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I'll be home on pregnancy leave for 4 months. We can't plan outdoor trips. I'll be staying at home with only two people around (during day time) - me and the baby.

How can I find time during this break so that my mind is rejuvenated and at the same time I don't feel that I am wasting time? In particular, how do I balance time between my baby and myself.

Clarifications:

The chores like washing dishes, laundry, mopping floor etc. aren't a trouble for me since we have a maid for these tasks.

I don't have any friends who could take care of the child. My mother is though interested in rearing the child herself for some months in her own house. I not willing to give away my child to anyone else for long durations.

Sleep is NOT a way of relaxation for me. The things which would actually relax me are software development, photography, and meditation at home. I usually do not sleep at day time.

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I take it this is your first baby? Most of the women I know mostly just want to get some sleep the first couple of months. –  HLGEM May 29 '13 at 19:26
    
To clarify further, your mother is interested in taking your child to her house for a few months and raising him/her separate from you, but she is unwilling to help in any other way (such as coming over to your house and helping out while you're present)? –  Beofett Jun 4 '13 at 12:51
    
@Beofett Well, she can come over for a few days, but my father is working and she needs to cook food and do other house holds chores so I can't expect her to come here for months. Moreover after the 4 month period is over and I'll return to work, then we do plan to ask her to come over for about 2 months. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jun 4 '13 at 13:11
    
@Beofett TBH I not on very good terms with her parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/7691/… , so I am somewhat recultant to call her here. :( –  TheIndependentAquarius Jun 4 '13 at 13:16
    
Ah, I had forgotten that question. That's unfortunate. I had a bad relationship with my mother, and her actions surrounding the birth of my son made things much, much worse, so perhaps you are better off waiting. I've updated my answer to address opportunities for some of the hobbies you listed; programming seems unlikely, but I think you'll have opportunities for photography and meditation even without help :) –  Beofett Jun 4 '13 at 13:19
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9 Answers

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It will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to get much time for yourself in the first few months if it is just you and the baby.

Especially in the first month or so, you'll be struggling to find time just to sleep. Your entire routine will be overthrown, and it will be hard enough just finding time enough to do basic necessities while balancing the baby (e.g. simple tasks like bathing, feeding yourself, sleep, getting dressed, etc. will frequently have to be crammed into moments when the baby is sleeping).

There are a couple of strategies that you can use to maximize what little time you'll have during these weeks:

  • Establish a schedule - Disclaimer: your baby will have his/her own schedule, which will largely dictate your schedule. Additional disclaimer: your baby will regularly change their schedule, and by extension, yours. Flexibility is essential. Still, once you have an idea of your current routine (i.e. how often the baby naps, and for how long; when the baby feeds), you can start identifying pockets of time that become opportunities for you to use for your own needs. These breaks start off short, but frequent. Over time, they will become longer, but less frequent.

  • Plan ahead - In addition to planning how to use the gaps in the schedule, you should start early. In fact, start before the baby is even born. Identify tasks that your spouse or family members can and and willing to do, and arrange to have them take over as many as possible (e.g. someone does laundry for you on weekends or in the evening; someone else cleans up the dishes in the evening/morning; etc.). If you have enough freezer space available, a great strategy is to pre-make 1-2 months worth of frozen meals, and then freeze them until needed during your leave. We had friends and family come over about 3 months before our son was born to fill our chest freezer with 2 months worth of meals for both my wife and I.

  • Get help!!! - This is the single best strategy for finding time for yourself, if it is an option (it won't be for everyone). Frequently, friends or family will say things like "let us know if there's anything we can do to help." Don't be too proud to take them up on this offer! Even someone coming over for an hour or two to keep an eye on the baby while you're in the other room getting a nap/reading a book/watching a movie/debugging code will be a help that you will appreciate. Other possible forms of assistance friends and family can provide include running errands for you, delivering meals, helping with basic chores around the house, or even just delivering your mail (this may be more important than you may expect, particularly if the circumstances of your delivery prevent you from walking up/down stairs for a few weeks).

Edits in response to clarification of the question:

Sleep is NOT a way of relaxation for me. The things which would actually relax me are software development, photography, and meditation at home. I usually do not sleep at day time.

Sleep is a prerequisite of relaxation. Sleep will quickly become a scarce commodity for you, and it will likely be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain your previous habits (such as not sleeping during day time).

