For the parents, grandparents, and primary teachers in the hallway with little ones: I feel your pain.
There’s that moment when all of the classroom doors close and it’s suddenly silent, and there you are, sitting on a couch in the foyer. It’s easy to feel completely alone in these moments. But before you pack up your treats and toys and head home, there are a few things you can do to make your hallway experience more meaningful and less painful.
- Reach out to other parents stuck in the hallway with their kids. If you’re feeling lonely, they probably are, too. You never know how meaningful reaching out can be.
- If you have a chance, read the scriptures or a conference talk on your phone while your noisy 1-year-old plays with toys.
- Volunteer to help in nursery. It will give your kiddo interaction with other kids, and you’ll be able to talk to the other leaders.
- Take shifts with your spouse. Depending on your husband or wife’s calling, you might be able to take turns. It’s much less isolating to be in the hallway for an hour than all of church.
- Look for spiritual opportunities elsewhere. When you’re a young parent, church is about teaching your children correct habits. If church feels like a zoo, find time later in the day and throughout the week to grow your testimony.
I was a new mom of a six month old, in a new ward full of friendly, but unknown faces. While I attempted taking her to Sunday School and Relief Society, it usually ended in my baby screaming, babbling, or laughing so loudly that everyone in my half of the room couldn’t hear the instructor. I had to take her out to the hallway.
This became especially prevalent around 10 or 12 months, when my little one was waddling and in need of constant entertainment. The golden age of nursery (18 months) was still months away. When you’re still saying your baby’s age in months, looking forward to nursery feels like talking about her going off to college: it’s far enough away that I can just kind of forget about it until the day arrives.
In the meantime, I lived in the hallway. Entertainment ranged from snacks to toys to letting my toddler waddle-jog down the hall, while I kept her away from the classrooms so she wouldn’t get smacked by a swinging door.
We tried everything: taking breaks outside (she tried to eat the rocks), playing with other kids in the corner of the class (she stole all the other toys and caused toddler drama), rocking her to sleep (impossible).
Finally, I half-heartedly accepted my hallway fate. It was pretty lonely and quiet out there, besides the other parents desperately trying to entertain their little ones. Even then, it felt like there wasn’t much room for interaction over the shouts and struggles of dealing with a kid.
Why Should Parents Bother?
One particularly rowdy Sunday, I gave up and brought my little girl home. Maybe she had a runny nose or maybe she sneezed once and I jumped at the first chance of leaving. Either way, there we were, sitting on our couch at home instead of the floral couch at the church. I watched a conference talk, and then we colored and she went down for a nap at her actual nap time. It was actually kind of great. “Do I really need to be there the last two hours?” I asked myself. “What am I getting out of church anyways?”
I’ve never really been tempted to ditch church, but my one-year-old now had me in that position. It’s so difficult to go to church when you spend all 3 hours struggling with a little one during their nap time.
I pondered it a little, but knew that I should still go every week. There are other parents in the hallway, and it’s not like I have some special permission to head home just because it’s a little more comfortable.
I decided that if I was going to stick it out and be a Hallway Warrior, I’d better actually try to enjoy it. So, I made two commitments:
- I would talk to another mom in the hallway or in class (if I made it there).
- I’d open up my phone’s Gospel Library app and read a talk from the last general conference while my little one played with toys. And I’d actually comprehend what I’m reading, so when my husband asked “how was church?” I could share something I learned.
The next week I stayed all three hours, even if my girl sneezed. I followed through with my commitments and guess what? Church was a little better. I kept this up until my daughter was 16 months. Then she headed into Nursery a little early since her dad was a leader. Score.
In the end, I enjoyed the hallway. I taught my daughter that the big painting at the entrance was a picture of Jesus. I learned more about my new ward members. Most importantly, I learned that if Heavenly Father wants me to be at all 3 hours, that’s where I belong. Some weeks were great while others were “learning experiences.” But it was an important bonding time with my daughter. Now, my girl is old enough to look forward to church. I don’t have to get her back in the habit of weekly church because we never gave the habit up (even if it was a close call).
Reassurance for Hallway Warriors
Elder Holland recently compared our church congregations to a choir, saying that the variety of voices are all necessary to make a beautiful song.
“There’s room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments.”
Yes, the hallways are lonely. But they also need you: to connect with others, teach your children about Christ, and maybe even have a spiritual experience along the way.