Today’s post is near and dear to my heart (and I’m sure Mandy’s as well). It is a post I have been waiting two and a half years to write. It is the inspiration behind Out and About Mom and the motivation behind everything that we have been working to accomplish.
If you’re in a hurry, you can skip right to the outings. But if you have a moment, I wanted to share with you an article that Mandy forwarded to me the other day. It so perfectly illustrates why we have created this site, and it also reminds me of the moment when I first realized the importance of getting “out and about” as a new mom.
Long before Mandy and I ever envisioned this site, I was sitting alone in my house. My only company was 8 lbs of fury with the lung capacity of a tuba player, and just as loud. I would not leave the house for days on end. My husband and I joked that I had two wardrobes of pajamas: the sets I wore to bed and the sets I put on in the morning when I got up. But it was not a joke. Not really. For nine months there had been coworkers, and dinners out with friends, and doctor’s appointments, and celebrations, and then, suddenly, there was nothing. Just me and him. At best, the sound of an empty house. At worst, uncontrollable wailing (sometimes his, sometimes mine). I left the TV on all day for company. I counted the hours until my husband came home from work. I posted ridiculous status updates on Facebook (I’m trying to cook a turkey in the crock pot. Wish me luck!) just to see those likes and comments pop up, a reminder that there was still a world out there that cared about me.
I still remember, vividly, the day that changed everything. Sitting at the table in my “day” pajamas, I opened an email from a friend of mine, a veteran mother of preschoolers who had been in these trenches before. The email was all of two lines long. Kohl’s is having a big sale on baby clothes. You should go see if there’s anything you need. I sat there staring at the email. It was not even 9:00 in the morning. I had the whole day ahead of me. The whole, eternally long day ahead of me. The front door, not 15 feet from where I sat, seemed a universe away. What the heck, I thought.
It took me the better part of two hours to get ready to go. I got dressed. I got Boo dressed. Boo spit up on himself. I changed him. He spit up on me. I changed myself. I packed the diaper bag with enough supplies for a week of feeding and diaper changing. I put Boo in his car seat, sniffed the air, and then took Boo out of his car seat to change his diaper. Twice. I remember thinking how ridiculous this all seemed when I could just run over there later that evening by myself, the whole thing taking no more than 45 minutes.
But we made it into the car. And then to the store. I snapped Boo’s car seat into the stroller. He was sleeping. I thought, this isn’t so bad. No sooner had we entered into the quiet of the store, but Boo awoke and let out a shriek I can still hear in my head to this day. Bewildered, embarrassed, I turned right around and headed back towards the parking lot. But the thought of all that work for nothing made me crazy. I started to walk up and down and up and down and up and down the pavement in front of the store. I walked until Boo fell asleep. And then I tried again.
This time, I made it all the way to the children’s section of the store. But Boo woke up again, wailing. And I hustled around the perimeter, flying past racks and displays and other women who I thought must be staring at me and wondering what kind of terrible mother would have a child who screamed so.
Outside, we pounded the pavement for another 20 minutes. Boo fell asleep. I wheeled him back to the children’s section. Still asleep. I picked out some fuzzy pajamas with monkeys on the feet. Still asleep. I strolled over to browse the handbags. I sniffed a dozen scented candles in the home décor department. I flipped through shower curtains in the bath section. I was so happy to be out, anywhere. And then it happened. Women, young and old, complete strangers, came up to me. They told me how adorable my new baby was. They asked me how I was feeling. How I was sleeping. They told me I looked wonderful (they were lying; bless them). They recounted their own postpartum stories of joy and horror. And for the first time in 8 weeks, I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I had joined a vast sisterhood, the depths of maternal struggle forging bonds between all of us, everywhere.
After that, I looked for any excuse to get out of the house. I’m not saying it was always easy, but the lasting rewards—emotional, psychological, existential—were well worth any temporary trouble. And that’s where Mandy and I got the idea for our site. If we could give new moms the information–and the motivation–they needed to get “out and about” and have fun with their children, we might be able to make their lives just a little bit easier.
So for all the new moms out there (or even if you’ve recently welcomed your second or third or fourth little one to the family), I’ve pulled together some baby-friendly outing ideas to help you get going.
1. Get me out of the house now!
When Boo was small, I had a little song that I used to sing as I fastened him into his car seat. To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell: We’re getting in the car. We’re getting in the car. I don’t know where we will go, we’re getting in the car. For all those times when you just can’t stand to be at home for another minute, here are some ideas for places that make a great escape.
- Stew Leonard’s in Newington turns your average trip to the grocery store into an adventure with performing puppets, gourmet coffee, ice cream, yummy prepared foods, and even a loft dining area–accessible by a stroller-friendly elevator–where you can enjoy some of your purchases before heading home.
