Couple up Whether you go out once a week or once a month, spending time alone with your partner reinforces your family's strong foundation. When Susan Kelly, a mother in Haddonfield, N.J., had her first daughter, she didn't trust anyone else to take care of the baby. With the birth of her second daughter, things changed. "It was as if a light bulb went off, and I realized it's important to first make time for my relationship with my husband, since everything else flows from that," Kelly says. Now she schedules "dates" with her spouse and hires a babysitter.
Don't wait Elin Hilderbrand, a mother of three, novelist and self-described "fanatical exerciser" in Nantucket, Mass., ran throughout her pregnancies. As soon as she fully recovered from giving birth, she put her sneakers back on and started running again. "I made it a priority right from the start," she says. It's crucial to rekindle your passions early on, rather than waiting until your baby reaches milestones (like sleeping through the night) you think will make life easier. "With kids, there's no right time," says Tenney Cassell, a Chicago mother of two, who also runs. "Just jump in and do it, whatever it is. It helps you be who you are, and you'll feel better for it in the end."
Think outside the box In the haze of sleep deprivation, problems can seem more complicated than they are. Look for creative solutions. Can't go to the gym three times a week for lack of a regular babysitter? Find a gym that offers babysitting, as many YMCAs do. Or invest in a stair-stepper and in a good stroller for walking. Need occasional free time to run errands? Initiate a baby swap with a friend. Jennifer Kircher, an American now living in Taipei, took care of a neighbor's infant once a week for two hours, earning herself a break later in the week.
Of course, even with prioritizing, getting your life back takes time. Acknowledging this is half the battle. As Kleiman tells new parents, "The postpartum period requires three attributes: patience, realistic expectations and resilience." Sounds like the perfect recipe for parenting.