If you’re a single parent or otherwise used to parenting alone often, you’ll probably laugh at this article. You’re amazing, and I hope you’ll share some tips with us.
It was the summer of 2015. I was 8 months pregnant with my third child, and it was so hot. The shade and kiddie pool in our backyard just weren’t cutting it and I desperately wanted to go to the beach.
The problem was that my husband, awesome hard worker that he is, was in the midst of his busiest season and there was no way he could clear a whole day to go play. I was used to this reality and I wasn’t mad about it, but I was really sick of sitting around at home! What was an overheated, lonely mama with two toddlers and a waddle to do?
I finally decided: we were going for it, sans Dad.
We did go for it. The first time was rough, but we want back to the beach several times that summer. In fact, we started going all sorts of places with my new found confidence and brazen spirit. Saginaw Zoo? Sure, let’s take lunch. The park? Easy. A multi-store shopping trip? I’ve got this. Can’t hold me down. My eyes were opened to all the adventures we could have if only I was brave enough to try.
Are you ready to step out and make new memories with your kids this summer, even when you’re on your own? Here are a few things to consider first:
- Check your mindset. Your idea of a fun and successful outing is probably different than your child’s. I still remember my mom’s dismay when she paid thousands for a Disney trip and I insisted we swim in the hotel pool for most of our vacation. Your children will be oblivious to your struggles. They won’t care that your GPS lied or that the new zoo exhibit wouldn’t come out of it’s den. Pay attention to what’s fun for them, and revel in it with them.
- Start small. This one’s obvious. Don’t plan a Great Lakes Circle Tour your first time out of the gate. Try a new park instead. Better yet if a friend can meet you for backup. If you’ve been home a lot it might take some practice to figure out the logistics of solo ventures.
- Get the right gear. Take note of what your biggest struggle is and budget in some gadgets to make that part easier. At first I couldn’t figure out how to get my little kids and all our gear down to the beach in one trip. My answer came in the form of an amazing beach cart that holds our chairs, toys, umbrella stroller, towels, pop up tent, and more. Maybe you need another sippy cup strap so you’re not letting go of the toddler to chase the cup. Don’t forget a potty for the van, because dragging everyone in to a public bathroom is no fun.
Know your limits! For awhile we didn’t do the library because I had a toddler who always refused to leave. Now, we go often, because that child has outgrown the running away/screaming nonsense.
–Leah O’Neil, on leaving the house with 4 little girls
- Accept help. After we got the beach cart, I remember struggling to breathe as I pulled it and my big belly up the sandy stairs at the end of a particularly humid day. A sweet woman noticed and sent her teen sons to help. They felt good about themselves and I was able to talk to my children about gratefulness and urge them to look for ways to help others.
- Prepare for the worst case scenario. Sometimes, it’s going to go bad. Take an extra outfit that could fit either kid in a pinch. Always have food & water in the car in case you get stranded. Invest in a stroller that holds all of your littles in case you need your hands free or have to walk far. Going home is NOT a failure. You tried. What did you learn, and what can you do better next time?
I hope this helps if you’ve been uncertain about venturing out on your own with children. It will be worth the effort when you look back on your new memories. Don’t forget to take pictures so that your spouse doesn’t feel left out. And so you can share on social media and tag me so I can see!