“Do you want a mani-pedi for your birthday?” my husband asked me. “Uh, yeah,” I answered without really thinking about it. A few days later, I realized, “Ohhh, that’s RIGHT, I have an infant son and if I get my nails done, that means he’ll probably have to come with me.” It’s not that I’d forgotten I had a son, though the whole time I was pregnant I feared, “Will I leave my baby in a taxi the way I’ve done with at least 2 cellphones?” Thankfully, I have not. But my husband works full-time and I am a new-ish stay at home-ish mom who hasn’t quite worked out a reliable sitter situation yet.
It’s partially my own paranoid “raised by a god-and-everyone-else-fearing mom who thought a babysitter was definitely going to cook her children in an oven” fault. But it’s also just been hard to find a good match for a few different reasons — I have a cat which some are allergic to, I only need part-time help, I am not rich.
So as I got ready for my big birthday mani-pedi, I also had to prepare for my 9 and a half month old son to come along. Here are some things I did to make the trip easier for myself, in case you feel the dumb need to do as I did and get your nails done, sans sitter.
I Invited A Child-Friendly Friend. I had planned to have a friend along on the trip anyway, being it was a birthday celebratory experience, and all. But my friend was extra special, as she was child-friendly. She has been around kids, likes kids, and has no kids of her own, so being around well-behaved children is maybe a little novel. She even helped me lug the baby bag. Go through your contact list and favorite your child-friendly friends so you’ll know who to turn to when you want to grab lunch or get a mani-pedi with a baby in tow.
I Googled, “Is It OK To Take My Child To The Nail Salon?” Turns out, taking a baby to the nail salon has the internet-mom’s coalition completely splintered. Some moms agree there’s no way a baby should be anywhere near a nail salon for the fumes alone. Others say the fumes aren’t a huge deal and that we breathe more terrible fumes just taking baby for a walk down a well-trafficked street but that it’s rude to bring a baby to the nail salon. Still others say, moms deserve to get out too, and that sometimes childcare isn’t available and sometimes babies cry. But the most important thing that I learned is that there are some salons that use safer, less-toxic, even organic products.
I Searched My Area For Safer, Less-Toxic, Organic Salons — and wouldn’t you know it? I found several. Sure, I’m in New York City where you can’t even go grab a quick iced chai latte (child in tow) without cruising past an organic nail salon. You might pay a little bit more (my mani-pedi ended up costing $45 + tip) but it was worth it for my peace of mind.
I Called Ahead And Asked Questions. I selected 3–4 different salons and called them all. I verified that the salon used less-toxic materials. I asked if the salon was stroller friendly. I asked if it was OK if I brought my baby. I asked if the salon was well-ventilated. Finally, I settled on one that was owned and operated by another mom who had a 1 year old daughter who often came to the salon. Hearing that did ease my worries some, I must admit. I also learned that the salon was not exactly stroller friendly, so I put on my sling and packed my bigger baby bag.
I Set Up An Appointment Around My Baby’s Typical Naptime His naps are somewhat erratic, but he usually sleeps around noon and 3:30. I set up my appointment for 3:30 PM and showed up early. I sat him on my lap and we cuddled while my feet were soaking. When I moved over for the mani, he started to get a little grumpy so I fed him again and he fell asleep at my breast while my nails dried. The small nail fan pointed towards us offered white noise, a comforting breeze and also helped disperse any fumes.
I Came Prepared With Everything He Could Need I brought toys, a change of clothing, wore my sling, and was ready to abandon the mani-pedi if need be, even with a cancellation fee. I could always come back another time — if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t the end of the world. Luckily, it did work out.
I Was As Gracious As All Get Out And Left A Good Tip The salon owner happened to be there and she was very sweet. She asked to hold the baby and we bonded talking about being “old moms”. I wore a large warm smile and overused please and thank you. The other customers were warm or indifferent towards his presence. Many smiled at the baby and the one lady who maybe wasn’t so jazzed about a baby being present didn’t say anything at all. I made sure to tip the technician well even though my son was behaved. I did have to maneuver him around a bit during the manicure and messed up a nail, which she had to re-paint. But even if that hadn’t happened, a good tip for good service is always the right thing to do.
- This is not something I’d do on a weekly basis. I don’t get regular mani-pedis; this was a birthday treat. I think the last mani-pedi I’d had was months before I had gotten pregnant. (You don’t even want to know about my bikini line, but if I end up getting a brazilian wax with the baby, I’ll write about that, too.)
- If I do go again, it will be for a special occasion, and I will bring my own small battery-operated clip stroller fan for him.
- Many babies in my generation survived smoker parents — is that worse than an annual mani-pedi? I can’t say for sure. Though the fumes were not bad, I could still smell them. One mom online had suggested if the fumes bother you, they will probably also bother the baby. I didn’t get a headache or anything, and my baby didn’t cry or fuss much, but again, I would probably not make a regular habit of mani-pedis with him.
- It was an educational experiment. It helped me learn more about his tolerances. Though I know if I might have brought him on another day, he could have been miserable.
- I wouldn’t have brought him as a newborn or probably earlier than 6 months old.
- I love spending time with my son, even when the activities aren’t “for him”. Having him fall asleep at my breast while I had my nails painted was a highlight of my birthday.
- Jessica Delfino is a comedian, musician, writer and new mom who writes about life with one baby, one husband and one cat. She is currently developing a TV show about motherhood and writes about #momlife at Mommyish.com, VH1.com, her blog Jessy Delfino’s Blog, on The Coo on Facebook and Twitter, and more.
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