Completely spontaneous trips become the stuff of dreams with a young child in tow. Before having a baby, I was invariably punctual. With my son, I've given myself a few minutes' leeway. Even if I have already packed the diaper bag with snacks, bottles, wipes, toys, and books—a late diaper change can derail the best-laid plans. In addition, my husband and I often took walks together in the evening before becoming parents. We still do, but only when we have given both of our cell phone numbers and a detailed primer on how to put our son to bed.
When you go out while you are pregnant, take as few items with you as you can and leave as quickly as possible, without telling anyone. Do you really need a large purse, or will a palm-sized wallet suffice? Do you want to run out for the best ice cream in town, a half-hour's drive away? Is it mid-afternoon and you feel like running along the beach? Is it 11 PM and you want to check out the neighborhood Christmas lights? Then go. No one is stopping you.
Efficiency Goes Both Ways
Once you become a mother, a graph of your efficiency over the course of a day will look like someone's hare-brained scheme. When your child is asleep and you are not, you will often accomplish more in five minutes than you previously did in 30, whether that means responding immediately to an email or folding laundry double-time. Before my son's birth, I often waited for inspiration to strike before planning curriculum for my middle school students or brainstorming for writing projects. Now the idea of such free-floating creativity seems quaint.
When your child is awake, on the other hand, your five-minute unloading of the dishwasher will likely stretch into half an hour, with stops along the way to read a board book, grab a toy he can't reach, and cut bananas into bites. Often you will not want to be efficient. A walk in a stroller for exercise is much more fun if your child stops to run her hand along a brick wall or watch a cat sit prettily on a doorstep.
Before you have a child, then, savor inefficiency. Consider long restaurant waits, airport delays, and post office lines chances to chat with the person next to you, be alone with your thoughts, or read a good book. Visit three gourmet stores to find an imported smoked salmon or a particular brand of tomato soup. You may feel you have no time for such frivolity—after all, life and work consume your entire day as it is! Trust me in believing that, after you have a child, you will wonder how you ever filled all of your free time.