If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, you likely know that field trips are a necessary part of your curriculum. Sitting at home all day every day and never getting out of the house leads to stir crazy kids and a stir crazy mama, no matter how much of a homebody you are. Sure, you can’t go running out all the time, especially if your kids are virtual schooled and need to be in their class sessions at certain times every day; but sometimes, you just have to get out for a little while.
If your kids are older, that can be as simple as piling everyone into the van and heading out for a morning of fun. If they’re younger, however—toddler-age and potty training or recently potty trained; infant-aged and still nursing/napping regularly—a “simple” outing can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. You have to go with enough supplies (diapers, wipes, spare outfits, snacks) to make it as long as you’re going to be gone; you make sure you’re planning around nap times; you have to hope and pray that no one has a meltdown.
It’s a challenge. Sometimes, it’s a challenge that feels like more than you can manage—so you avoid going out unless you absolutely have to, dodging kids’ requests for outings, coming up with reasons why it’s better for everyone to just stay at home. You schedule the kids’ school right up until naptime. You wait until someone else is available to babysit to do something as simple as grocery shopping; and if you happen to be out of something, well, you either send your spouse or do without it until you can go on your own.
It doesn’t get any easier until you do it, however—so sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and go, even if it seems intimidating. The sooner you get out with your baby, the sooner you’ll realize that a single addition to your family doesn’t make trips any more difficult as long as you go prepared.
Check out destinations with nursing rooms.
If you’re a nursing mom with several other children to keep an eye on, the contained nature of a nursing room makes it possible for you to nurse the baby in peace while not having to worry that your other children will get out of sight or out of control. Be prepared—you know how often your baby is going to want to nurse. You know what it will take to keep your other children entertained during this time. Bring along books, a tablet, or toys so that they can play quietly while you’re feeding the baby. This will also be a great opportunity to wind down a little bit—particularly valuable if you’re taking a field trip with a toddler or preschooler who will become overstimulated after a while. If your chosen destination doesn’t have a nursing room, make sure that you have your nursing cover, and dress appropriately—in a nursing tank under a t-shirt, in a good nursing bra, whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. If you need to retreat to your car to nurse, make sure that you arrange ahead of time to re-enter your chosen location. If that’s not possible, then plan to nurse your baby immediately before entering your chosen location.
Wear your baby.
With your baby in a carrier, you are much more mobile than if they are in a stroller. You can chase off after a wayward toddler without having to drag a stroller along; you can participate in most activities along with your older kids; you can still be engaged and a part of things, instead of constantly looking for stroller parking. An umbrella stroller is much more maneuverable in many locations than a full-size stroller if you do need one for some reason. A double stroller is a clunky accessory if you’re trying to wander through an aquarium or museum (though it’s probably fine on a relatively un-crowded day at a zoo). As an added bonus, wearing your baby will likely lead to a much happier baby in general. You’ll be more easily able to respond to your baby’s needs and cues, and they often fall asleep being carried without need for further help from mom.
Enlist the help of your older kids.
Get a routine set. Maybe your older child can be responsible for a younger sibling, for a diaper bag (backpacks are great for longer trips), or for keeping track of time. You can also explain to your older child that the easier your first few outings go, the more likely you’ll be to go out in the future. If it’s a miserable experience for everyone, you’ll be looking for ways to avoid it in the future; but if it goes smoothly, you’ll be much more likely to go out again.
Take along a helper.
Do you have a friend or family member who would love to come along on an outing with you? Maybe a grandparent who would love to spend time with their adorable grandchildren, or a friend who is at home during the day, just like you are? Your friend may bring along more children, but two sets of hands are helpful even when the kids outnumber you by even more. On the other hand, don’t rely too much on that helper. Use them when you must, but take advantage of the opportunity to figure out how to do this on your own. Taking along help makes it easier, but a day will come when you need to get out of the house alone with the kids.
Get down and enjoy the experience with your kids, and stop stressing out so much about it! In the long run, you’re going out not just for them, but for you, too. All of you need that outing, and you need it in a peaceful, fun manner that isn’t going to leave you more stressed out when you started. Choose short outings at first, or feel free to dive right on in and do something big. The worst that can happen is that you have to pack up and go home again and try another day. Also, remember that the older your infant gets, the easier it will be for all of you. The baby will become accustomed to being out and about, and you’ll learn how to manage, just like you did when your older kids were little. Hang in there! Each outing is a little easier than the last.