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How to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

How to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

My daughter was two months old when my wife and I embarked on a drive from Maine to southern New Jersey to attend my sister-in-law’s beach wedding. That’s over one thousand miles of driving in one long weekend.

It was the first trip of any distance we’d taken as new parents, and we were appropriately terrified about, well, everything.

The cool thing was that not only did we survive, but the trip brought us a lot closer as a family. After we made it back home safely, my wife and I both felt like we could tackle pretty much anything and everything that parenting threw at us.

That feeling lasted about a week, but it was a cool feeling.

Here are a few things that worked (and didn’t work) on that trip, which I hope translate into useful tips that help you out if you are planning to take a road trip with your baby.

Timing Is Everything

Avoid Traffic When Travelling With a Baby

    At two months old, our daughter was starting to sleep for longer stretches in the evening, so we decided to travel at night on the ride down. We departed after dinner and bath time—right around the time when we’d normally be settling her in for the night, and this worked perfectly.

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    Not only did we enjoy 2- and 3-hour stretches during which she slept comfortably and quietly in her car seat with a full belly, but we were also able to travel past Boston and New York City without hitting any traffic, reducing our time on the road.

    Our daughter had basically the same amount of sleep she usually got in an evening, so when we arrived in New Jersey we were tired, but she was well rested and happy, which made the weekend great.

    The ride home was a different story—my pending work schedule forced us to depart first thing, the day after the ceremony. That 9-hour drive turned into a 14-hour marathon that had us leaving dirty diapers and little pieces of our sanity at every rest stop between Cape May and Portland, Maine.

    My advice is to get your rest, drink plenty of caffeine, and then drive through the night if you can. This way you can avoid traffic and make the drive stress-free for you and your baby.

    Be Intentional: Plan How You’ll Pack

    Plan How You Will Pack For Your Trip

      Life with a newborn can feel like one never-ending loop where you’re doing laundry, rocking a tiny version of yourself as you pace up and down your hallways, and trying to unscrew the cap on the orange juice with one hand.

      It’s easy in this dream-state to tell yourself that the sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll get there, and to simply throw everything into the back of your car when you’re prepping for a road trip with a baby.

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      Don’t do it.

      Take some time and carefully plan where you’ll put everything. Make sure you have a nursing pillow and blanket or nursing cover handy for your partner (who can sleep on these while the baby is sleeping to stay rested), pack some snacks that offer a good mix of the nutrition you need to stay alert and energized, bring plenty of water, and create a changing station inside the car.

      We found that it worked really well for my wife to ride in the backseat with our daughter, and I packed our duffel bags on the passenger-side floor in the front seat. This allowed me to lay a quilt down on the seat next to me and over the duffel bags, and I used this for a changing station. I had Purell sanitizer and baby lotion in the cup holder, diapers tucked in between the seat and center console, and the wipes were wedged in safely near the glove compartment.

      When our daughter awoke, I pulled over and my wife passed her up to me. I could change her comfortably without opening the car to the sound of 18-wheelers roaring past, and then I’d pass our daughter back to my wife so she could nurse and get settled for the next leg of the trip.

      It worked like a charm—our daughter stayed warm and comfortable, she was in dry diapers every time we departed a pit stop, and she was never blasted awake by opening and closing the car doors next to the highway.

      Be Honest with Yourself about What You Need

      Packing for a Road Trip With a Baby

        You’re going to over-pack.

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        Even if you say to yourself right now that you aren’t going to over-pack, you’re wrong.

        I’m here to tell you that it’s going to happen.

        But I’m also here to encourage you to try to be less psychotic about bringing every baby-soothing item you own, especially if you’re traveling to visit family.

        What I’ve learned during my short time as a parent is that your family is awesome, they love your daughter, and they will (without fail) have 10,000 bags of baby clothes and over-the-top gifts you never would have purchased waiting for you, every time you arrive.

        If you pack too much of your own stuff, you won’t have room for everything they give you when it’s time to go home, and the truth is that even if you aren’t going to visit family, you’ll only use about half of what you’re planning to bring anyway (and packing extra just means extra trips to and from the car).

        So take inventory, check yourself, and leave that seventeenth colorful toy with the bell inside it in the nursery.

        Keep a Sense of Humor: You’re in This Together

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        Keep a Sense of Humor When Taking a Road Trip with a Baby

          If there’s one last thing I’ve learned during my short time as a parent, it’s that it’s not an easy job. The responsibility I feel all day, every day, is overwhelming, and it is often difficult for me to keep my stress level low.

          Add travel to the mix, and it’s easy for things to go sideways.

          But one thing that has made it easy for me to become a half-decent parent is the fact that I have a fantastic wife.

          She is great to share a laugh with when our little one rips a toot during a romantic moment, and when I get terrified that we’re doing something to permanently screw up this little angel we created, she’s there to calm me down and back me up.

          On our first family road trip, I learned quickly that you don’t have to be a perfect parent, but you should try to be a perfect team. The ride you’re on is supposed to be bumpy, but it’s an amazing one if you make an effort to go with the flow, support one another, and keep a sense of humor.

          Featured photo credit: Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures via pixabay.com

          More by this author

          Joe Hessert

          Writer, Digital Marketing Professional

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          Published on January 30, 2019

          How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

          How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

          In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

          The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

          According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

          This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

          Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

          This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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          The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

          Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

          What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

          Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

          1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

          Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

          Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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          As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

          2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

          I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

          However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

          Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

          When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

          3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

          This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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          I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

          Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

          4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

          No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

          Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

          5. Don’t keep score or track time.

          At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

          In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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          The Bottom Line

          To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

          The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

          But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

          On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

          Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

          Reference

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