.

If you aren’t sleeping enough, talk to your partner about how to make it work. I set out my needs, and tried to come up with ways to solve them, by asking friends who had been through the Newborn Phase what they had done.

While this isn’t the most unique way to spend maternity leave, it is certainly what will help you physically get back on your feet.

Track your walking activity with Strava

Maternity leave, and the exhaustion from having a newborn, made me feel like a blob. I felt like every day was the same, and I was anxious as ever about having no sleep.

One thing that made me feel sort of productive was tracking my walks and my physical activity with the Strava app. It’s similar to Apple Health or Google Fit, but with the added bonus of being a type of social media as well. I “follow” some friends on Strava, and they “follow” me, too.

While the only things I was doing was walking, I could look back on my tracked walks, and see my progress over time. It was motivating! I basically always had my daughter with me, in the carrier or in the stroller, and I was able to show myself that I was getting out, being physically active and leaving the house to be outside.