The 1 Thing Every Stay-at-Home Mom Needs (It's Not Coffee or Wine)

As we all know, a new baby takes a lot of preparation. While you're registering for swaddles, strollers, and diaper pails, preparing your nursery for its new inhabitant, and generally making sure your life is baby-ready (good luck with that!), there's one piece of advice I give to all of my friends who are expecting — one thing that I believe every new mom should do just for themselves. And no, it doesn't involve stocking up on coffee or buying a few cases of wine . . . though you should probably do that, too.

My biggest tip for all new moms, especially if they're planning to stay at home, is simple: find a gym with a great kid's program. No matter how much it costs, it's worth it. I can't tell you the number of times my gym membership, which includes up to two hours a day of childcare (for an additional but not totally outrageous fee), has saved me.

When my kids were little babies, waking somewhere between three and 300 times a night, I would drop them off at my gym's Fit 'n' Fun program, where a mix of older women who just love babies and younger girls who love babysitting would eagerly take them, actually excited to hold the baby that wouldn't let me put her down all night. Sometimes I would walk on the treadmill for a couple of miles or maybe do some yoga, but mostly, during those sleep-deprived months, I would use the time to read magazines, sit in the steam room, shower, actually dry my hair and put on a little makeup (this is a big one), and get a few much-needed moments to myself.

Once my daughter entered the terrible twos and even-worse threes, the gym gave her a place to run off all that pent-up energy while I attempted to shed the 45 pounds I gained while pregnant with her brother. During the Winter, when I was stuck inside with a crazy toddler and a baby, the gym added structure to those endless days, and this Summer, when it was too hot to be outside with a little one, it gave us a cool refuge. So often it has given my tiny diva and me a break from one another during days when my expectations were too high or her temper tantrums were too overwhelming. The gym's "teachers" love her, and I love them for giving me precious time to rebuild my patience reserve.

When we moved to a new suburb, the gym helped both my daughter and me meet new friends, as I wasn't the only young-ish mom looking for a safe, loving place to deposit my kids for a couple of hours. When I decided to start writing a little after my son was born, the gym gave me a place to do it (free WiFi!) on days when my regular babysitters weren't available. When I need time to vacuum, wash sheets, and catch up on Scandal on the weekends, my husband takes the kids to the gym, so I have time — and the television — to myself.

As an added benefit to all the mental stability my gym membership gives me, it's also made me more physically healthy. What a shocker! I tend to actually exercise once I get to the gym, and all those (admittedly, often half-hearted) sessions of Pilates, yoga, and cardio have gotten me back into reasonable shape. My body definitely isn't what it once was, but exercising regularly has made me appreciate its strength and shape, while knowing that I'm doing my best to take care of it while I'm also caring for two very needy little ones. Sure, a gym membership is an investment, but, to me, it's been the most vital one I've made since becoming a mom. Source: Flickr user Axel Bührmann