5. Lower your standards "It's impossible to do everything as well as you did it before you had kids," Spencer says. "Your job, your relationship with your husband, keeping the house clean, plus being a good mom -- it's a tall order for anyone."
Housework can be the tipping point for some. "Recently my husband's family came to meet Madeline, my 8-week-old," says Curtis, who had decided she'd mop her floors during nap time before the visit. But nap time didn't pan out that day. "I remember being near tears and saying aloud, 'All I want to do is mop a damn floor!'" It didn't matter that she'd be the only one to notice the dirt -- not being able to clean drove Curtis nuts.
Here's how: Acknowledge that you don't have the time to scrape dried applesauce off the high chair, teach the baby sign language and whip up your famous penne a la vodka. "You have to prioritize and trim your to-do list," says Diane Dillon, Ph.D., director of the Child Study Team at the School at Columbia University and coauthor of Mommy Mantras: Affirmations and Insights to Keep You From Losing Your Mind.
If you're too Type-A to eliminate items from your to-do list, do it for your baby. "Research shows that kids are better off if you're just a 'good enough' mother instead of always trying to be perfect," says Dillon. Your errors will eventually help your children learn to become more adaptable, since everything doesn't turn out exactly as it should.
6. Have fun with your baby Like many new mothers, Leigh Zinman read a lot of parenting books after she had her daughter, Sahra. All the guides talked about stimulating your child, so she became hyper-focused on educating Sahra, even when she was just 3 months old. "Each morning before her nap I would watch the clock, and every 15 minutes I would change activities," says the Montreal mom. Playtime started feeling more like class time, and Zinman wondered anxiously if she was doing enough to "teach" her infant.
Here's how: Instead of wondering whether the stacking cups you've researched and ordered online are developmentally appropriate, just have fun stacking the cups and knocking them over with her.
The key is to focus on the task at hand instead of what your baby can get out of it. Since your baby is constantly taking in information and processing it during play and every other activity -- her brain is designed to connect the dots -- you don't have to connect the dots for her. That means don't obsess over dinner-time vocabulary ("Molly's spoon! Spoon! Can you say spoon?"), just dish up the sweet potato puree and laugh when she blows big orange spit bubbles. "Nothing makes you feel more confident than when your baby is laughing with you," says Spencer. "The happier your baby seems, the more confident you'll feel about what you're doing."