Friday, June 8, 2012

Parent Life: The Mommy Circuit

There are days as a new parent when you look at the child you have created and think to yourself (or maybe even say out loud) - "What am I going to do with you all day?"

The answer is the Mommy Circuit.  The merry-go round of classes and storytimes you haul your baby to just to get out of the house and see other adults, if only for 15 minutes.  It was also a great way to meet some other mothers and not have to try to insta-bond over your birth stories while the baby is in the swings.  When I lived in Pittsburgh and Reese was concentrating hard on not spitting up and learning how to roll over, there were only a few classes to go to.  They were all drop-in and most of them were FREE.

I'll allow any of you living in NY or DC to pick your jaws up off the floor.

However, we moved to New York and had to pick and choose which classes we would take.  While there are a million options, they are also super expensive and usually require you to commit to a "semester" to join.  Here are some tips for choosing classes to round out your circuit and hopefully have fun and make some friends along the way.

1.  Free is always available.  Even in New York, where my friends always claim that you spend $20 just walking out of your door, there are free activities for babies on offer.  Most public libraries have at least a bi-weekly storytime, as do some baby stores like Giggle or Sprout.  Check those out first, especially when your baby is tiny or going through schedule changes so you don't waste money on a class where you can only sing the "hello" song.

2.  Try before you buy.  A lot of classes will let you do a free or reduced price class before you have to sign up for a full semester.  It's great to see if you actually like the class (sometimes I feel like the instructors are like the super annoying people you hated in high school) and if your child actually likes it (far more important when they are toddler age. At the beginning it was a huge coup if I could get Reese to stay awake for 30 minutes.)  For some classes, like a swim class, they might let you observe a class before you sign up.

3.  Test the waters.  Speaking of swimming lessons, there are some special tips for this one.  First, check the temperature on the pool.  It is so much nicer to take a class where the water is warm. It sounds stupid, but it's not. We go to a facility with a special baby pool with a moveable floor and it is AWESOME.  Also, check the locker room for amenities like changing tables and Bumbo seats which make the whole process easier.

4.  Sick days.  Check the makeup policy.  Seriously.  Your kid will get sick at least once and you'll miss classes.  I try to always look for classes that have a liberal makeup policy, since it allows us to not feel like I'm wasting money when we are quarantined and we also get to meet some new people when we attend the makeup.

5. Overbooked Much?  Err on the side of fewer classes.  It's nice to have something to do each day, but only try to schedule must-dos a few days a week.  First of all, it's so expensive!  Second, you'll want free days to do playdates, run errands and just hang out.  Also, keep in mind those free storytimes...they help you fill in on days you need someone else to make eye contact.

6.  Timing is everything.  Babies are always changing.  Specifically, they are always changing their nap times.  You don't want to sign up for a 4 month class based around a nap schedule that is going to change.  Again, check the makeup policy or ask whether you can switch classes if necessary.  Also, if your baby seems to be in a nap transition, choose classes that have shorter sessions.

7.  Stay in the neighborhood.  When I moved to the city, I was all, "I can totally get to a class in Chelsea!"  No.  Wrong.  Bad.  Plan on a maximum transit time of about 20 minutes. If just getting to the class is a chore, think about how much it's going to suck on the way home with a cranky baby.  A LOT.

8.  F-U-N.  That is the point of these classes.  Remember that.  People will tell you about how it's important to for your child to learn pre-Mandarin skills or whatever, but really?  You are going to these classes because they are supposed to be fun for you and your baby.  If you are not enjoying it, don't do it.  Trust me, there will be plenty of time in law school (your genius child totally went to a great college and grad school because you are an amazing parent) to take Evidence or Civil Procedure and other classes that are important.  Baby music and tumbling is just supposed to be fun.

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