In the past six days, we have managed to take Oliver sailing and snowshoeing! And since J works during the week, I was completely on my own for getting Oliver and myself organized and out the door for snowshoeing. Given that two months ago, a good day was one where I got breakfast in my belly before 4:00 P.M., it is safe to say we’ve made some progress.
I will not profess to be an expert based on two excursions alone (no, I’ll save that title for the woman I saw cross-country skiing with three very young children in tow!), but I would like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned this week. I’m sure that this list will evolve as we continue to expand our horizons.
1. Start them young. This was a philosophy we adopted concerning getting out of the house in the first few days and weeks after Oliver’s birth. I always thought to myself, “It will never be as difficult or overwhelming as it is right now; it only gets easier from here.” I think the same holds true with outdoor activities. The logistics of getting out sailing with a three month old in fall or winter are far more complicated that those of getting out with a six month old in spring — or a nine month old in summer. So by the time spring and summer arrive, our trips should involve minimal stress and maximum enjoyment.
2. Start small. When it was just J and me, we used to take the boat out for weekends without a second thought. However, it seemed overly ambitious to make our first sailing trip with Oliver an overnighter, so we went for a short day sail instead. When I used to snowshoe sans baby, I would go for long, steep, fast treks through the mountains. With Oliver, it was more of a meander, with an extended mid-way feeding/changing break in the lodge. Over time, our trips will increase in length and complexity.
3. Have realistic expectations of time. When trying to do any sort of outdoor activity with a baby, there is an approximately 4:1 ratio of prep time to activity time. For example, we started getting ready for snowshoeing at 9:30 A.M. We were back home with everything cleaned up and put away by 6:00 P.M. Somewhere in there, I think we may have managed a couple of hours of actual snowshoeing 🙂
4. Plan. With a young baby, you must accept the inevitable demise of spontaneity — at least as far as outdoor excursions go. If you don’t schedule the activity in advance, it’s not likely to happen. Invite others along to make sure your activity doesn’t get pre-empted by the seemingly never-ending list of household and baby care chores. Notwithstanding that, if you live in the Pacific Northwest and happen to wake up to the sun shining on a winter’s day, please — forget about the housework and get outside!
5. Get an early start to the day. Especially in winter, when daylight hours are limited, it is important to get as early a start as possible. By the time baby is fed, changed and dressed, you are fed and dressed, the gear is packed, baby is fed and changed again… well, you get the picture. It takes a long time to get out the door, and darkness comes early.
6. Pack carefully. The amount of “stuff” you need to take for the baby is a little bit overwhelming. Suddenly most of the things you used to bring for yourself are relegated to optional status, and you find yourself carrying a much larger bag, filled with anything and everything the baby could possibly need. I suggest making a packing list at least a day before the excursion; that way you have lots of time to consider your requirements, and you won’t forget any critical items in the chaos of getting ready to get out the door.
7. Dress to feed. Consider ease and accessibility of breastfeeding when layering your clothing. Layers with zippers make it easier to feed in the cold with minimal skin exposure. A blanket or breastfeeding cover can help to protect against the elements.
8. Be flexible. Things may not go exactly as planned. Our day of sailing turned out to be almost completely devoid of wind — and it was bloody cold outside — so we headed home early. Aside from Mother Nature’s whims, babies and children also have a way of throwing a wrench into even the best laid plans. If you’re doing something, you’re doing more than most people are, so be proud of whatever amount of activity you manage to accomplish, even if it wasn’t exactly what you set out to do.
9. Have fun — and don’t forget to take lots of pictures!