A week or so after I had my first baby, my friend Susan stopped by -- just in the nick of time: Will had been crying for what felt like hours and nothing I did helped. Susan, who'd just had her second daughter, calmly scooped up my inconsolable newborn and did a sort of combo side-to-side swaying and up-and-down jostling that magically lulled him out of Waa-Waa Land.
I've had three kids since then, and Susan's "mommy jig" has been a lifesaver with every one of them. But I never would have known it if I hadn't let her help me out -- and that's exactly why she, and I, and other moms who've been there want you to remember these seven rules:
1. Asking for help does not make you incompetent.
Precisely the opposite, in fact. Sometimes, there's no other way to get from point A to point B. Even if there is, getting there alone can take twice as long and make you crazy.
Kim Ganier of Huntington Beach, California, was always a self-sufficient person -- until her first baby, Laci (now 3), was a week old and Ganier found herself doing laundry while "someone else was sitting in my glider and cuddling my baby. The lightbulb went on," she says. After that, visitors were put to work so Ganier could enjoy Laci. Her advice now: Speak up, be specific about what you need, and say yes when offered help of any kind. "You'll feel guilty at first, but you'll get over it," she says.
It'll be easier if you remember that someday you will reciprocate -- if not to the particular mom who helped you out, then to another. Several months ago, I was having dinner out with my kids when the mom at the next table asked if I had an extra diaper. I happily handed one over. Sure enough, not long after that, I discovered I'd forgotten to bring a clean swim diaper to the pool and had to go begging from lounge chair to lounge chair for a spare. A better-prepared mom than I saved the day.
So never let guilt or embarrassment or even your ego get in the way of accepting help. Improvising a diaper is a lot harder than returning a favor.
2. Babies don't need as much new stuff as you think.
They seem to outgrow everything from stretchies to bassinets overnight, so why stock up? "I wish someone had told me not to buy cutesy, expensive clothes for my newborn," says Kristine Shuler, mom of 3-year-old Kaylee in Baroda, Michigan. "Little did I know she would spend most of the time in T-shirts from Target. She didn't wear half the clothes I bought!"
There are two lessons here: First, take your time when deciding what you'll really need. Do a little research, make a list, and stick with it. (Parenting Magazine's Baby Must-Haves book is a great resource for teasing out what to buy and what to skip, by the way.) Second, as tempting as it is to buy everything fresh and new and adorable for your first baby -- resist. Some items, like swings and bouncy seats, are used for such short periods of time that they never see much wear and tear. Can you borrow from a friend? If not, check out Craigslist.org or Freecycle.org.
Marilyn Sklar swears by a children's resale store in her town. "When my daughter, Raquel, was born, I started buying gently used clothes from there. Later, I brought in some of Raquel's clothing and took an in-store credit to purchase more," says the mom of two in Phoenix. "Now I recycle that way whenever possible. We're saving money and being green!"