- The Westfarms Mall in West Hartford is a great place for an indoor stroll. It has many baby-friendly amenities like a covered parking deck in case the weather is yucky, nice changing and nursing areas (the Nordstrom bathrooms are the best), and plenty of places to grab a cup of coffee.
- Ikea in New Haven is a stroller-friendly decor Mecca where you can marvel at life-sized model apartments (I am always amazed at and inspired by what they can do with 600 square feet), browse aisles of home decorating items, grab a bite in the delicious and budget-friendly cafe or treat yourself to an ice cream cone (a real splurge at just $1). There’s a convenient, up-front “family” parking lot and baby-friendly restrooms with a nursing area.
New Mom Tip: It is totally legitimate to use that basket under your stroller like a shopping cart. No one is going to think you are shoplifting. Just make sure you remember to pay for the items before you leave the store though. Otherwise, that is stealing 🙂
Or maybe you prefer something less retail-oriented? Try a stroller-friendly museum where you can entertain your brain with something a little more exciting than nursery rhymes and animal sounds.
- The New Britain Museum of American Art has a wonderful permanent collection as well as interesting special exhibits. It has a convenient, free parking lot, is completely stroller-accesible, has baby-changing stations in the restrooms on both levels, and there’s a gourmet cafe too.
- The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks boasts an incredible collection of historical military and civilian aircraft, as well as brief look at the storied history of flight (haven’t you always wondered what happened to Amelia Earhart?). And since it’s located in an airplane hanger, there is plenty of room to maneuver even your largest stroller. Baby-friendly restrooms and a snack area too.
- The Dinosaur State Park Exhibit Center in Rocky Hill is built right overtop a rocky expanse imprinted with hundreds of genuine dinosaur tracks. This stroller-friendly destination offers a look at prehistoric species in Connecticut with exhibits, films, and interactive displays. In the nice weather, there are lovely outdoor picnic areas and even a stroller-friendly walking trail to explore.
New Mom Tip: Many local libraries offer passes for free or discount admission to these museums and many others. If you don’t mind an extra stop to pick one up, these passes are usually a great deal.
2. I need a playdate (and I don’t mean for the baby).
Sometimes all you need is a couple of hours with your best girlfriend, or even a new friend, to remind yourself that you are still allowed to have your own life. For times like this, you need a hands-free place for your baby to play, and possibly a destination that also has activities for older children (in case your friend’s kids are more mobile).
- Tot Town Party & Play in Brookfield has lots of space for your little one AND their older sibling to explore with pretend play items, things to climb and slide on, dress up areas, and even a separate area designed just for crawlers with mirrors, plush toys and (jackpot!) a gate to keep your crawlers from creeping too far away 🙂
- Kidcity in Middletown also has a separate play area for ages 2 and under with plenty of padding, colorful surroundings and places for parents to sit and supervise.
- If you’re looking for a FREE option, the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford has a completely enclosed and padded baby room and the Simsbury Library has a fully enclosed space where you can hang out with your friends and your baby.
- Other options that have both activities for big kids and special areas where babies can play include Stepping Stones Museum and The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, and The Boston Children’s Museum. There’s no charge for kids under age 1 at any of these locations (actually, there’s no charge for kids under age 3 at the aquarium).
3. If it’s Tuesday, this must be storytime.
Having something to look forward to each and every week can be a powerful mood-lifter. Fortunately, there are plenty of classes, both drop-in and preregistered, that you can make a part of your new routine.
- The Welles-Turner Memorial Library in Glastonbury, the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, the Cora J. Belden Library in Rocky Hill, the Farmington Library and many others offer FREE drop-in baby classes or storytimes. Check the Children’s Department pages of your local library’s website to see if they offer programs for infants.
- Many Barnes & Noble locations (like the ones in Glastonbury, West Hartford, and Manchester) offer FREE drop-in story and craft times. We also love the FREE storytime at Jack & Allie’s Bookstore in Vernon. These are usually geared toward the toddler/preschooler crowd, but if you’re looking for an excuse to browse at the bookstore at a time when you are sure to run into other moms and enjoy the exuberance of tiny voices, this is a great opportunity.
- My Gym offers a drop-in Little Bundles class for babies ages 6 weeks through 6 months. It’s 45 minutes of fun playtime with your baby (not to mention group therapy with other new moms) for just $5/class.
- Music Together is another wonderful program. It’s not a drop-in class, so you’ll have to preregister, but it is open to all children ranging in age from birth to 5 years and their caregivers. And it’s usually offered at a variety of times so that you can pick the one that works best with your baby’s schedule.
- The New Britain Museum of American Art recently started offering a new drop-in program for babies and little ones under the age of 2 called Museum & Me: Playdates with Art. For an hour before the museum even opens to the public, little ones and their caregivers are invited to explore the galleries and spend some time socializing and playing in a special baby-friendly space filled with opportunities for sensory exploration (and there’s coffee!). The class is free with paid museum admission (though if you really plan ahead you can pick up a library museum pass and get free admission too!).
