I’m curious — did anyone use maternity leave to learn stuff, or otherwise better yourself? A lot of readers noted that new mom friends were critical for their maternity leave, but I’m sure there are just as many people who, like me, just watched way too much television or played on social media in those moments when I wasn’t connecting with my baby. With my first maternity leave, it was Property Brothers on HGTV. Ah, Jonathan and Drew, I’ll always have a soft spot for you. But after a while, my brain sort of felt like it was rotting. This maternity leave I’ve been a bit better about it (although Shark Tank and Ladies of London have made their way into my rotation), but I thought it might be fun to compile a list of brainy but enjoyable things to do with short pockets of time at all hours of the day (where you may or may not have the use of both of your hands, and you may or may not be able to be much more than a passive listener).
- TED – Fast Company has called it the “new Harvard,” and it’s free. World-renowned speakers — professors, authors, leaders, etc. — give 18-minute talks on subjects of interest to them. Watch Sheryl Sandberg talk about how we have too few women leaders, watch numerous talks on the power of body language, or delve into something fun like the secret to desire in a long-term relationship or the concept of happiness and parenting. (I’d suggest starting with TED, rather than TEDx videos — there are some great ones in the TEDx ones but they’re a bit less tightly curated than the talks presented at the official TED events.)
- Online skill-based classes such as Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare – (Odesk has a great roundup of the field.) Take a class on negotiating salary, learn how to master Excel, and virtually travel to Duke University to improve your reasoning skills. Prices range on these, but many are very affordable (free-$10).
- Online language classes – I’ve used Rosetta Stone in the past, but if I were looking to brush up or learn a new language I might try Babbel or Duolingo.
- YouTube – I watched a ton of free videos on entrepreneurship from Marie Forleo, but you may also want to learn more about meditation from Gabrielle Bernstein, desire mapping from Danielle LaPorte, or even just watch makeup and hair tutorials from The Beauty Department.
These ideas are all pretty video-focused because I was looking primarily for something productive to do with my iPad or phone while breastfeeding, and because it feels like I never get a chance to watch long videos otherwise — I’m too antsy to do other things if I’m in front of the computer! (I do sometimes listen to audio books while I’m tidying up around the apartment, and I suspect I could get into them if I lived in a car culture… but for breastfeeding I preferred to have something to watch with one eye (keeping the other eye on the baby). (You can also watch some of these on your big screen TV through something like TiVo, Plex Media Server, or more, which may be worth looking into if you don’t have an iPad and don’t want to watch things on your phone.)
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with just watching Netflix or Jenna Marbles videos if you want to — I know even Tina Fey notes in Bossypants that she caught up on Entourage while pumping. (A great read, btw.) Still, I’m curious — for those of you nursing and pumping, do you have any favorite things to watch? Any favorite TED videos or online classes to recommend?