Guest Post from Heather and Whitney from RookieMoms.com
First-time moms have high expectations for their experience of motherhood. Celebrities make it look like so much fun to cart around a well-dressed baby and a Starbucks cup in the other hand. But being at home with a newborn baby can be lonely — and boring. That’s why Heather Flett and Whitney Moss wrote The Rookie Mom’s Handbook.
Subtitled “250 activities to do with (and without!) your baby”, this thoughtful guide is packed with humor, creative ideas and gentle encouragement for the new mom, reminding her that there’s more to life than 3 AM feeding sessions.
In this column, we are sharing 10 ideas to help get you out of the house, excerpted from The Rookie Mom’s Handbook: 250 Activities to do with (and without!) your baby.
1. Write a baby-sized shopping list.
If you haven’t gone to the grocery store yet, make your first trip a practice run. Use a shopping cart, but just buy a treat for yourself. That way, when you actually have to go grocery shopping, you’ll know you can do it.
There are two ways to approach the cart:
1. Wear your baby in a front carrier or sling and push the cart.
2. Put the entire infant car seat in the cart. Make sure it doesn’t wobble.
Don’t try to be a hero and carry your baby in your arms while also picking up the groceries. The shopping cart is your friend.
2. Introduce your stroller to the mall and buy some new jeans.
Put away the maternity pants and take yourself out to get some interim jeans that make you feel normal. Go with a girlfriend you trust. Don’t look at the size; just find something flattering and comfortable.
DO NOT THINK ABOUT OR TALK ABOUT THE WEIGHT YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE IN THE FUTURE. Buy jeans to wear this week. When the day comes, you can put these jeans in storage for the next time around, give them to a friend who is a few months behind you, or wear them when you paint that mural you’ve been talking about.
3. Paint baby’s feet.
Many paint-your-own-pottery places know how to help you get cute baby footprints on plates, mugs, and the like.
We made trivets because the cheapest pottery available was a flat tile. Paint everything you want on your piece while baby sleeps (or a friend holds him), then do the feet and race out the door because he’s likely to be pissed off when he wakes up. At least that’s how it was for us.
4. Pretend you’re in Europe.
This outing is perfect for beginners. Gather your baby and go to your favorite outdoor breakfast venue. Pack a journal, a trashy magazine, or a pile of thank-you notes and head to a café. Park the stroller right next to you and breathe in the fresh air. Before you leave, buy some baked treats for dessert tonight. C’est magnifique!
If it’s raining, this outing is even better. You need to get out of the house, and your new favorite coffee shop is a place you can sit for an hour or two and just be proud that you went somewhere on your own. Yes, you can take the baby out in the rain or snow. Your mother surely took you. Go on! That hot chocolate has your name written all over it.
At this point in your baby’s development, you have about 5 more months to enjoy café culture. And for your sake, we hope some of this time falls in the warmer months! Once your baby crawls, she won’t be so tolerant of your fondness for people watching or spacing out, so live it up now.
5. Go on a reconnaissance mission.
When the baby is in a good mood (or better, sleeping peacefully in the stroller), scope out your local shopping destinations for “safe places” where you can feed and change her. That way you can get out of the house every day and know that you don’t have to race against the clock to get back home. We recommend the children’s area of any bookstore. Find a quiet corner and a tiny chair and pull out your boob or bottle.
If you aren’t ready for public feeding this first month, we totally understand. Look around, make a mental note of where you see moms feeding babies, and come back next month to try it yourself. By the end of month 2, you’ll probably have your own favorite places. Then you can accost other new mothers on the street and tell them where to go.
Rookie Mom–recommended safe feeding places:
· Nordstrom women’s lounges. These have areas that are specially intended for feeding and changing—plus lots of nice old ladies who can watch your stuff or even your baby while you use the bathroom.
· Baby boutiques. You’ll usually find changing tables and chairs for feeding.
· Family restaurant chains. Most aren’t crowded on weekdays, so you can get a big booth where all your stuff will fit. Rookie mom Sunny spent a large part of her maternity leave with baby Lucas in her local California Pizza Kitchen.
6. Go to the theater, where crying is allowed.
We thank God for TiVo, but also for movie theaters that have special showings for new parents. With clever names like “Mommy Matinee” or “Baby Brigade,” these showings welcome babes in arms. Both of our babies were frequent attendees of baby movies during their first year. Find one in your area and make it a weekly habit. Don’t worry; yours will (most likely) not be the loudest baby in the theater.
7. Carry out more; wash dishes less.
Take a walk through the neighborhood and grab takeout or delivery menus from places you like, or, if you don’t live within walking distance of any restaurants, drive around and pick up the menus. Try to keep 5 or 10 on hand for times when the idea of cooking is just too horrific.
To make your takeout nights even more convenient, program the phone numbers of your favorite places into your cell phone. Call and place an order just before your partner leaves work, and have him stop and pick up dinner on the way home.
8. Go bowling.
Some nights we think there should be a white noise soundtrack with sounds like “biker bar” or “bowling alley” to lull babies to sleep.
If your baby is noisy or lulled to sleep by loud noises, meet some pals for bowling one afternoon. This is a fun activity for a mom’s group or for a double or triple date with those friends you haven’t seen for the past 3 months.
Even a rookie mom knows: Bring some hand sanitizer, and don’t forget to wear socks.
9. Practice yoga, baby style.
Many yoga studios offer mom-and-baby classes. Search online for “postnatal yoga” and the name of your city to find one.
Benefits of these classes include getting out of the house, being kind to your body, meeting other rookie moms, and sometimes learning a little baby massage technique.
Sometimes there are “helpers” in the class who will hold a baby who needs some cuddling while mommy stretches. Our favorite pose is the one in which you just lie on the floor and do nothing. It is definitely worth paying for.
10. Interrupt someone’s workday.
Visiting your partner at work is something to look forward to for all involved. It’s probably feasible in some form for most professions. (If your partner works at home or does not work, go visit a friend or your old coworkers.)
You may assume you’ll do this all the time while on maternity leave, but it turned out to be a rare occasion for us. Therefore, we now see it as a major outing.
We also figured that we’d be spending time in the office, showing off the baby to coworkers. But when we visited our spouses, they were more interested in getting out of the office to see their little families than in taking the baby around to colleagues. No problem there. Who needs all those germy people putting their hands on baby, anyway?
One last exciting development was getting to use a restroom all by ourselves. What a special event! Make sure you take advantage of it.
There are 240 more activities in The Rookie Mom’s Handbook!