Despite the name 'stay-at-home-parent', staying at home too long doesn't really work with an active baby. Little Bear loves his play-mat and ball-bit, but most days he (and Pappa) get a little bored and need to break free.
But lets not kid ourselves, we don't just grab keys and wallet and run for the next bus like we did pre-baby... No.
We grab milk, nappies, dummies, blanket, keys, pushchair, toys, and baby. Then we look for our shoes whilst baby wriggles out of the pushchair. We clip baby in properly following a lot of protest about the shoulder straps, then get ready to get out the front door, before a loud noise comes from the baby's nappy... We unclip baby from pushchair, missing the second bus you'd planned to get, run upstairs to change his nappy. Finish changing the baby, chuck the baby-carrier (almost forgot) under the pushchair and the baby in the pushchair. On the way to the bus, realise you forgot your wallet, etc, etc.
But despite the stress, it's worth it. Little Bear loves a good day trip. Whether it's visiting other babies and their mums (only met 1 other dad so far!), swimming, or trying something a little more adventurous like a baby-concert, another city or a museum, it's great for parent and baby to get out. But the tough stuff in a day trip doesn't stop when you finally get out the door (with your wallet).
Having learnt a few lessons the hard way, I was wondering what a parent needs to think about before they head out with the baby for a day trip. So here would be 7 tips I wish I could have given myself before I started parental leave:
1 - Think what baby would enjoy (and what would make him really tired for when you get home and you want to sleep). We try not to be limited to baby specific activities, although a city like London is really great for these from Baby-Mozart to Baby-Cinema. But things like the Science Museum with lots of lights, colours and things to grab (and try to eat) can catch any baby's interest as well. Sometimes Little Bear just likes a change of scenery, with a trip to a big park or the library. He might also like a trip to a flight simulator...
2 - Think what you would enjoy. Enough said. But keep in mind babies' opinions don't extend much further from whether they're allowed to chew your phone. So going somewhere you're going to enjoy with flashing-lights is going to be just as amazing to them as going somewhere you'll hate but is just for babies. [I'm pretty sure this will change when we move to toddler phase]
3 - Always keep calm. If things start to get difficult, try to remain calm. For instance, after a long day walking around London, Little Bear may start crying to get out of the push-chair as dad steps onto a crowded tube and the wheel gets stuck, and dad realises the bear is getting over tired. At the first opportunity, the bear may then kick dad between the legs. Getting stressed isn't going to help. So take a deep breath of deliciously fresh, cool and clean London Underground air, try not to gag, and take one problem at a time.
4 - Packing, keep it simple. For short trips I have a small bag I can strap to my waist (if using the baby-carrier) or the pushchair. In it are changing things, milk (one day solid food hopefully!), teething stuff and a dummy. Anything else feels extravagant. And we'd never take anything you need to hold like a shoulder-bag since the bear will almost certainly need two-handed attention and carrying.
5 - Don't pay attention to people around you. If your bear starts crying, it's very easy to notice people staring at you and start to feel guilty about disturbing them. Especially when people (who have probably never taken care of kids) start to look irritated. Or people (who have had kids) start telling you what you need to do. We've all been a bit irritated about not being able to relax because of a screaming baby, but the best way to find out how to calm your baby is to ignore the guilt (ignore these people) and focus on parenting.
6 - Find a way to nap on the move. Not for you (although this would also be great) but for the little one. This is a no-brainer for most parents as an over-tired baby many kilometers away from home is not fun. But it can be tough. For the Bear it can change from week to week, but judicious use of the baby-carrier is normally the best way to knock him out when on the move.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots