Fun with a baby?

Baby in grassOnce you have mastered (haha) taking care of an infant, they have a sort of nap schedule, and you begin to realize your baby is no longer an infant…and you realize you need OUT. You may be a working mom/dad, or a stay at home parent, work at home parent, or any mix of these. I remember feeling stuck inside at work all week and having such a desire to get out on weekends and experience life, rather than remain in my house all weekend. Then when I stopped working for a while I was on the hunt for kid friendly activities outside the home to keep my crawler/early walker from destroying the house! Some weekends I cooked baby food by the ton and put it in the freezer; that took up much of the naptimes. Most weekends we found fun things to do out of the house, stayed busy, and tried to enjoy ourselves.

A lot of parents of babies mention feeling they are at the mercy of naptime or feeding time when it comes to being able to get out and active. These parents can enter a state of restless anxiety about leaving their homes. They are sacrificing times of enjoyment and self-care in an attempt to make their baby happy. I did it. I think we all do. And it is hurtful to ourselves to do it TOO MUCH. Parents can enjoy a weekend with a baby too. We had a baby/child who didn’t nap in the car and hated the car seat. I mean HATED it and cried every time she was in it. Well, I couldn’t stop doing life, so we went with it. Every 40 minute ride home from work on the days I picked her up was torture. But we arrived and then she was fine. Then came the weekends, and they were glorious. I could ride in the back with the baby while my husband drove, which often stopped the crying (hers and mine, to be perfectly honest), which meant we could get out and do fun things with her with less stress. I have pictures of her at the dog park, endless other local parks, spring and fall festivals, food festivals, pools, zoos, grandparents’ homes, and community events. Anything we could find that might be fun and where we could take a baby.

So how do you manage to enjoy life while caring for a young child? It is stressful and always seems to be changing, which makes it feel it is difficult to get out and do things. My advice is this. Staying indoors too much for fear of managing a baby out in public, or avoiding activities frequently for fear of having an overtired baby can lead to isolation, anxiety, and possibly depression. It may sound harsh, but you are not a slave to your child’s eating or sleeping patterns, or his or her moods. So get out, find a park on a pretty day or a festival on a weekend. If you find yourself plagued with doubt and worry, try to imagine a worst case scenario. For example, what if I take her to the park, and just as we arrive and I lay out the blanket for her to play, she begins crying and doesn’t stop no matter what I do to soothe her? Then imagine the result. Well, you’d probably take her home and live to try another day. The important thing is to try! It IS possible get out and have fun with your baby. And remember, babies benefit from time out in the world as much as you do!

Here are some tips I learned that worked for us in getting out with a baby:

  1. Make sure she is fed and changed right before we leave.
  2. Bring snacks, toys, and a drink.
  3. Keep a couple changes of clothes and spare diapers of the current size and one size up in the car at all times (spontaneous trips can’t happen without this).
  4. Try to schedule after a nap if possible.
  5. Don’t always rely on the stroller, it can be cumbersome and add to the stress level. We often just took turns holding our baby so we could leave the stroller behind.
  6. Use a backpack instead of a diaper bag for hands free fun.
  7. Toys are fun for the car, but once we leave the car take as little as possible.
  8. (Especially for dads): Wear cargo pants/shorts on outings where you’ll be walking much. It’s easier to carry things in all those pockets!

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