New Mom Tip: Drop-in means that you don’t need to register in advance or even let them know that you are coming. Just show up when you feel like it; skip it when you don’t.
4. Show me the sunny.
Sometimes, a breath of fresh air is, well, a breath of fresh air. When the weather is fine, choose one of these baby-friendly outdoor destinations.
- Whether you are looking for a little exercise or just a little change of scenery, there are plenty of great walking trails that are stroller-friendly. The Glastonbury Multi-Use Trail is completely paved, the West Hartford Reservoir offers both paved and unpaved trails, Elizabeth Park in Hartford has stroller-friendly paths, and the Nevers Park Walking Trails in South Windsor are easy enough to accommodate your everyday stroller. For longer excursions, the Airline Trail (also stroller-friendly) stretches across 50 miles of eastern Connecticut (you know, for those days when you really don’t want to go home), or try the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail if you are in the western part of the state. All of these trails offer free, convenient trail-side parking.
- And don’t discount outdoor shopping malls either. You can have a lovely little stroll around Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, The Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton, Blue Back Square in West Hartford, or the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets in Clinton.
- Laid-back, open-air, and often with other entertainment like live music, farmers’ markets make wonderful summertime destinations for getting out with your little one. Some are stroller-friendly, but even better, get yourself one of those wearable baby carriers (seriously, like right now) and then shop hands-free. So far, we’ve checked out the South Windsor Farmers’ Market, the Glastonbury Farmers’ Market, the Wethersfield Farmers’ Market and the Colchester Farmers’ Market, but there are numerous others to explore.
- Another summertime staple: PYO (pick your own) at places like Rose’s Berry Farm and Belltown Hill Orchards in Glastonbury, Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme and Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. (Did you get that wearable baby carrier yet?)
New Mom Tip: Strollers are great, but invest in (or borrow) a wearable baby carrier. They give you the freedom to explore all kinds of places with your baby, all while he or she is held securely in the place they want to be most: close to you. (Also works great when emptying the dishwasher, folding the laundry, sorting the mail…)
5. A table for two (and a half).
You may not be making it to any five star restaurants anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still grab a bite with a friend, have dinner out with your spouse, or just treat yourself to a meal prepared by someone other than you. Pick laid-back eating establishments that are crave-worthy, but don’t make you feel trapped at a table. These are some of our favorites.
- With a wide variety of delicious, international-style noodle bowls, Noodles & Company in West Hartford (and now there is a NEW location in Glastonbury!) is fast food that doesn’t taste like fast food.
- The Whole Foods in Glastonbury is another place that’s great to grab a meal. It has an expansive seating area, an extensive hot and cold buffet, a food court with pizza, paninis, sushi & dim sum, gelato, and a gourmet coffee bar, and it even offers a hot breakfast bar (and my favorite–make your own parfait) every morning until 10:30 a.m. (noon on Sundays).
- Craving a gourmet burger or a delicious salad bursting with seasonal ingredients? Head to b.good in Glastonbury. It’s real food, served up fast, and there’s even a lovely outdoor patio to enjoy when the weather is fine. Another bonus: It’s located in the middle of a charming shopping center, so if your little one gets drowsy, you can stay and browse 🙂
- In the summer and fall months, Jessica’s Garden in Marlborough serves lobster rolls, ice cream, and so much more at their Snack Shack. Seating is picnic-style, either at tables or anywhere on the beautiful grounds.
- Pizza Works in Old Saybrook has some of the most delicious pizza you’ll taste in CT. But the real treat is the working model train layouts that will keep even the tiniest diners mesmerized (and a special loft seating area that’s close to the trains but far from the main part of the restaurant so you needn’t worry if your little one decides to throw a tantrum right in the middle of your second slice).
- Another seasonal favorite is Rose’s Berry Farm’s famous Breakfast With a View on Sunday mornings from June to October. It’s just like eating on your own back porch–only you don’t have to cook, serve, or clean up 🙂
Outings are great, but sometimes what you really need is a way to connect with other new moms on a regular basis.
- A Moms Club can be a life-line for many new moms. They offer lots of resources, including playgroups, outings, and, of course, emotional support and new friendships. Check out the ever-expanding list of groups in our Moms Club Directory (and please let us know if you have one to add!)
- Also, check your local hospital or community health center for mommy and me classes on various newborn topics (like this one called Enjoying Infants Together through Hartford Hospital), social groups (like this one called Moms Morning Out run by the UCONN Health Center), and even playgroups.
- Stroller fitness classes like Baby Boot Camp and Stroller Strides are also a great way to do something healthy for yourself, entertain your baby, and make new friends all at the same time.
Even with this long list of outing ideas, the thought of leaving the house with your new baby may still be a daunting one. But you can do it! And I hope our site inspires you to get “out and about” and start enjoying yourself and your baby.
What is your favorite baby-friendly outing? Please share in the comments section below!
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