Recently, I attended an event with moms for a moms’ night out. As we were standing around, chatting and getting to know one another, I began to realize: I am the worst mother ever. Every single mother at this event claimed she never did anything for herself. This was the first event she had been out to that year. I was really confused, because I get out a lot. Not to brag – I honestly never knew that being a mother meant I was supposed to not do anything that I enjoyed. When I had children, the only thing that changed was that I had young ones with me wherever I went. And, that is what I want to share today: how to take your children out into the world where you *and they* enjoy it.
I have four children, and we’ve attended our fair share of boring meetings. We have also attended our fair share of musicals, plays, dance performances, and music concerts. We do not eat out often, but our favorite places include IHOP, Applebee’s, and Olive Garden. For our family, the question has always only been about our budget, never about whether or not our children should or shouldn’t go to these places. We have always believed they learn best through exposure and modeling. The only way to experience either of those things is to do and go.
5 Tips for Getting Out WITH Your Kids
1. Begin from the beginning.
If possible, simply take your child with you to your own life commitments. I do not believe having a baby now means you can no longer do the things you enjoy. Now, perhaps, you don’t want to do those things anymore. Fair enough. But, if you *do* want to keep volunteering or participating, do. We took our child to cast parties after my theater performances. We put a pack-n-play in the back bedroom, and she slept while we socialized with our friends. She learned to adapt, and we learned to continue to enjoy life.
2. Talk about it first.
I talk to my children before we do anything. I tell them what I know is going to happen, and I tell them things I imagine we can expect. I also tell them what I think they might appreciate knowing. I’ve done this with them since they were infants. I find communicating is hugely successful, even if they cannot talk to you, they are always listening.
This past week, we attended the symphony at Hancher. I was singing in the choir, and I wanted to share this with my family. Before we went inside, I told them it would be a lot of music. Some of the music would be really quiet, and some would be really loud, with clashing and banging, but it was only noise and would not hurt them. They did great. After the concert, they did mention the dynamics of the evening, but it was much more exciting to hear their other feedback. I may have a percussionist in my future.
3. Model appropriate behavior.
In addition to the talk before it happens, model the behavior you know is expected by others in the area. At restaurants, we show how we tell the server what we want to drink and eat. All four of our children now order for themselves. They have learned to speak loudly, clearly, and politely.
4. Have help.
It is often helpful to have another adult or older child with you when going out with more than one or two children, especially when they are younger. We are in the stage of life where our oldest child is an excellent helper. Also, my parents live nearby. If we all want to go somewhere together, it is nice to have the extra set or two of eyes with grandparents there with us.
5. Expect to enjoy your time together.
Spending time together doing what you love is an excellent way to share love with your family. Expect that you will have a good time, and you will. Yes, you may need to be a bit more flexible while you are out. You should definitely build in an extra 15-30 minutes if you are going somewhere with a start time. Take some things you both enjoy doing while you wait. Our family loves to read or will make up games to play with words or actions, depending on our waiting space.
I encourage you to take a look at what you enjoyed doing before you had children. Are you doing it now? Would you like to? Go ahead! Being a mom does not mean you have to stop living. Show your children how to live instead.