Before delivering Baby Y, I seriously thought maternity leave was going to be one long vacation where I get to lounge in my pajamas for an entire year. One grown-up taking care of one tiny human, how difficult can it be?
While the pajamas part turned out to be true, I had totally underestimated how draining and isolating being on maternity leave feels. Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining about our almost-too-good-to-be-true maternity leave policy. In fact, I am so fortunate to be living in Canada where we have one of the best maternity leave policies in the entire world. I definitely get envious looks from friends in other parts of the world when I tell them that I am off work for a year. I can even choose to be off for 18 months now! Thank you Canada!!
However, while my spouse gets to resume his “regular life” with decent sleep and exciting brain stimulating work challenges, my days are often blurred without any sense of accomplishment. I know I know, my accomplishment of the day is that I have not screwed up majorly and my baby is still alive. Yay me! No, seriously, being a stay-home parent means that I cannot clock out from my “job”. After never ending cycles of feeding, changing, putting baby down for naps, spitting, pooping, months of sleep deprivation… even the most loving and patient mother will run out of steam. I think I speak for many when I say that we count down with bated breath to the minute that our partners get home from work so that we can hand baby off to them and get five seconds of me-time. As the brutally honest Ali Wong puts it, “you’re just in solitary confinement all day long with this human Tamagotchi that don’t got no reset button, so the stakes are extremely high!”.
One of the best advice that I received is that you have to build your army of mom friends. These are the people who will understand what you are going through, as sometimes even your partner will not be able to. These are the people who will also be awake at 3 a.m. when your baby is crying for you. These are the people who will be your support system for the rest of your “mom career”. Since I am considered a young mother for my generation, I am one of the first in my group of friends to have a baby. Thus, I made it a personal mission to fill my maternity leave days with activities that not only my baby will enjoy, but also activities that will enable me to meet the other amazing moms in the region. We all have a baby in common, and that guarantees that we will never run out of topics to talk about!
These are the activities I came up with. Some are free and some are not. If you know other things in the region for new moms to do, please leave a comment down below!
YMCA Early Years Centre (Rebranded as EarlyON Child & Family Centre)
There are a few locations in Kitchener-Waterloo, the one on Roger street being the main spot. This place is a godsend. There are limitless toys and books, available whenever you want to drop by. The structured programs seem to be best for younger babies though. Each 30 minute “class” is run by a facilitator and includes some sort of stimulating activity for baby (music, rhymes, interesting toys etc.). Best of all, each session ends with time to socialize with fellow mommies. There are also many children books and parent-help books available for borrowing.
Life with a Baby
LWAB is a project by a charitable organization, but run by local moms who have “been there, done that”. Their calendar (a different one is maintained for each Waterloo, Kitchener & Cambridge) is constantly being updated with new events. My favorite ones are the stroller walks. What’s not to love about getting back in shape, strolling baby to sleep, and having a good hearty chat with a fellow mom all at the same time? The Thursdays Stroller Fit event is arguably the most popular one, with twenty spots always being booked up right when registration opens at two weeks prior to the event.
Stroller Fit by Belly Buttons – $
Since it is almost impossible to get into the free LWAB stroller fit sessions unless you are counting down beside your computer before registration opens, the alternative is the paid sessions run by Belly Buttons’ Dr. Michaela McClure every Wednesday, 9.30AM @ Waterloo Park (Summer/Fall) or Waterloo Rec Centre (Winter).
Music Together – $
Music Together is a fun 45 minutes – 1 hour class where kids (usually mixed ages) attend the classes with mom/dad/grandparents/aunts/uncles sing, dance and play instruments, all provided by the instructor. My baby is always wiped out after the class because it is so stimulating!
Mommy & Baby Yoga – $
Amma Yoga seems to be THE pregnancy/postpartum yoga studio that all moms & mom-to-be(s) ought to get familiar with. There are yoga classes available throughout the week for non-movers or movers. Although it is rare that you can take the entire class without being interrupted at some point by your baby, it is amazing to stretch out those tight muscles from carrying baby/ hunching over while nursing/ lack of sleep etc. The best part about this studio is that if you register your attendance online, they’ll set up all the mats/props required prior to your arrival at the studio ,so you literally only need to bring baby! The non-movers are laid down on a blanket in front of your mat as they watch you in action, while the movers go nuts in the room with the other babies.
Moms and Babes Morning Out – $
Held on specific Wednesdays in the Spring/Summer (check calendar), the Waterloo Region Museum brings in interesting speakers to talk about topics relevant to new parents such as how to deal with mommy guilt, Baby-Led Weaning, troubleshooting sleep problems, language learning etc. There is also time at the end to connect with the other parents and babies.
This is a program run by trained facilitators to encourage early literacy. The libraries across the region runs them at varying times throughout the year. There are four weekly sessions in each “program”, and participating families will receive a free kit with items to use with baby.
Swimming – $
There are three main locations with warm pools for younger babies in the Waterloo area – Waterloo Recreation Center (Parent & Tot Drop In), Stork Family YMCA (Splashers/Bubblers) and the Breithaupt Centre (Waterbabies). Babies have to be at least three months old, and need to wear swim diapers.
Sometimes, all we need is just a stroll at the mall, whether window shopping or real shopping. Both Fairview Mall in Kitchener and Conestoga Mall in Waterloo have nursing rooms if mommy & baby need a quiet spot. The one in Conestoga Mall is accessible from the female washroom by the food court – I’ve been going to that washroom for YEARS and have never even noticed that door to the nursing room! The one in Fairview Mall used to be located in Sears, by infant wear. Now that Sears has closed down, I wonder where they’ve relocated the nursing room?
As the saying goes, “the days are long but the years are short”. These thankless and taxing long days will feel much better and shorter… when misery has company. Enjoy!