Gimme a Break!
1. Sway your partner. Most dads really do want a prominent role in taking care of the baby, but they get intimidated. So if you want your husband to pitch in more often, don't bash him for what he's not doing ("How can you just sit there?!"). Instead, tell him what he can do. ("Here, sweetie. You play with the baby while I get dinner"). Encourage his attempts to help, even if he doesn't do things the same way you do. "From the day we brought our baby home, I resisted the urge to criticize my husband for the way he held her. Babies are a lot tougher than we moms sometimes think," says Christina James of Alexandria, Virginia. "Now I know he's fine taking care of her alone when I need a break."
2. Don't stress the mess. With a baby around, a clean and orderly house is the exception, not the rule. Don't be so hard on yourself: Instead of being embarrassed about the to-be-expected mess, encourage close friends to drop by. You never know when you might need an extra set of hands to help with the kids.
3. Try group therapy. Many new moms let off steam and gain emotional support through mothers' groups. But finding the right fit is crucial; you want to feel comfortable, not judged. Don't love any of the established groups in your area? Start your own. Post a notice in your pediatrician's office, daycare center, or online, looking for moms with babies around the same age as yours.
4. Work it out. If you miraculously find the time to add exercising to your busy schedule, join a gym that offers childcare for members. Even when you're not in the mood to work out, you can drop off your tot in the childcare room and walk at a turtle's pace on the treadmill while you watch soaps on the gym's televisions. (To find a fitness center with babysitting in your area, log on to healthclubdirectory.com for a list of more than 7,000 gyms around the country.)
5. Strike a friendly deal. Agree to trade off nights of babysitting on occasion with a good friend (or friends) so that each of you gets a date night with your husband or just some time to relax on your own. This works best if the kids are of similar ages so that the time can double as a playdate.
Ylonda Gault Caviness is a freelance writer and mother of two in Montclair, New Jersey.