Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Just What Do You Do With A Baby, Anyway?

I don't know about you, but as a first time mom I was pretty boring. While pregnant, I had big dreams of doing all kinds of exciting things with my baby on my days off as we enjoyed spending time together on walks and doing crafts while we wore matching white linen dresses. OK, maybe not the dress part.

The reality was that parenting was extremely overwhelming, and whenever I found a free moment to do something with the baby, my mind drew a blank and we ended up sitting at home, me in my sweats, and her in the stained sleeper she woke up in. It was all about survival in those first hazy months.

If I had a copy of The Rookie Mom's Handbook back then, I might have picked myself up off the floor and forced myself outside more. This book, written by Heather Gibbs Flett and Whitney Moss, was an extension of the Rookie Moms website, and features "250 activities to do with (and without!) your baby." This isn't your standard book of activities, asking you to play peek-a-boo and shake a rattle over baby's head. Instead, it is a guide to help you, as well as your baby, have a fulfilling, successful first year.

They understand the difficulties many women go through in transitioning to the role of mother, and so several activities in the book are aimed at making sure that you are not forgetting about yourself during baby's first year. Each section of the book covers three months of the first year, and instead of listing what skills baby has mastered at that point, they list skills that mom has mastered, such as folding laundry with ease, reciting baby books from memory, etc. Some activities involve going places with friends, or finding ways to reconnect with your spouse - in other words, to prevent you from losing all of the "old you" in motherhood.

The ultimate goal is to make sure you get out of the house and not become a hermit because of baby. It's all too easy to fall into a boring, predictable pattern, and that's not healthy for mom or baby. Instead, get out and hit a children's museum, or a park, or the zoo, or go to a sit-down restaurant with friends. Sure, your baby may be too young to reap the full benefits of an outing, but the real benefits are for you. Going out forces you to shower, put on clothing that isn't stained or has an elastic waistband. We all need those little pushes, right?

Each section of the book has age-appropriate suggestions for what to do with your baby, and many were things I had never thought of. One idea is to take an artistic picture of your baby looking at herself in a mirror, so that baby's front and back sides are in the photo. It's easy to set up, and easy to do, and we all know babies love to look at themselves in the mirror, right?

There are also several ideas to help you maximize your time, such as planning out a schedule for the week, making dinner a night in advance, and using the internet to make shopping easier.

I've already started using some of the suggestions in this book, and I think I'll continue referring to it long after my second baby's first birthday. Because even though the book covers the first year, many of the ideas are not limited to the baby stage. Even moms of toddlers could use a date night now and then, right?

My favorite part of the book has to be the mom milestones chart in the back. We all write baby's firsts in their baby book, but how often do we stop to remember our firsts? They give prompts like "first unpregnant cocktail," "first public diaper change," and "mom's most impressive new bra size." I wish I could remember some of those details.

The Rookie Mom's Handbook is a small book that fits easily in your purse or diaper bag, and is a great resource, with a lot of humor, for helping you make the most of your baby's first year. I really enjoyed this book, and unlike some books that you read once and forget about, this one will stay off the bookshelf as a useful guide whenever I find myself feeling bored or overwhelmed. And once my youngest has moved past toddlerhood, I see myself passing this book down to another new mom, to make this transition to motherhood easier for her.

This is a great book for new moms and moms-to-be, and would make a well-appreciated shower gift. I'd like to thank Parent Bloggers for giving me the chance to review The Rookie Mom's Handbook. If you'd like to read more reviews or check out how to participate in this Friday's rookie mom blog blast, visit the launch page at the Parent Bloggers blog.


RookieMom Whitney said...

Awww, thanks Christina! Love the image of the matching white linen dresses. And my daughter ALWAYS stays in her jammies through her first nap.

RookieMom Heather said...

Christina, I want to thank you too. I'm tearing up reading your review. My son gets in his jammies the night before and wears the top until the next night, but I choose to think of it as a hack.