Last summer, I was splashing around in the warm shallows at Pony Pasture with my 2 year old and 5 year old sons. As we hopped from rock to rock, I realized it had been about fifteen minutes since I checked my cell phone. "Hang on buddy, we gotta go check my phone."
We headed back to shore and checked. Nothing. I splashed back into the water as my five year old told me that he was a water ninja. My client was 40+4 and had been having dinner to bedtime contractions for a few nights. I realized then that I've come a long way from my early days of being on call.
Being on call has become much more sustainable for me over the years, as I learn how to relax despite the anxiety of never knowing when I will have to head out. (And the client above ended up going another six days anyway.*)
Richmond is a wonderful place to be on call! There are so many fun things to do within city limits or within an hour of Richmond if you can afford a day trip. And cell phone service doesn't fade out in Richmond like it might in some mountain cities.
There are judgment calls--it's hard to promise my sons anything in advance because I am not going to head an hour out of town if a client has had contractions all night, has been advised by their care provider to take castor oil, or just texts me that she has gastrointestinal upset and moodiness. My kids will probably grow up thinking their mother is a super spontaneous person who loves last minute day trips! "Guess what, we're going to York River today!" I'm sure they think the idea just struck me, instead of it being planned but not promised for a week.
Still though, if you can afford a day trip, you have solid child care set up so you won't need time to find a sitter, and all is quiet, the list below may give you some ideas!
Here are some of my favorite places to go within an hour of Richmond.
(*client details changed in this and all writing on this blog)
This is a great beach with gentle waves for young kids. Ice cream trucks, playground, sand castles, shallow and gentle waves! The traffic on 64 can be heavy coming back, because they have been doing construction, so check that out and keep that in mind.
James River Park System
North Bank, Pony Pasture, Pipeline, Belle Isle...there are so many places within city limits and cell phone service to explore! For small kids, I love North Bank and Pony Pasture.
Crozet & Mint Springs Park
If you are craving mountains, Crozet is a beautiful town 15 minutes west of Charlottesville. Kiddos can swim at Mint Springs in the lake, there is a little hiking, and you can pick peaches or strawberries at Chile's Mountain Orchard. This is the farthest one from Richmond on the list, so use your judgment. If they need you right away, which is unusual but possible, getting to them within that 90 minute window (which is what my contract specifies) could be challenging.
Point of Rocks Park
There is an amazing boardwalk at this park that stretches all the way across a marsh. It feels like a completely different ecosystem than Richmond and has a great playground, and is only 20 minutes South of downtown Richmond.
Not going to lie, King's Dominion stresses me out a little bit when I'm on call, with the lines and the idea of making my kids leave at any minute when they are so excited. Or maybe it's just inherently stressful to take two boys under 5 to King's Dominion! If KD is in your budget, it's only 20 minutes North of downtown Richmond. They had a free Pre-K pass this year and my other son isn't old enough to have to pay, so getting an adult's season pass made sense for us. In case we had to leave, we weren't losing the price of a day ticket.
York River State Park
My five year old calls York River "Fossil Beach," and digs for the driftwood, which he calls dinosaur bones. It's really beautiful on cool fall days. Like Point of Rocks, it feels like a different ecosystem from Richmond, with the cliff walk, the marshiness of it, and the driftwood. It is about 40 minutes east of Richmond.
Gallmeyer Farms/Chesterfield Berry Farms
Gallmeyer has a hay ride, playground and small pumpkin patch. Chesterfield Berry Farm is much more intense, with lots of people and farther out from Richmond, but they also have more activities/harvest stuff to do in the fall.
I have been a birth doula for three and a half years. My clients don't tend to cluster in the same on-call period, so even though I am currently only attending 6-12 births a year, I end up spending long stretches of time on call. I now feel comfortable going on day trips outside of Richmond, up to an hour, which makes these lengthy on-call periods more sustainable for our family.
What are your favorite things to do when on call?
Cat Ennis Sears is a certified birth, certified postpartum doula and Birthing From Within mentor. She is the wife to an outdoorsy family man and the mother to two exuberant young boys.