Let me tell you a little secret about babies- they require all of your time and attention, but they don't really do anything.
I've always loved being a stay-at-home mom, but keeping a baby at home by yourself full-time can, at times, be lonely and somewhat monotonous. When Seth was a baby (and again, later, when Sawyer was a baby, and Seth was two), the struggle was real, and my go-to coping mechanism was GET OUTTA HERE.
I did it so often that one of the first phrases Seth learned to say was, "Where we goin da-day, Mommy?," and he said it every day for months.
The majority of the paintings in my Memphis alphabet series were inspired by (and painted during) this stage of life with my kids. I painted the first letter in 2012 when I was pregnant with Seth. The rest trickled out over time, with the series completed in the fall of 2015, a couple of months before Sawyer's first birthday.
When my kids were babies, just a change in scenery for a couple of hours each days was all I needed. Rain or shine, we headed out. We did the usual stuff- grocery shopping, post office, Target runs...
I filled in the gaps with playground trips, trolley rides (bring back the trolley!), river walks, wanders through Overton Park, wanders around downtown, wanders about Cooper Young, lots and lots of wandering..., and our all time favorite and most frequently chosen- zoo days. The zoo is really close to our house (no kids falling asleep in the car!), and we had a membership so we could pop in for even just an hour or two whenever we wanted.
Obviously, toting a toddler and a baby around the city by yourself isn't always perfect. There were rough patches for sure. These included, but are not limited to: tantrums in public, potty accidents in public, being lost in public, breast-feeding in public, crying in public (Seth, Sawyer... me), and yes a few tense moments with strangers- not judgmental strangers (I've found most people to be incredibly kind and patient) -I'm talking about the rough-looking strangers who start to approach you in the Walgreens parking lot.
Who is this person? What does he want? Just need directions? Selling cds maybe? I bet he's selling cds... Or maybe he's peddling the gospel? Know what, he's probably just down on his luck? Yeah, that's it... just down on his luck... And asking for money?? Or aiming to rob me??! Or wait... THIS PERSON IS GOING TO TRY 'N SNATCH UP ONE OF MY KIDS AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE STREETS OF MEMPHIS OH MY GOSH GET AWAY!!! GET AWAY FROM ME STRANGE PERSON I DON'T KNOW!!!!
These are the escalating thoughts that flit through your head as a stranger approaches when you've got a baby on your hip, a toddler by the hand, and your purse dangling from the crook of your arm in the Walgreens parking lot in Memphis, TN with your only unoccupied method of defense being your bare teeth, as you absolutely, postively will not be able to use either hand for anything other than holding on desperately to each of your most precious, priceless possessions, otherwise known as your completely and utterly helpless children.
If you're not supposed to approach a mama bear with two cubs in the woods, then don't you dare approach a woman clutching two small children in a parking lot.
I WILL LITERALLY SNARL AND START SNAPPING MY TEETH AT YOU.
Any other time (sans kids), sure go ahead. Approach me and ask away. I might say yes, I'll probably say no, but I will take the time to look you in the eye.
I found myself in the latter scenario one sunny day on Beale Street. The kids were at my mama's house, and I wanted to snap some pictures at Handy Park for the letter "W". Handy Park is very small, and as I crossed the entrance I noticed the park's sole occupant sitting on a bench. He was an older gentleman and dressed in shabby looking clothes with a backpack at his feet. He looked up at a me as I entered, and for a split second, I thought about just coming back later. But instead I nodded hello, as did he, and proceeded to take the pictures I needed. The guy asked me about the pictures. I ended up telling him about my artwork, and he ended up telling me a lot of really interesting stuff about W.C. Handy. It was all very pleasant, he never asked me for money, and I left with no idea if he was homeless or just hanging out.
Now Sawyer is the two year old, and Seth is four. They're very good at entertaining each other, so I don't feel the same sense of urgency to leave the house as I did in those early years.
We continue our Memphis outings somewhat frequently anyway. I own four different strollers, and you better believe I'm not afraid to use 'em!