On edit: I've now remembered you need to wash them occasionally too, so there'll be a post on that as well.
1. Instruction ManualNope, sorry, there's no such thing. There are literally thousands of baby books to choose from, and each has its devotees, but a baby manual is similar to a car manual. All cars have common features, working parts and do pretty much the same thing, but each make and model is completely different. So, to stretch this metaphor to breaking point (because I can't think of a proper baby example), getting the heating on just right involves a different process in a Ford & VW, and it's only when you've been driving a specific car for a while that you know precisely which setting works best and which angle to put the blowers, none of which is in the manual. There is some good news though! Thank your lucky stars that you're living in the 21st century, with internet access. Whatever your question, worry or delight, whatever time of the day or night you have it, there are guaranteed to be several other parents on line who've felt or done exactly the same who will happily share their wisdom & experience with you, crack you up and support you. You'll find lifelong friends. Each forum is different, and you'll need to look around to find the one that suits you best. You'll know when you find it. It was this one that got me through early parenthood. The people I met there deeply affected me, and I'm profoundly grateful for their friendship and always will be. Love yers, HFA's!
2. Someone to talk toReally, you need several people to talk to, each for different things, because the baby's conversation won't be up to much for a while.
Someone who loves the baby as much as you do.Like it or not, you will develop a startling interest in your baby's poo, and you may be inclined to believe he's a genius because he managed to poke himself in the eye. You may even feel compelled to tell your child-free best friend, boss, or supermarket checkout girl all about it. They probably won't thank you. Save up all the details and share them with someone who'll properly share your delight. For full poo-story appreciation, they probably need to be related to the baby.
Someone who's in a similar position to you.This can be a toughie. If you're struggling with parenthood, perhaps a little depressed you really won't want to hang out with other mothers as many people will recommend. It just makes you feel worse. Please try though. If you can find even just one person you'd have bonded with pre-kids, who's honest with you and makes you laugh, and with whom you can be honest, it's the biggest boost you can get.
Someone who has nothing to do with babies.For the times you need to be a grown up. You may feel like you have the square root of knack all to say to them that doesn't involve poo, but your social skills will eventually return. Gin can help.
3. To chill out
4. To keep a piece of yourselfBeing a mum can take over your entire existence. Other people see you as a mum, and small children ought to be reported to the European Court of Human Rights for their constant contravention of the Working Time Directive. Don't forget that you used to be a person in your own right, and make sure that you don't let go of the things that were important to you then. It could be a formal arrangement to do an evening class, a regular date with friends, an ad hoc mooch round the shops or just a long bath. You need that time in order to be a good mum, so it's neither selfish nor bad to take it.
If you manage this one, please leave a comment because I could really do with some tips.
What do you reckon? What have I missed? Sorry if the tone of this post is excessively downbeat. I did struggle at first, and hope that by sharing the things that helped me, I can help someone else.