If you’ve been following along for a while, you may know that I recently went back to work after maternity leave. I’ll forever look back at my leave as one of the most special times of my entire life.  Up until that point, I don’t think I had ever taken a breather from my fast-paced work environment and type-A personality.  Needless to say, it felt amazing.

While maternity leave was the furthest from a vacation anyone could ever imagine, it taught me so much and I feel like I came out stronger because of it.

I walked away from my leave excited to find my professional self again but equally excited to create more balance in my life. I’ve been on a quest to make this happen ever since.

If you’re about to go on maternity leave (or if you’re about to have a baby and will be taking some time off), I’m excited to share how to make the most of your time so that you can live your best life:

1) Savor It All–The Good and The Bad

When your baby is born, you’ll hopefully be more elated than you’ve ever been before. You’ll look into your newborn baby’s eyes and wonder how you and your partner created something so special and adorable (that doesn’t come with a manual and keeps you up all night but that’s another story!).  You’ll be more exhausted than you’ve ever been–to the point where you want to keel over and sleep for days without interruption.  Unfortunately, it will most likely be years before you ever get that opportunity again and that fun fact hits you like a ton of bricks.

The key to enjoying your maternity leave as much as possible during this time is to truly take in the good and the bad. It’s okay to hone in on how great the good moments make you feel and how horribly the bad ones can knock you down.  But in the end, realize that your baby is only this age once and all of the tough times will pass. A few years from now, you’ll look back and wish you could turn back time (or so I hear!).

2) Get Out Of The House As Soon As You Can

Once you’re feeling up to it, get dressed and get out of the house.  I didn’t leave my house for nearly six weeks after Naiya was born and it was brutal! My c-section was so painful and I wasn’t sleeping at all. I remember this time as one big blur.  As soon as I was finally almost healed, Phil tried to help me to get out of the house. It was so daunting and I felt so overwhelmed and weak but I needed that extra push!

First, I took Naiya to a doctor’s appointment by myself.  I was so nervous to drive with her and carry her in her carseat alone but I bit the bullet and was so happy I did. This gave me confidence as a new mom that I could care for Naiya on my own and that felt like a big step in the right direction.

Soon after, we went to Palm Springs for a quick getaway and we drove out to the ocean (sharing one of our favorite spots from my maternity leave here today). These mini trips were everything.  They helped me to start getting back into the world and they helped Phil and I to bond with Naiya.  I loved that we were all together and that we could learn how to use a carseat, pack for Naiya, etc. as a team.

3) Sleep Whenever (And Wherever) You Can!

I wish I could go back in time to ask for more help with getting some rest during the first few months of Naiya’s life. I’m kind of still in this no-sleep boat but the beginning was especially brutal! Ask a family member or friend to come over for a few hours to watch your baby while you sleep!  You don’t have to feel guilty!

Everyone told me to sleep when the baby slept but our baby never slept (so neither did we!). Looking back, I realize how insane this time was and I only wish I had taken more people up on help without feeling like I was putting too much on them. Now that I’m back to work, sleeping has become even more impossible so I wish I had taken advantage of asking for more help while I could have.

4) Go Back To Your Roots

This may seem like a no-brainer but spending time with family was absolutely my favorite part of maternity leave. Having a baby really brought our family together–both immediate and extended.  What a special time for us all.  Our families used to visit us once or twice a year in Los Angeles. Now that Naiya is here, it feels like they’re coming out every few weeks. I especially loved being with family while Naiya was 0-3 months because it almost felt like our own little tribe.

Watching my parents and Phil’s parents become grandparents who are falling in love with your child is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. While I’m always a big fan of social media, I made a constant effort to savor every moment and to be especially present.  As cliche as it may sound, I think that doing so throughout this time helped me to remember who I am and where I want to go in life. It reminded me that life is short and that family (and amazing friends) are everything.