At first, your baby will not sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time, and will need to be fed, changed, and cuddled in between their naps. This doesn't stop at night time; you will be up at least 2-3 times each night for several weeks. If you only sleep at night, and only sleep when the baby sleeps, you will quickly become too tired to do anything approaching relaxation during the few breaks you have during the day.

Software development, as you know, requires an alertness of mind that sleep deprivation will make extremely difficult.

Mediation, on the other hand, may be a more practical alternative. I find that meditation can be very restful. However, I also find that meditating while very tired usually is a good way to fall asleep :) Keep in mind though that you may very well be holding your little one while they sleep. This may be difficult to do while achieving deeper relaxation states during meditation (I can't even sleep while holding my son, let alone meditate to any extent beyond basic breathing exercises).

Photography will be an option, though. You'll have many, many opportunities for pictures of your baby :) If you find photography relaxing, you'll have more good shots than you can count! Just make sure you have plenty of storage space on your camera (or film, if you prefer). I would suggest placing multiple cameras in strategic places throughout the house, if at all possible, to take advantage of those chance opportunities. It is exceptionally difficult to get newborns to pose the way you want them to (at least while they're awake!), but if you are ready, you'll be able to catch some wonderful candids.

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I would add to this to look for mother-baby groups. I don't know if there are public libraries where you are, but in the States libraries have storytimes for infants which become informal gathering spots for new mothers and caregivers after the short program. –  Mary Jo Finch Jun 4 '13 at 13:48
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@MaryJoFinch: +1 for finding mother-baby groups. Isolation is the downfall of many new moms. Finding someone you can have an adult conversation with who knows what you're going through (and your spouse/partner who leaves the house everyday probably won't) is such a vital resource! –  Meg Coates Jun 4 '13 at 15:31
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You can try tutorials or online videos on recent programming techniques. Reading tech books will make sure that the four month break will not leave you blunt when you return to the job.

You can spend the time constructively and pursue soft relaxing hobbies to rejuvenate, like learning a new skill, cooking a new dish, crochet, knitting and what not. These things keep ypur brain sharp.

Read more parenting books, so that you know what to expect in the coming days. Better still join a forum or follow a blog with parents in your stage. Finally take time to look at your child and relax. This break is something your body deserves.

I'll say you'll be lucky if you can do all that. Many newborns gives their mommas restless nights! The best thing would be something that keeps your job skills sharp, yet doesn't tire you when the break is over.

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Thanks for the edits Chris!! I'll take care about Answering neatly next time..!! :) –  Shaima Jun 8 '13 at 10:27
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Don't expect to have much, if any time for activities other than caring for your baby. Taking care of an infant is normally very time-consuming, and should be prioritized before hobbies.

One thing you can do though is get a really good smartphone you can bring with you at all times; it could serve as a digital hub for staying up to date with news, communicating with friends etc. at times when the baby sleeps.

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First of all, congratulations!

Looking at your interests and your quaifications, one idea came to mind - an online album of your pregnancy and the growth of your child - for privacy, you could make access to this for your family and close friends only.

Alongside that, you could crete a forum, online class for other new parents to be able to do the same or perhaps develop a template for other new parents to be able to do the same.

Hope this helps.

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I tend to agree with Gruber on this one: "you" time will be minimal. Keep in mind that you're going to spend:

  1. 15-20 minutes nursing/feeding your child probably 6-8 times per day (possibly more) for the first couple of weeks--this could be as often as every 2 hours depending on your child. Also, some kids just take longer to eat in general and that doesn't take into account growth spurts and cluster feedings. Some days, you feel like all your kid does is eat.
  2. Then there are diapers to change (10-14 diapers per day on average initially; 2-5 minutes per diaper change depending on the diaper being changed and taking into account any clothing/bedding changes that may need to be performed in case of leakage/blowout and/or any general baby maintenance like umbilical stump cleanings that need to be performed). If you are using cloth diapers, you will probably have more diaper changes than average since they are less absorbent than disposable and must be changed pretty promptly when wet/dirty. And unless you all ready have experience changing diapers, you'll be pretty slow at it at first.
  3. Tummy time (shooting for 1 minute per day initially but working up to a total of an hour a day by the time your baby is 3 months old [the hour should not be at one time, but spread out throughout the day]) and...
  4. General playtime when your baby is awake.
  5. Then at some point one would assume you would want to eat at least a couple of times during the day and possibly shower (10-15 minutes per activity)
  6. The average newborn sleeps about 13-16 hours per day. Some of that will be at night; much of it will be in the daytime at least in the beginning. Most parents I know use the time when baby is sleeping to do things like run a load of the ever-growing pile of laundry or get some dishes washed, but if you have someone else doing that for you then you could, hypothetically, squeeze some meditation in there. Maybe. There is no guarantee that your child will be one who sleeps for long stretches at a time. At any rate, by the time your baby is 4-6 weeks old, he/she should be spending more time awake, which means you will be his/her primary form of entertainment for those periods of wakefulness.

