This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune.”
Before you had children, you may have dreamt of wintry days when you’d frolic in the snow with your little ones and then sip hot chocolate by the fire. You may have envisioned wrapping your bundle of joy and strolling around town with her snuggled up to you in a baby carrier.
Well let me tell you something. Winter ain’t what your friends’ holiday cards make it out to be. In fact, if you’re a smart mama, you ought to consider staying inside for the next three months and avoiding this season altogether. Here’s my advice:
So your kids say they want to play outside. Do you have ANY idea what that means? That means you need to spend a minimum of 15 minutes per kid layering on winter gear. If you have two kids, add an extra five minutes to put back on Kid No. 1’s boots, hat and gloves, which he removed while you were dressing Kid No. 2 (if you have two kids, these five-minute add-ons can be exponential). And let’s not forget about the highly likely possibility that your fully dressed child now needs to pee. Start all over and add an extra 15.
When you do finally make it outside, be prepared for your child to take off and lose at least one glove, then cry because his hand is cold. Furthermore, if you need additional gloves, realize that no stores sell kids’ gloves after January, so you might as well play it safe and not risk losing them.
But in all honesty, you’ll make it through all of this and somehow convince yourself that it was all worth it. Not just because of the adorable pictures you get to post on Instagram, but because you still remember the times your mom helped you build a snowman in the yard and your dad took you sledding—and you want your kids to have these memories, too.
Whatever you do, don’t drive anywhere
The only thing worse than letting your kids play outside is agreeing to take them somewhere. Because guess what? After you spend half an hour getting them bundled up and to the car, all of your hard work will be undone. Since you are a responsible parent, you will remove your toddler’s bulky coat so that he buckles snugly in his car seat. Once you finally get him settled, he’ll take the hint that we’re taking off clothes and will also remove his hat, mittens, boots and socks. Yes, socks. Your big kid will find this funny and follow suit. When you finally reach your destination, you will stand outside in the wintry mix, digging under the seat for inside-out socks and trying not to throw out your back as you reapply footwear.
Except that you’ll still do all of this. Because the only thing worse than taking your kids somewhere in the winter is sitting inside the house and listening to them argue and call each other “poopy head.” And, because once you get to your destination, you’ll feel a giant sense of relief and possibly even enjoy your kids again.
Don’t bother trying to get Vitamin D
Do you realize that we have up to six fewer hours of sunlight per day this time of year than in the summer? Telling someone to get outside and get some vitamin D in December is like saying, “Eat some lettuce and get some protein.” I mean, even if you do prioritize getting outside during daylight, you will probably have to skip something important like your toddler’s nap, which is precious time that you could be spending drinking coffee and reading your Facebook feed. We will all survive just fine without sun for a few months a year.
I almost convinced myself on this one, but sunlight is pretty darn important. After you experience the instant mood lift brought on by a bright, sunny day in the middle of dreary winter, you’ll be on the lookout for days like this. In fact, if you’ve ever suffered from seasonal affective disorder or depression, you’ll realize that those few hours of sunshine in the middle of the day are nature’s medicine.
Do not make plans with other moms
There is absolutely no point in trying to socialize this winter. If you schedule a play date, realize that there is a 95 percent chance someone’s kid(s) will be sick. Either your mom “friend” will still bring her kids to your house, claiming that the green snot coming out of their noses is just because of the cold weather, and your kids will have strep throat the next week. Or, your guests will cancel and your kids will be mad that you lied to them about seeing their friends. So just keep your kids in a bubble. You will all be better for it.
But for real, we need our mom friends this time of year more than ever. Who else are we supposed to vent to about the coat-carseat conundrum? How else are we supposed to convince ourselves that leaving the house is worthwhile? Who will invite us over to sip spiked egg nog while we both ignore our kids? Kids are supposed to get sick, and we can’t escape germs no matter what we do. At least we can be grateful for other mamas to help us make it through these months.
I have a bazillion excuses as to why I would rather stay inside this time of year than keep up an active, outdoorsy lifestyle. But deep down, I know that getting out of the house is exactly what I need, and my kids do, too.
Happy winter adventures!
Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at Facebook.com/mamasgottamove.