Ditching the Diaper Bag

What does your bag say about you?



Diaper bagAh, summer. The perfect time to relax, soak up the sun . . . and finally ditch that diaper bag that’s been giving you scoliosis.

Don’t get me wrong. I love diaper bags as much as the next mom. In fact, I’ve been lugging around the same one for the past five years. What’s odd about that is that my youngest has been potty trained for the last two. But every time I try to give it up, I keep coming back.

It is a great bag. It’s got these ingenious side pockets that are ostensibly for baby bottles but are also perfect for water bottles when your kids are, er, a little bit older than formula-sipping age. It’s got a small front zip pocket with compartments for your cell phone, keys, and other small items of importance; lots of easily accessible compartments inside the main pocket; and an open back pocket for when you’ve got to stash something quickly and don’t have time for zippers. It’s practical, comfortable, and remarkably compact for all it holds. But stylish it’s not.

A couple of years ago, I couldn’t have cared less about stylishness. I also didn’t care about the extra five pounds I’d been carrying around since my oldest was born, or that my hair could almost put itself in a ponytail. But something seems to happen around the time your youngest turns 4 or 5. My mother-in-law calls it “turning that corner.” I call it realizing that—oh, snap!—I’m not going to be the mother of little kids forever, and I’m going to have to live with myself even when I have an independent 10-year-old and a teenager who hates my guts. Put in that light, carrying around a diaper bag suddenly seemed ridiculous.

“BUT WHAT ABOUT WIPES?” I cried to my mom friend when I first contemplated making the move. “MY BABY STILL FALLS ON THE PLAYGROUND AND GETS DIRTY! I NEED WIPES!”

“Calm down,” she said. “You can carry wipes in a purse.”

(Side note: Try Sani Hands for Kids if you want wipes that come in a totally compact packet.)

So I started toting around the black purse I had previously used only on date nights.

I hated it. Even though it was 10 times smaller than my diaper bag, it was like a bottomless pit. Without all those nifty compartments, I was forever searching for my phone, my keys, and, of course, the wipes.

I decided it was time to buy a new bag.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of taking my 8-year-old daughter on the shopping trip with me—carrying only my purse.

“What about this one?” I asked, holding up a trendy-looking satchel.

“Oh, no!” she cried in dismay. “Now you’re going to turn into one of those people who always wants to be fancy!”

I decided to put the search on hold until after pizza in the food court.

My daughter drank only half her Snapple when I wanted to get going.

“But what about my Snapple?” she said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll put it in my diaper . . .” We both looked at my pocket-less purse in horror.

“You see!” she said. “You need your diaper bag!”

I put the search on hold indefinitely.

But now it’s summer, the perfect time to cut the cord. Why? Because, what’s easier than carrying around . . . a beach bag! It’s the ideal transition tote for those too chicken to go cold turkey. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been carting around my essentials in a metallic gray Banana Republic beach bag.

I’m not sure what I’ll use when the summer’s over. One mom I know sports a Keith Haring bag she picked up at Whole Foods for 20 bucks. She loves that it's durable, wipes clean easily, and is less obvious than a diaper bag . . . But she misses all the compartments. Another mom friend has a purse that can carry lipstick and a small packet of wipes but not much else. I asked her how she does it, and she said you just learn to pack less . . . But on all-day trips to the park, she carries water bottles and snacks separately. Yet another mom uses the cooler bag with her daughter’s EpiPen as her purse.

Although no replacement seems perfect, I’m excited about the search. It seems so full of possibility. Kind of like my post-mom-of-little-kids life. In the foreseeable future, I might actually have time to take that belly dancing class I’ve been wanting to take (after I lose those five pounds). Or try on clothes before buying them. And maybe—just maybe—my kids will be carrying their own darn water bottles by then. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go back to school in pursuit of a professional degree. In which case I’ll have to start the search for a new bag all over again.

Have you made the transition from a diaper bag? How'd it go? What is its replacement? Tell us in Comments!


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Essex County Real Mom Anna Sandler lives happily ever after with her Jersey-raised husband and three NYC-born children in the land of jug handles and disco fries. She loves baking and crafting with her kids, even if everything they make doesn't turns out Pinterest-perfect. Anna has never met a holiday she doesn't want to celebrate, and enjoys sharing ideas for everyday fun (indoor beach party, anyone?), as well as how to commemorate bigger moments from birthdays to first days of school.

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