Now might be the time to expand your love of photography to encompass your newborn? I mean, your baby is only going to be a newborn once! You could do some software development if you were willing to wear your baby in a soft carrier while he/she is sleeping. My daughter was insanely collicky and my husband would put on our Moby and wear her while she slept so he could work (doing software development). Some research suggests that baby wearing leads to better sleep for the baby and can help babies who are especially fussy. Well-designed infant carriers can even allow you to nurse your baby while wearing them (if you choose to do that sort of thing).

It's important to note that, while you may not consider sleep a form of relaxation, when sleep is lacking it suddenly takes on a whole new gravity to your existence. Rejuvenating the mind involves rest--something you're not likely to get much of with a newborn around. You could follow the "Sleep when the baby sleeps" rule. If the baby takes a nap at 3:00 in the afternoon, then so do you. Even though your sleep pattern will not be anything like what it is now, you'll still be getting more sleep than if you didn't and this is a good thing. Despite my many years of post-secondary education, I never really knew sleep deprivation until I had kids.

Balancing "me" time with "kid" time is a skill many parents struggle with even when their kids are a lot older. The answer sort of hinges on what you do with your "me" time. For some people, me time is zoning out in front of a tv or reading a book. For others, me time is taking a hike. I have a friend whose husband's "me" time is going and playing soccer a couple of times a week. If there is something you really enjoy doing that requires a few hours a week, then talk with your spouse/partner about how you are going to schedule time to accommodate it once your baby arrives. That's right: schedule it. Maybe on Sunday afternoons he watches the baby while you go out. If your spouse is not supportive of you leaving the house for your "me" time or if your hobby is extremely time-consuming, then you might have to find a new activity. I have friends whose husbands are not comfortable watching their kids on their own. For most of us, I think our hobbies have been relegated to the post-kid bedtime hours.

Keep in mind that even if you have to temporarily suspend a hobby for now, it doesn't mean that you can't pick it back up again when your son/daughter is older--and maybe by that time they'll be old enough to participate in your hobby with you. And it doesn't mean that you can't still be involved in a hobby, you just can't dedicate as much time to it, or your involvement can't be as intense. If you LOVE acting and perform with a local theater, perhaps you can't be on-stage for now, but that doesn't mean that you can't design their playbills.

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I request you to break your first big paragraph in small points otherwise it is difficult to read. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jun 4 '13 at 8:16
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@user462608 For formatting changes, feel free to make your own edit, even if it is someone else's answer or question. If you have less than 1000 reputation (2000 on non-beta sites), your edit will appear in a queue for the community to review before it goes live. You will also earn small amounts of reputation is your edits are approved. –  Beofett Jun 4 '13 at 15:26
    
+1 for a description of the realistic expectations of time commitment, and for the Moby! –  Beofett Jun 4 '13 at 15:34
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@Beofett: Our Moby was a LIFE SAVER!! –  Meg Coates Jun 4 '13 at 15:55
    
Six to 8 times a day for feeding? If breastfeeding the AAP recommends 8-12, which I found to be more on target for my newborn. –  justkt Jun 4 '13 at 20:38
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My wife had the same doubt before the labor. She was in the end of her PhD, she managed to end it on February and our little girl was born in March. She is getting help from both grandmothers, she likes to take care of the house, and she barelly has time to do that.

And she still feels she is not doing a good use of the time, because even not having much free time during the day, she feels she's loosing her time because she can't see any improve in her career, etc.

What has worked is reading: take the time to read things that you'll need later. Improve your knowledge.

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+1 for reading. I did a lot of it when my toddler was a newborn. With only one in the house who slept best when held I spent a lot of time trapped under a baby with a book (usually about baby sleep) in my hands or a computer at my side reading. –  justkt Jun 4 '13 at 20:39
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The only way to "balance the time" is to actually carve the time into your schedule and ensure that the baby is under care you trust during that time.

The Nike slogan says it best - Just Do It.

And do whatever it is you want to do to feel rejuvenated. Those are really personal choices and may change on your whim.

