Venturing Out with Baby
After my son was born, I transformed from a relatively normal woman who enjoyed lunch dates, traveling, and an occasional night out to a neurotic germaphobe driven by my son’s feeding and sleeping schedule. Blame it on hormones or motherly instincts; either way I was not the easiest person to negotiate with. Bless my husband for his patience and ability to bite his tongue—two qualities that I also lost a grip on about fifteen minutes into my pregnancy.
During those first few months of my son’s life, I rarely ventured out with him. I don’t know if I was more terrified of the idea of him catching some communicable disease from the grocery store or a swing set, or the possibility of him having a meltdown in the middle of a quiet restaurant. Whatever the cause, I was really content to stay in and entertain my son with my award winning lineup of funny faces and rattling toys and I felt like I was doing what was best for him because he was able to maintain a predictable schedule and stay completely healthy.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but one day I got a little stir crazy. I love my son more than anything on this earth, but, as I’m sure any new parent can relate, if you don’t get the chance to interact with an adult on occasion, you start to lose it a little. It was time to load twenty pounds worth of baby gear in the car and venture back out into the world.
The obvious outing was shopping. Whether for groceries, housewares, or clothes for the baby or me, I was happy to get out and do some speed shopping in the two-hour window I had between nap times. But, like the old saying goes, “money doesn’t grow on trees,” so there was an obvious flaw in my plan and it was back to the drawing board!
Over the last few months, I have discovered plenty of opportunities, on my installation and within the community, to get out of the house with little or no expense:
- Get a library card. My English degree would be ashamed to learn that it took me three years to finally obtain a library card at our current duty station. Better late than never. The library offers a great quiet afternoon out of the house. Older kids can pick out books of their own and babies can enjoy riding through the aisles of books in their stroller. Either way, mom gets some quiet time come rain or shine!
- City parks or parks on the installation are the answer to your prayers for fresh air and energy burning. Let your kids be loud and go nuts. You’ll know it’s time to load up the car when their sweaty and panting. My son isn’t quite to the jungle gym and tag phase yet, but he could sit in the infant swing all day if I’d let him. The germaphobe mom in me wants to remind you to pack the hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
- Don’t underestimate the good old-fashioned play date. It may just involve going to someone else’s house and playing with the same toys your kid has at home, but think of it as a social opportunity for your kiddo and you. Go make a mess at someone else’s house for an afternoon (just make sure you volunteer to host next week’s play date).
- Check your installation for youth programs or family friendly events. Availability will vary from one installation to another, activities may be seasonal, and will probably be geared more toward the school-aged crowd, but it’s worth looking into. Your family center might also have information about play groups on the installation.
- Walk! It’s free, anyone can do it, and it kills two birds with one stone—mom gets exercise and baby gets a change of scenery. Try walking around the block or heading to a walking trail nearby. Know some other moms in the same boat? Start a walking group!
The initial outing with your little one is going to be scary. I crashed and burned the first time I took my son to the grocery store. I put him in his baby sling and he started screaming at the top of his lungs. People in the parking lot were staring, and, being a new mom, I still cared what people thought about my parenting style. Mortified, I strapped my son back into his car seat and we went home grocery-less. When I finally did make it farther than the parking lot with Jack, I realized it isn’t so bad. The best advice I can give is be prepared for anything from a leaky diaper to a nuclear fallout. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but pack necessities, like wipes for sanitizing (just about everything), a change of clothes, diapers, and snacks or bottles. A little fresh air, new places, and new faces are good for baby and mama. Resist the initial urge to want to shelter your little one and, if you’re like me, you’ll eventually stop gasping at every sneeze (OK, at most sneezes, anyway).