You probably have a vision in your head of what your maternity leave will be like — cuddling up for snuggle sessions with your new babe, wearing your most comfortable pajamas, and enjoying long stretches of having nothing to do but get to know your new BFF. Just lovely, right? As a mom who has been-there-done-that twice, I can tell you that maternity leave for a working mom who is used to interacting with adults on the regular can get, well, boring. That’s why having a list of movies to watch while on maternity leave is key for keeping your sanity in tact and preventing that dreaded boredom from setting in.
I’m not saying you won’t enjoy the time you spend bonding with your newborn. You will. But between all of the feeding and burping and rocking and changing, a bit of healthy distraction via a silly movie can do a lot of good for your frazzled new mama brain. Many of the movies on this list focus on pregnancy and birth, and since you’ve just experienced that harrowing feat yourself, there is no better time to immerse yourself in all things related to new parenthood.
The movies on this list are not only relatable for the phase of life that you’re currently in, but they have the heart, the laughs, and the plot twists to keep you hooked in. During a time when your newborn is demanding the majority of your attention, having something interesting to turn on is worth its weight in movie award gold.
1. ‘Baby Mama’
The comedic powerhouse duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler is the perfect pair for playing a Type-A woman trying to make her dream of parenthood a reality, and the down-on-her-luck gal who becomes her surrogate. Hilarity ensues as Fey’s character attempts to mold her surrogate into her perfect gestational stand-in, and a huge plot twist (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you!) will keep you watching until the very end.
Not your typical coming-of-age story, Juno follows a teenager throughout her unexpected pregnancy and the rollercoaster ride of emotions that ensues as she gets to know the couple who is set to adopt her unborn baby. This cult-classic movie is one that will have you laughing and crying within the same breath — which is pretty much what you’ll be doing most every day anyway as your hormones begin to level back out post-birth, so you might as well enjoy a good movie while you’re at it.
3. ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’
Not only is this movie packed full of A-list stars like Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz, but it takes a good, hard look at the different emotions of pregnancy, adoption, and birth through the lens of hilarious antics and plenty of plot twists. The focus on fatherhood throughout the movie also makes this one a prime candidate for watching together with your partner during your post-birth recovery period when your Netflix and chill time is primarily just Netflix.
4. ‘Nine Months’
Who doesn’t want to spend a couple hours of their maternity leave watching Hugh Grant grapple with impending fatherhood? Not only will this movie tug on your heartstrings, but Robin Williams playing a quirky obstetrician will have you grinning from ear to ear.
5. ‘Now and Then’
I get it. This is admittedly not exactly a movie that is mainly about pregnancy and birth, but hear me out. The iconic group of childhood friends in Now and Then reunite as one of their own gears up for the birth of her first child. The type of nostalgia and connection this movie brings with it is exactly what many new moms (myself included) crave immediately after birth.
6. ‘Life As We Know It’
When they unexpectedly become their goddaughter’s primary caregivers, Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel’s characters in Life As We Know It experience many of same the realities of new parenthood that you will likely be experiencing yourself while on maternity leave. Plus, it’s basically a romantic comedy in disguise, and taking time to indulge in a good, old-fashioned rom-com from time to time is just good for the soul.
7. ‘Look Who’s Talking’
This iconic movie about new parenthood starring Kirstie Alley and John Travolta is the classic comedy that spawned a three-movie franchise with hilarious scenes and a heartwarming focus on what it means to be a parent and raise a family. Oh, and Bruce Willis is the voiceover for baby Mikey, so it’s basically 1990s movie gold.
If you weren’t exactly over-the-moon about being pregnant (because, let’s face it, it isn’t always a walk in the park), you can likely relate to Keri Russel’s character in Waitress. Watching her quirky character learn to embrace whatever life throws her way despite her circumstances being less than ideal is totally something that will have you cheering her on while you’re planted on the couch embracing your own new role as a mama.
This one is going to hit you right in those postpartum feels. When a lesbian couple’s children find their biological father and attempt to bring him into their family fold, the entire crew struggles to come to terms with the realities of parenthood and the meaning of family. Although technically not a movie about birth, watching a movie about the identity we all share as parents is something that will truly hit home for any new mom.
10. ‘Baby Boom’
Diane Keaton and late ’80s power suits are a winning combination in my book any day, but when you add a new baby to the mix, you get a movie that is perfect for watching during your maternity leave. Watching Keaton’s character unexpectedly juggle having to care for her late cousin’s baby with a demanding career creates a vortex of amusement that will surely keep you entertained throughout your endless cycle of feeding and diapering. Also, it will absolutely give you that I-can-do-this attitude so many new moms need a dollop of during maternity leave.
11. ‘Knocked Up’
Even if you’ve watched Knocked Up a thousand times, this side-splitting comedy about pregnancy and new parenthood will have you chuckling through an entirely new lens when you watch the iconic birth scene after giving birth yourself. And if you’ve never seen it, now is the time to watch. This movie is outrageous in the absolute best way.
12. ‘Steel Magnolias’
This classic movie about womanhood and the ties that bind friendships and families is the perfect one to watch when you’re ready to have a good cry on your maternity leave. As Dolly Parton’s character Truvy says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Watching Julia Roberts in her breakout role as she navigates new motherhood and her relationship with her own mom, played by Sally Fields, is just perfection.
When an inner city school teacher gets pregnant unexpectedly, she befriends a student who is also experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and questions her own identity as she grapples with the decision to return to work or stay home after she has her baby. Although this movie might make you think through your own post-maternity leave plans, it is well worth the watch for any mom struggling with post-birth expectations.
Steve Martin is somewhat of a comedic genius, so watching him play out the difficulties and stresses that come along with being a parent in Parenthood is the stuff of legends. If you’re even the least bit anxious about what parenthood is going to have in store for you, watching this riot of a comedy will help put your mind at ease. Just remember — if he can do it, you can do it.
15. ‘Riding In Cars With Boys’
Drew Barrymore is a queen among mothers, and even as a pregnant teen in Riding In Cars With Boys, she steals the hearts of just about anyone who watches the film. Following her character‘s journey through motherhood and re-discovering her identity along the way is exactly the inspirational kick in the pants you need during your maternity leave.
16. ‘Where The Heart Is’
When Natalie Portman’s character Novalee gives birth to her baby inside of a Walmart after being abandoned there by her boyfriend, she is lovingly embraced by a community and a surrogate family who helps her raise her daughter and learn what it means to be a mother. As a brand new mom, you’ll surely relate to the struggles Novalee endures as she picks up the pieces of her life to provide a better future for her daughter.