- Corey with her family and friend hiking in Colchester
I recently came across a memorable quote: "It's easy to take care of a baby. It's not easy to do anything else with a baby." I'm only eight months in, but it really resonated with me. When I went back to work after my maternity leave, I quickly realized I needed to make some changes to my routine to stay sane — and that I can't put on a shirt until I'm ready to leave the house, because I will get puked on.
For those of you who are expecting, or just embarking on your parenthood journey, I compiled and crowdsourced a few tips for getting out, staying organized and finding time to hang out with friends. More seasoned parents may appreciate some of these suggestions, too.
Getting Out of the House
As an event planner, I have to look ahead and prepare for all the things that could go wrong. This skill comes in handy when you have a baby.
For example, what if my child has a blowout at an inconvenient time and location? For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a "blowout" means that your child's poop is so forceful that it leaks out of the diaper onto their back, leg, stomach or, if you're really lucky, your white duvet cover (which happened to me yesterday morning before work ... Note to self: Get rid of all things that are white in my house). How the heck do you prepare for poop-tastrophes and other unexpected challenges?
- Always give yourself extra time before leaving the house. In most cases, something unexpected will happen, and the buffer will prevent you from constantly being late.
- Bring extra food and a change of clothes for you and your little one. That way, if a quick trip turns into a longer outing, you're covered.
- Have extra diapers, wipes, etc., on you at all times. For air travel, one parent suggested making "changing kits" that consist of one diaper and four wipes in a plastic bag. That way you can throw away the whole thing, along with the dirty diaper, at the end of the flight.
- Level up with a stylish and functional diaper bag that holds all your gear. I recently treated myself to the Citi Explorer Diaper Bag from the Citi Collective. I love it! I can fit diapers, wipes, bottles, my lunch and my laptop in the various pockets. Who doesn't love a good pocket? Plus, I can wear it on my back and live that hands-free life — which is really important when you're lugging around an infant carrier.
I'm slowly accepting the fact that my house will never be as tidy and organized as I like, ever again. And that has nothing to do with my baby — my husband loves making piles on every surface he can find. ;) How do you stay organized when you're not in control?
- Meal prep for childcare on Sunday or the night before. It makes the morning routine so much easier when everything is planned, cut and packed. While you're at it, pack your lunch for the next day, too. The less you have to do in the morning, the better.
- Utilize curbside pickup services offered by stores such as Hannaford and Target. That way, you don't have to lug around your little one while running errands.
- To help coordinate with your partner, or just to remind yourself, put a whiteboard on the fridge that lists all the activities, meals, pickups and drop-offs for the week.
- Do minor housework, like folding laundry or cleaning out a drawer, as you're taking care of the baby. This will help you in the long run, because you'll always be able to find what you're looking for when you're in a rush. And if you provide play-by-play narration of your actions, you'll likely entertain your baby and help develop their language skills.
- For parents with older kids: Give each kid an age-appropriate task. This might be as simple as: "It's your job to make sure the stuffed animal makes it into the car when we leave each location." Kids love to help, and it's a baby step toward taking responsibility for bigger things.
- Toddlers love to imitate their parents — give them a sponge, a feather duster or an empty spray bottle, and put them to work. They'll have fun and learn how to clean at the same time.
Finding Personal Time
- Corey with her son and friends at Maquam Barn & Winery in Milton
When I was pregnant, everyone would tell me, "Say goodbye to your personal life!" Then they would laugh and walk away. To those people, thank you so much for that amazing tip — really helpful. Yes, I can no longer run a quick errand, go to the gym or grab dinner with a friend without coordinating with my husband first. But I can still carve out some "me time." It just requires more effort and planning. Here's some advice that I think is a little more productive and encouraging.
- Set obtainable goals. If you want to exercise more, don't say, "Oh, I really need to get back into yoga." Instead say, "I'm going to take two yoga classes a week." Then, look ahead at your week and plan how to make that happen. If going somewhere to exercise is too much of a stretch, try to incorporate your child into your exercise routine. This past weekend, I put my son in his activity center in our garage as I worked out, and he was entranced by my single-leg dead lifts and hollow holds. If you're feeling really ambitious, use your child as a free weight. A goblet squat with a 23-pound kiddo is sure to activate those glutes.
- Wear your baby! Social events are much easier to navigate hands-free. Having your baby close allows friends and family to ooh and aah over their toes and fingers in a way that doesn't overstimulate them. Parents I asked recommended the Ergobaby and BabyBjörn carriers.
- Invite your friends to hang out with you at home, but set expectations. Before I was a mom, an invitation to my house was usually accompanied by dinner, or at least a snack. Those days are over. When friends come over now, I tell them to eat beforehand or suggest that we order takeout. Mama is tired after working all day and doesn't have the bandwidth to make food. Also, be sure to let friends know when your kids go to sleep. Those without kids, who are used to hanging out late into the evening, might need a gentle reminder that your bedtime is earlier than it used to be. If you're like me, just fall asleep on the couch while they're there, and they'll get the hint.
- Take note of your child's nap schedule and use those windows of opportunity to get things done. And if during that nap window you decide to neglect the laundry, dishes and other chores, that's OK, too. That time is for you — do what you want!
- If there's an event you want to attend — for example, the farmers market or a craft festival — and you can't find childcare, ask a trusty friend, who you know won't mind holding your bag or waiting while you change a diaper, to join you and your babe. Things take longer with kids, so patience is key.
- Remember that it's OK to neglect your social life a little and embrace the chaos of this time. You'll get your sense of organization and social life back one day. It might look different than it did before, but it will be awesome in a new way.