A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Maternity Leave

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Even if you're lucky enough to get maternity leave (and even with the 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act, there's no guarantee), it's still no vacation. In many cases, you're leaving one full-time job to start another, and your new job requires some serious overtime. Newborns need around-the-clock care, and chances are you're going to be recovering from major body trauma. The good news? You can totally handle it. Let go of being perfect, follow the hot mess mom's guide to maternity leave, and before you know it you'll be kicking maternity leave straight in the ass.

I must have read my teacher contract half a dozen times before I realized that three days of paid maternity leave wasn't a typo. I mean, my husband got 10 days, and he doesn't even have a uterus. I know I was lucky, though, because some people get a bit fat nothing. I'd also accumulated quite a bit of sick leave, which I was allowed to use for the rest of the time (pending the midwife's confirmation that I had, in fact, given birth). I went on leave a week before my due date, and because my kid was born in May, I didn't have to finish out the school year. Instead I went straight into summer vacation so, like I said, lucky.

I spent most of those six weeks exhausted, braless, and covered in a fine layer of spit-up and baby pee. I did manage some outings and quite a few visitors, but I also spent a significant amount of time on the couch nursing my kid and drooling. For the hot mess mom, it's not about making the most of maternity leave. It's just about making it.

Step 1: Delete Your Work Inbox From Your Phone

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There's a reason this is number one. The hot mess mom knows that her mothering duties trump her work responsibilities. I mean, why do I have to say that, during maternity leave, you shouldn't have any job-related stuff to do? Oh, that's right. Because America. I made the mistake of checking my account a few weeks in, and some tool asked me to translate a document for him. Yeah, I'll get right on that after I clean the poop off my shirt and, you know, raise my child.

Step 2: Buy All The Leggings

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but when you expel a tiny human from your loins and/or that tiny human is cut from your stomach, your body doesn't just bounce back. My baby only accounted for 7 of the 40 pounds I'd gained when I was pregnant.

Do not, I repeat, do not try to put on your pre-pregnancy jeans. Bring on the stretchy pants! You're not at work, so no one will look askance at you if you ditch the full panel slacks, OK? And the hot mess mom is all about comfort.

Step 3: Become One With The Dry Shampoo

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If the hot mess mom has to choose between sleep and a shower, she will always choose sleep. If you sleep when the baby sleeps (which is actually pretty solid advice), it doesn't leave a lot of time for hygiene. Enter dry shampoo. No soap or water required? Yes, please. Follow that aerosol spray with a messy bun, and you've got your hot mess mom 'do.

Step 4: Go Topless

I realize that this is easy for me to say as a small-chested mom. But honestly, I got so tired of hooking and unhooking my bra for the Breastfeeding/Pumping Olympics day in and day out for weeks, if not months, on end. I found it was easier just to go around without a shirt. Fortunately, pregnancy and childbirth cured me of any semblance of modesty. So if you can go braless without back pain, I highly recommend it. If not, the ta-ta towel looks pretty freaking legit.

Step 5: Download The Starbucks App

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Hot mess moms are fueled by coffee, and this is never more true than during maternity leave. You are going to be seriously sleep deprived, so you will likely want caffeine close at hand. Whether it's from your home-based coffee pot or your local cafe, you'll need a cup of joe in your favorite "Hot Mess Express" mug if you're going to be in the club.

Step 6: Put The Baby Book Down

The hot mess mom does not have a maternity to-do list. Or she did, but she can't find it. In any case, she sets attainable goals. Those goals include things like brushing her teeth and keeping the baby alive, but not finally mastering her partner's grandma's butterscotch pie recipe. During maternity leave, you have one project, and I think you know what that is. (If you said organizing your baby's closet by size, stop reading now.)

Step 7: Take A Damn Nap

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Just do it. The hot mess mom takes a siesta and doesn't feel guilty about all the things she didn't get done when she was sleeping. I've always been a champion napper, and during maternity leave it was even more of a necessity. My fellow hot mess moms and I know that a half hour of shut-eye does a whole lot more good than, well, whatever the hell else you had planned.

Step 8: Set Up Amazon Subscriptions

I'm not saying you shouldn't get out of the house, but there are times when you aren't going to want to go anywhere. That's where two-day shipping can really come in handy (oh, hello there, sterilization bags!). I loved subscriptions because I could pretty much guarantee that I would never run out of diapers or wipes.

Step 9: Make Friends With Frozen Meals

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Now is not the time to try out your new pasta maker, unless you're using it as a make-shift drying rack for bottles. Frozen entrees and take-out are your new besties, as are any friends who bring over a casserole. During maternity leave, the best tasting food is anything you didn't cook yourself.

Step 10: Binge A Show

Whether you're breastfeeding or formula-feeding, your newborn will be eating pretty much around the clock. That's some significant sofa time. I promise they won't notice if you watch 5 seasons of The Walking Dead. I'm sure some moms use the time to catch up on Ted Talks or read parenting books, but if Netflix is more your speed, you're probably a hot mess mom.

Step 11: Leave The Dishes

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The dishes will still be there in the morning. Believe me, I've tested it. Apparently, the magic fairy that lives at my mom's house doesn't visit me at home. It's OK to let the house go for a little bit. Hot mess moms prioritize. The laundry has to get done because the baby has to have pajamas — fine — but the floorboards can wait a few months.

Step 12: Get Help

The hot mess mom knows it takes a village, and she's not about to be a martyr. She has her mother, mother-in-law, sister, lactation consultant, and mom friends on speed dial, and she isn't afraid to ask for an assist. Asking for help during maternity isn't a personal failing, my friends. Oh no, it's a smart move.

Step 13: Embrace The Chaos

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Crying baby, dirty diapers, and a house in a state of newborn squalor? It's par for the course. If you feel like a FEMA disaster area, that's not surprising. I guarantee every mom on maternity leave is in the feed, diaper, sleep, repeat Twilight Zone. Anyone who looks like they've got everything under control is probably faking it (cute booties, but I see the bags under your eyes). You being a hot mess just means you're genuine, and honestly, you're doing just as good a job handling maternity leave as anybody else.