Parenting

Having a baby doesn’t have to mean staying home

Katie used to think that having a baby meant giving up your social life. Sophie has since changed her mind.

(From left) Erin, Quinn, Sophie (in the coat!) and Katie, on the beach. Vancouver Island, February 2012.

Over the past year, I’ve heard the following comment (or a variation of) at least a dozen times: “We want to have kids, but we’re not willing to give up our social lives yet. And we really like to travel.
Travelling with a baby seems too hard.” I’d probably even said something similar myself, before that second line showed up on the stick almost two years ago now.

But over the course of the nine months as Soph grew in my belly, something happened. It started on my trip to Ireland, I think, when I was 18 weeks pregnant. I lived in the Emerald Isle in 2004, to study Anglo-Irish literature at a university just outside of Dublin, and returned in 2011 for a good friend’s wedding. It was there — in a magical land so very close to my heart — that I felt Soph move for the first time. And I remember thinking, “I want to show you this place, baby. I want you to see the place that makes your mama feel whole.” At first I calculated how long it would have to be until I could reasonably put this little person on an airplane. But then I realized that there aren’t any rules when it comes to showing your children the world. Whether she remembers or not, any family trip is special — and it’s a memory for her dad and me.

This thinking prompted Soph’s first trip — to visit our best friends, Scott and Erin, on Vancouver Island last February. We snuggled a three-month-old Sophie into the Moby wrap for both flights, back and forth across the country. Now we’re planning a trip to California, to meet our West Coast besties again, and while the logistics change now that she can’t just travel strapped to the front of me, I know we’ll make it work.

The same goes for adventures not so far from home. We take Soph to restaurants, to museums and to art galleries. We took her to the cottage this summer, and we’ve made three trips to Elliot Lake to visit Blaine’s grandparents in the past year. There have certainly been rough moments — like when she cried for the entire eight hours it took us to drive to Elliot Lake the first time — and we leave dinner shrapnel in our wake when we walk away from a restaurant table, but I hope that exposing her to lots of different experiences will help her to acclimatize to new situations more easily. Maybe this is crackpot thinking, and that we just haven’t hit the terrible twos yet, but it makes sense to me. Our friends are great with having Soph along for double dates, and they’ll even endure an earlier dinner, followed by dessert and drinks at our house, so that Soph can go to bed on time; it’s just the way we have to do things now. I’m not saying that things don’t change — of course they do — but I don’t think you have to sacrifice friendships or certain outings because you have a baby in tow.

Maybe my outlook on this will change if we’re blessed with more kids. Maybe carting a toddler and a baby to a restaurant will seem completely insane. But for now, I love watching Sophie munch on pancakes at breakfast or laugh at the dinosaurs at the Royal Ontario Museum. We could stay home, sure. But what fun is that?