We wait and wait and wait for baby to nap, and then what do we do? If we're lucky or smart or both, we also take a nap. But because it can be so hard to drop off to sleep on a dime, we often spend baby's naptime either cleaning, which is work, or zoning out in front of the TV, which is mindless. Break out of the rut and do something interesting instead. Here are 20 little ideas.
1. Revisit a hobby you've been missing. Pick something you had to set aside when your baby was born, like knitting, scrapbooking, crafts, playing a musical instrument, or gardening -- anything the "old you" used to enjoy.
2. Escape to your bathroom "spa." We like the idea of doing a few quickie treatments at once. For instance, apply a facial mask, then slather your hands and feet with a rich moisturizer. Cover your hands and feet in plastic wrap and cotton gloves or socks, then lie on the couch and relax for 15 minutes. Step in the shower and rinse it all off.
3. Stretch out those mommy muscles. We know your upper back feels tight: Take time to stretch away the stress. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your side. Inhale deeply, raising your arms slowly over your head and stretching toward the ceiling. Exhale slowly as you lower your arms to your sides. Repeat four times.
4. Feed your brain. Keep a book of short stories on hand, borrowed from a library or purchased from a bookstore. Read a story whenever you have some alone time, or get in the habit of reading while you're nursing.
5. Treat yourself (and your husband!) to a movie night, which you can plan now. Rent a film you missed, or just set the VCR to tape a movie. Call him and tell him the plan, and ask him to bring home microwave popcorn. It will give you both something to look forward to -- and something to discuss other than the baby.
6. Start keeping a journal of motherhood moments. You'll need a notebook, of course, but in a pinch you can just start writing on notepaper and keep the scraps in a box. You'll enjoy looking back on this time and sharing it with your children as they grow older. Don't pressure yourself to do it every day -- just whenever you have time.
7. Get some talk therapy. Call a good friend -- one who always lifts your spirits and makes you laugh -- and have a 20-minute, guilt-free gabfest.
8. Write an old-fashioned letter on real stationery. Or just pen a quick handwritten note (no e-mail allowed) to an older relative like your grandmother or favorite aunt, a childhood friend, or even your husband. Putting words down on paper is so personal and often therapeutic.
9. Who doesn't fantasize about taking a vacation? Stop pining and research affordable options online. Planning a getaway gives you something to look forward to on difficult days. Visit Web sites that offer bargain airfares and inexpensive hotels, and print out some choices to share with your husband over dinner. Or, slip them into a folder and take them out if you find some extra cash (hello, tax refund). Sites to try: sidestep.com, site59.com, and familytravelforum.com. You can also have fun posting reviews of your past vacations at tripconnect.com and zoomandgo.com.
10. Go to school from home. You can take courses via the Web in subjects such as interior decorating or foreign languages. Since there's usually no pressure to complete the course in a set period of time, you can work at your own pace. A place to start: degrees.education.yahoo.com