Who knew that becoming a parent would suddenly make even the most mundane tasks complicated? Take parking, for example. Before kids, you could park wherever the hell you wanted. You didn’t have to worry about finding a quick, close parking spot because, well, it was just you. But add kids, and their nonexistent patience, to the mix and it gets way more complex. So, in my opinion, every mom should know a few easy parking lot hacks to help them navigate these terrifying hellscapes as safely, and quickly, as possible. Seriously, who wants to deal with unnecessary tantrums when you’re just trying to run a few goddamn errands?
The following tips come from the direct result of being a mother to a 4-year-old son, as well as helpful advice from other moms. Some of these tips involve a little pre-planning, while others will help save you time in the moment (and especially if you're pressed for it). And others will involve, shall we say, more "creative" methods; ones your kids will probably learn to appreciate when they're older and, as a result, less likely to sleep through the entire outing.
At the end of the day, you don't need to be caught in a vehicle with an unruly, impatient child longer than you have to be. You don't want to be driving for so long your kid has an accident in the car, or to the point that everyone is extremely grouchy by the time you return home. So why not see if these pointers don’t make your next visit to the mall, grocery store, or attraction just a little smoother, right? After all, what do you have to lose?
Park As Close To The Shopping Carts As Possible
I know this is more or less a given, but it’s not always something you might think about as a first-time parent. Parking close to a cart means you can get your kid in a seat (and maybe your bag, too) as soon as you exit your vehicle. Trust me when I say this will make walking into the mall, store, or wherever, much easier. It'll make things easier on the walk back, with your groceries or other goods, too.
Get Your Kids To Hunt For “Parking Fairies”
If your kids hate waiting around while you drive in circles searching for a space, try this genius hack a friend gifted me. Tell your kiddos you’ve sent the parking fairies out to secure you a spot, then ask them to keep their eyes peeled for the fairies. For your toddlers, at least, you'll likely turn an annoying situation into a fun little game.
Use The “Two Hands” Rule
I do my best to keep my eyes (and usually my hands) on my kid to make sure he’s not trying to run into the road. But as he gets older, this has become more of a challenge, and despite having many discussions on the topic. One parent-friend of mine mentioned she institutes a Two Hands Rule. Basically, her kids must have both hands touching somewhere on the car whenever she needs to do something that might not allow her to focus on them entirely. For example, taking the baby out of the car while the older siblings wait.
You can change this hack according to your needs, of course.
Take A Photo Of Where You Park
Getting lost in a parking lot or garage is the absolute worst. If you’re in a multi-level parking garage, take a photo of what floor you parked on. If you parked in a place like Disney World, take a photo of which part of the lot you’re in. Actually, write all this info down, too, because technology sometimes fails us at the most inopportune times.
Use Reliable Parking Apps Whenever Possible
Parking apps are making parking way easier these days. There are a number of apps available that will help you access parking space around town, especially during a busy event. This is also especially important when heading to the airport (when any delay can mean having to wait hours for the next flight with your family). The Parking Spot, for example, is a service that finds you the most affordable long-term parking (whether it’s for a week or a month) near your airport. Might as well make your life easier, right?
Pack All The Snacks
Sometimes parking takes a lot longer than expected. That's OK, as long as you’ve packed something yummy to keep your kiddos quiet. So, you know, make sure to keep some non-perishables in your car.
Rely On Entertainment Devices
If you know you’ll be hunting for a decent parking spot for a while (or if you know you'll be parked in a lot waiting on someone), don’t be afraid to rely on a device. Yes, some kids will be happy with a book or toy for a while, but others won’t. Additionally, not every lot in the world has the best wifi or phone reception, so make sure to have some backups in hand. Download some e-books or a movie off Netflix and, you know, thank me later.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.