Finding your way on this journey of motherhood can feel a bit daunting at times. It’s a strange experience in so many ways —especially the fact that our entire identity experiences a shift. One day, we’re just focused on adulting and the next, our babies are here and we have to figure out how to mom and what that looks like. I’ll admit that I floundered a bit when I started out, but something that has helped tremendously in the process is deciphering the kind of mom that I am vs. who I’m not.
We all have areas where we excel and those where we struggle, but sometimes they’re actually the same thing. Our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. Mine? I’m Type A and organized. With three kids age 5 and under, this is a helpful trait to have, because honestly, keeping track of that many tiny people and their individual needs is no simple task. The downside to my organization? I’m not exactly what you would call a “fun mom.” See what I mean? Big strength, but also a big weakness.
Saying “yes” to spur-of-the-moment adventures isn’t exactly part of my repertoire. I much prefer having my ducks in a row and keeping our days ordered. But, as much as I may love having a plan, I also don’t want my kids to look back on their childhood and feel like it was spent with a drill sergeant. I want to make memories with them. That is why last summer I started packing a “to-go bag,” and it has created an amazing shift in my perspective — helping to turn a lot of “no” moments into “sure, why not?” moments.
The contents of the bag vary depending on the season, but it’s filled with all the necessities that we could possibly need in order to encourage spontaneous detours. I can keep my bag right by the front door, ready to go, or even in the car. This parenting “hack” gives me one less excuse to say “no” and embrace the “yes.”
This is different than a diaper bag, because I don’t carry it with me at all times — they are “just in case” items that are nice to have on hand.
Here is what I keep in my summer to-go bag:
One Change of Clothes for Each Child
Many of our spontaneous adventures seem to include getting muddy, wet, or generally messy. As such, it’s nice to have a change of clothes on hand when this does happen. I include every component of an outfit down to the underwear and socks since there have been a couple of situations where we ended up detouring to a kids play area that required socks and my kids were sockless. Lesson learned.
Swimsuits, Towels, and Water Essentials
We live in Portland, Oregon where the weather can turn on a dime. As such, any time the sun comes out we take full advantage and get ourselves to water immediately. Many of our summer adventures involve last-minute stops at local splash pads or wading pools, and it’s nice to have everyone’s essentials on hand. Swimsuits, towels, swim diapers, sandals, hats, and sunglasses all make the cut. To make it easier to find everyone’s items, wrap them in their own towel!
A Wet/Dry Bag
A wet/dry bag is an absolute must for summer water play, but also just in general. If your kids get wet or muddy while playing, you’ve got their change of clothes, and then all you have to do is throw the messy items in the bag. It will keep your to-go bag (and car) from becoming a mess, too! It’s also good in case of potty accidents for littler ones.
Drinks and Snacks
Nobody wants a hangry kid on their hands, which is why any to-go bag worth its salt needs to be stocked with water bottles and snacks. Each of my kids has two water bottles — one for at home and one that stays in the to-go bag. As for snacks, be sure to choose items that can withstand heat in case the bag gets left in the car. (Tip: granola bars with chocolate are a bad choice, unless you want a melty, chocolatey mess.)
Hand Sanitizer, Sunblock, and Band-Aids
Hand sanitizer is absolutely crucial for my bag. There have definitely been a few times when we’ve been out exploring and far from a bathroom; and well … when nature calls and there are no sinks or soap, you’ll want something to keep germs at bay. And when we’ve stopped to visit animals (like when we stumbled upon a random goat farm one day), hand sanitizer is nice to have after these encounters.
Sunblock is also a must for sunny, outdoor adventures as well as Band-Aids, because scraped knees and elbows are par for the course when you’re adventuring.
Wipes, Wipes, and More Wipes
My holy grail to-go bag item is baby wipes. Even when my kids have all been potty trained and diapers are no longer needed, I will never be without them. They have saved us on so many occasions (think: cleaning hands and faces after falling in a mud pit or as substitute toilet paper for when you’re far from any facilities).
As the seasons change, I add and subtract items to my to-go bag. When the weather gets chilly again, it includes jackets, gloves, and hats.
In addition to my to-go bag, I also keep a few items in the car — such as a beach blanket and extra towels. The towels have come in handy for car sickness, and for wiping down slides and play equipment after a stint of rain. I also keep rain boots stashed in the car, so no puddle goes un-stomped.
It may seem a bit odd to plan ahead for spontaneity, but when you’re Type A, sometimes you need to be more intentional about making fun happen. Having a to-go bag is an organized, but simple way to encourage impromptu fun.
So to all you Type A mamas (or you Type Bs who just want a bit of organization too!), here’s to a summer filled with more splash pads, trail walks, and berry picking … and a lot less stress!