There are options even if you want to breastfeed. I didn't follow this and I am (still) breastfeeding but I know a mom who breastfed exclusively following the "Ezzo method" where the baby's feedings were scheduled. Mom loved the routine and the baby flourished - great eater, great weight. I am terrible with routines and still nurse on demand. I have to physically leave the house to get "me time".

I know another mom who exclusively breastfed the first few weeks then pumped and fed the baby with the breastmilk through a bottle. The baby did not get confused.

Only you can determine what balance - it may not be exactly 50/50 - feels right and what constitutes as not wasting time. Don't be afraid to schedule in your time right from the start. Newborns sleep so much you will have many opportunities to figure out how to feel rejuvenated. Good luck and congrats!

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As a note, the AAP has issued a few warning statements about the Ezzo method leading to Failure to Thrive and other issues in some cases. –  justkt Jun 4 '13 at 20:40
    
Yup. That's why I didn't do it. But for my friends it worked and their baby is "thriving". Parenting is different for everyone. –  Rhea Jun 5 '13 at 4:08
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I had all these grand ideas of working on software dev while my daughter was brand-spanking-new, but unfortunately they went right out the window 'cause I need time to dive into the logic and I could only get part of the way there before another feeding or change was required.

However, I did get a LOT of photography done. Of her. Toes, fingers, eyelashes (oh man those EYELASHES); I did lots of macro work when she was really little. I also would wear her (Moby FTW!) and go to parks or just outside and do photography that way. She'd sleep like a champ in the Moby and I'd get some quality time with her while doing something I loved.

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If your primary concern on maternity leave is how to balance time between yourself and the baby, you may be setting yourself up to be very disappointed by maternity leave and possibly even resentful of your baby. I recommend changing your thought process. Instead I would focus on maternity leave as a time to adjust to your new rhythms in life with a baby.

During the first six weeks - longer if your baby is premature - your baby will have no concept of day or night, no matter how hard you try to provide one, because that part of the brain has not developed yet. Also during the early days your little one will possibly take a very long time per feeding. A newborn who nurses, if you choose to nurse, for 20 minutes is an efficient eater. Feedings lasting 45-60 minutes are normal especially during growth spurts. Your day will around the clock involve stretches of sleep (anywhere from 10 minutes-3 hours depending on variables far beyond your control) interrupted by a quick diaper change and a feeding and hopefully back to sleep for the baby. Unfortunately the back to sleep process is not always a smooth and quick one with a newborn. It can take a few mintues or it can take hours.

During the first 3-4 months a baby's digestive system is regulating. According to my pediatrician the latest thinking on colic is that some babies feel the tummy troubles from the immature digestive system more than others. So during that time some babies will spend stretches of 3 or more hours at least 3 days a week crying and nothing you can do will console them, though you will likely try everything. Add on to the possibility of colic the rarer possibility of reflux or MSPI and you have a less than average but not insignificant chance that you will be spending much of your maternity leave dealing with an upset newborn with some form or other of tummy troubles.

So all that said, the newborn period is not really the best time for "you" time. It is, however, a good time to establish habits which will enable you to find "you" time later. Teach your baby to practice independent sleep. If breastfeeding then spend lots of time with your baby establishing a good milk supply so that nursing is not an issue later. Also if nursing you will need to start pumping after 2 weeks post-partum to begin to build a stash of milk for your return to work. Pumping will take a surprising amount of your time as well. Introduce floor time (tummy and back both) early to encourage a little bit of independent "play" every day. Incorporate your baby into your daily routines during awake time, which will gradually include non-feeding times, via baby wearing or however you see fit.

I also found that any sort of relaxation I could do while holding a sleeping or nursing baby worked. You will spend a lot of hours holding an eating baby and most likely a lot holding a sleeping one as well. Reading books, browsing the Internet, and catching up on the news were good for me. While you could attempt to develop software one handed during this time I never found that I felt mentally sharp enough to do so.

After your maternity leave has ended, your child has learned how to sleep and is on an adequate nap routine, and you've come out of the incredible haze that is the immediate post-partum recovery period then you will begin the delicate balance of finding "you" time. I have had one friend comment that when she was mothering only one child she even eventually got bored and started taking an evening class. I would not, however, expect that to happen on maternity leave, or at least not until the very end.

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+1 for setting yourself up for disappointment. The point of maternity leave is to allow you to figure out this whole new world you've stepped in to and spend time bonding with your child. It's sometimes a hard pill to swallow to accept that it's not about "me" anymore. –  Meg Coates Jun 7 '13 at 4:28
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