It’s your first time, right? You’re a rookie mom. Untrained, no experience. That’s you. And that’s not an insult.
Even those of us who spent our adolescence babysitting for other people’s children or who work as preschool teachers or pediatric nurses are in for some big surprises. We’ve never been moms before. It’s not the same as changing a few diapers or setting up messy art projects. It means you are in charge all day, every day, and you and that baby are not going anywhere (or getting out of pajamas) unless you make it happen.
When our babies were born, we discovered that hours and days lose shape when you have no place you’re expected to be. For those of us who are accustomed to a scheduled, busy life, that can be confusing. Lack of structure can throw even the most confident, opinionated woman into a state of mental uncertainty.
We know one rookie mom who actually had to pronounce 8 p.m. as an artificial bedtime, by which the newborn should be put in his pajamas. If he was still wearing clothes at 9 p.m., she would freak out at her husband and hiss, “Pajamas!” Why? Because she needed structure. It didn’t matter that the baby was going to sleep on and off in seemingly eternal cycles. Daytime was for clothes and nighttime for pajamas, even for her five-week-old baby!
That’s where we enter the scene—to provide some help in creating your own structure. In The Rookie Mom’s Handbook, we have come up with some activities that we enjoyed doing ourselves. Some are crafty, some are adventurous, and some are just a way to help you get a meal on the table. All of them can be done by someone with a baby. Pick an activity each morning and build your day around it.
No matter how fulfilling you may find motherhood, it’s awfully quiet if done in isolation, and it can be pretty disorienting to have your whole day be a blank slate. We can assure you that counting the hours until your partner comes home is not going to make the time pass quickly.
Get out of the house!
No matter what activity you choose, we are adamant that you must get out of the house, even when it seems easier to just stay in. The baby will be less fussy, and you’ll be happier, too. That is your responsibility each day. When whomever you live with leaves the house and you’re there alone with that kid, you must commit to some outing that will take you outside. Your activity can be as small as driving to the mall, where you will be forced to change a diaper in a public restroom. Good for you! That’s what moms do, and you’re learning to do it. Are you out of orange juice? Go to the store and buy some. We’re telling you to go to the store just for one thing? Yes! If that’s what will give you purpose and practice with taking your child somewhere, that’s what you should do.
Seven Reasons to Leave the House Each Day:
- It’s an excuse to take a shower.
- It’s an opportunity to show off your baby.
- It will help you maintain your friendships.
- It will help keep your social skills sharp.
- You’ll actually have something to say when you’re asked, “What did you do all day?”
- You can practice using your baby gear (until you can do it with one hand).
- That’s what people do, and moms are just people who have children.
Not every activity in The Rookie Mom’s Handbook is an outing. Some are crafts or things to do while your baby sleeps. Here’s your homework: If an activity sounds good to you, figure out how you’re going to do it—and leave the house—all in one day! We know it’s hard, and we’re here to encourage you.
Throughout the book, we also suggest some strategies for getting mom-alone-time and mom-hangs-with-friend-time because mama, you need that, too. Sometimes for new moms, it’s hard to think (admit it, you agree), and it’s just nice to be told what to do. Here we are. We’re telling you.
#1: Take “baby” steps and get out of the house.
Whitney’s retelling of her first days at home after birth always includes, “I could barely walk.” Some of us can barely walk—and some of us can barely sit. It really depends on which part of your body the baby damaged on her way out. Though we want you to think of us as your friends, and as such we extend our sympathy to your sore parts, we also want to push you to get on with your life. This is because we love you.
Take walks outside with your new stroller to get some air. Most babies respond well to the rhythm of the stroller, the fresh air, and the changing light. C-section sisters, no brisk walking for you, but you do need to get outside. Have someone take you and your little bundle to a place other than your house for a change of scenery. Also, don’t push yourself too hard the first month. Heather’s first walk was two blocks. Literally. One out, one back. Take it easy.
#2. Free your hands.
A soft carrier is one of the most useful pieces of gear a new mom can have. We each have at least three different ways to carry our baby hands-free (soft front carriers, ring slings, pouches, lengthy wraps, and backpacks for bigger babies), but we agree that the easiest for a new mom is the BabyBjörn*. There’s no questioning whether you’re “doing it right”—unlike some of the crazy fabric sheaths that are sold as infant carriers, the BabyBjörn is a symmetrical device that fits snugly against you. You may come to think of it as your new best friend.
Here are some tips to help you on your way:
- Practice taking the BabyBjörn on and off. This is best attempted when your baby doesn’t need a ride—preferably when she’s safely sleeping in her bassinet or in someone else’s arms rather than in your own.
- If you get stuck, the manufacturer put a little picture on the inside of the device to show you what to do. Or read the instructions online.
- When installing the baby, remember: Itty-bitty babies face you, and babies with good head control face the world.
- If you’re wearing it correctly, you should be able to kiss the top of your baby’s head with a simple nod.
- Put a little hat on the baby to protect her brand-new, delicate skin from the sun.
- Put on your own jacket to look really advanced.
* Note: If you had a C-section, you might not be ready to use this piece of gear for a few weeks. Use these tips to get your partner on board instead.
#3: Call your grandma.
If you have any living grandmothers, call one and ask about her childbirth experiences. Some parts might sound horrific (no partner in the room, maybe no pain relief, or worse, knocked out entirely), but some might sound lovely. (We’re not sure what. Let us know if you hear anything good!) Nana’s story will mean more to you now than it did before, and obviously she will be thrilled to hear from you.
#4. Increase your calcium the fun way.
According to the National Dairy Council, women over age eighteen should consume about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. That works out to about three servings, the equivalent of two venti vanilla lattes.
We hope you’ve already realized that this book is not the place to read about counting calories or shedding pounds. We want you to be happy while you adjust to your new baby—so we gladly recommend the following seven tasty ways to get your daily dose:
- Mint chocolate chip ice cream in front of the TV
- Cheese (fancy, with a little red wine, or the stick variety in the middle of the night)
- A tall glass of milk, with cookies or cake
- Hot chocolate made with real milk
- Decaf (single shot, double tall) latte
- Real whipped cream on anything
- Almond-flavored steamed milk
#5: Write a “did do” list.
If you’re getting sick of your “to do” list getting longer rather than shorter and wondering where the heck all your time is going, try writing a “did do” list. Share it with your baby-daddy at the end of the day and encourage him to be very impressed. The truth is that your time is filled with lots and lots of recurring tasks that you never had to deal with before. So set aside this list:
- Fix chip in front windshield
- Call Amanda back
- Change name with United Airlines
- Order wedding albums
- Buy Chad’s birthday present
And, for at least one day, make this list:
- Changed two wet diapers
- Changed four poopy diapers, one blowout
- Selected two full outfits
- Changed baby’s entire outfit three times
- Nursed for four hours
- Photographed baby asleep on couch
- Showered, mostly
- Ate breakfast
- Made myself lunch; ate half of it
- Made this list
You get the idea. Own it. Live it. Love it.
From The Rookie Mom’s Handbook: 250 Things to Do With (And Without!) Your Baby (c) 2008 by Heather Gibbs Flett and Whitney Moss. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.