On my post "Nighttime parenting and the right attitude," Holly of Make everyday meaningful asked:
"Have you even needed to (or wanted to) leave for the night? romantic get a way, girls night out, etc. How did you deal with being away for a night?"
My answer is, I haven't yet!
I can explain a little about my choice and circumstances, but then I thought I'd open it up to you to give your thoughts in the comments.
I think this is a subject that means a lot to attachment parents, and particularly those who are breastfeeding, because it opens up all sorts of concerns and questions. When you're used to parenting or nursing your children to sleep, how will they cope without you, even for one bedtime or one overnight? And even if they could do fine, do you want to leave them when they're young? At what age do you start feeling comfortable with the idea, and for how long could you be separated? If you don't leave your children, do you start feeling trapped — or, conversely, if you don't want to leave your children overnight, do you start feeling criticism from people in your social circle who don't understand your choice? The answers are probably different for each parent.
Here are the answers that were given in the comments on that post (and if I missed anyone, let me know):
"In response to a prior commenter, speaking for my own situation, my husband CAN put my baby down with a bottle. This is necessary sometimes because I have to attend night meetings here and there - I work in local government. So girl's nights out are technically possible, although I admit, I am usually too tired to bother with going out and partying!" — Inder-ific of Inder Loves Folk Art
"To the commenter asking about going out at night -- well, for a long time, I just didn't, and was fine with that. I treasure my downtime at home in the evenings -- going out just was not a big priority for me. Eventually all my girls were able to be put to bed (and soothed through wakeups) by Daddy, which is freeing but took some time. The stress just wasn't worth pushing it. We have never been away from our girls at night yet (at age 4 and 2 years old) and though we are starting to think about it, we still don't feel ready. There will be so many years for that down the line, these early years are just so fleeting!" — Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings
So, here are my experiences and my thoughts, and then I'll open up the floor.
I haven't personally left Mikko overnight since he was born three years ago, and I haven't had anyone else put him to bed. (This is our personal experience, not advice I'm giving out here.) I'm sure, in a pinch, his father could, but we haven't had that pinch.
I guess that's kind of the point — there hasn't been a real need for anyone else to put him down, and no need for me to leave him. Until recently. But more on that in a minute.
Mikko's bedtime is late. Like, really late. We have that luxury because we work from home and don't have a great deal of scheduling shenanigans to deal with. So Sam and I can take date nights and get home at 10 and still put Mikko to bed ourselves. That said, we don't do that much, because he gets pretty cranky the later we're out — and, frankly, he gets pretty cranky being left at all. We have babysat for other kids, through our babysitting co-op, who couldn't care less that their parents are dropping them off with near-strangers — who laugh derisively at separation anxiety — and then there's our little guy. He can be left with babysitters and his aunt or his grandmas, but even when I leave him with his father, there's some sadness. When we drop him off with people he's not familiar with, there's a kind of blank despair. We're still having our issues with taking him to his half-day preschool twice a week. At this very moment, Mikko is sitting next to me as I write, because he wouldn't stay downstairs and play with his (willing) father. He's just a homebody who loves being near his parents, and me especially.
I don't blame him for that, though, or worry about it. Because I was exactly the same way. I totally understand his desire to be where he's comfortable, and I remember the keen anxiety I would experience when I was separated from my parents, even well into elementary school.
This is not to say that I think I shouldn't ever leave him (we do) or that he won't grow gradually more used to being left (he will). It's just that we tailor our parenting to his own particular needs, and I'm not comfortable, with this particular child, with leaving him overnight at this point.
It's funny, because Sam and I went on barely any dates alone our first year or so with Mikko, and everyone was offering, especially Sam's nanny sister. But we just couldn't figure out how to swing it. Mikko was nursing constantly and we hadn't taught him to take a bottle; how could I leave him hungry? Even when we did occasionally go out for a couple hours in the afternoon here and there, I would end up so engorged and uncomfortable. Plus I was thinking about him the whole time we were gone! It was just easier on all of us to stay together. So we did. Sam and I have always gone on plenty of "dates" — with baby in tow. We never felt that having a baby or breastfeeding meant we had to be confined to home, so we went out frequently. Yes, we had to choose our destinations based on what was baby-friendly — and, as he grew (more mobile), those restrictions changed again. But our tastes run to the family-friendly, anyway, and Sam and I, for the most part, have no problems amusing ourselves at science museums, outdoor concerts, casual restaurants, outdoor rambles, and movies on the wall, and skipping out on whatever doesn't work so well for little kids.
Once Mikko was drinking from a cup, I tried pumping milk for him to take with him to preschool and for babysitters — but he never drank it. He always just wanted to wait for me to return. So, with that and the fact that he still nurses to sleep and during sleep, I just have chosen not to stay away overnight yet. Sam will now take Mikko out during the day for up to eight or so hours at a time (we trade off childcare and work time), so clearly he can handle the hour amount of an overnight separation, but I don't feel confident that he would do well being left at night — or even having me leave him for that long. It's a little different if he's out having fun rather than the other way around.
And now that we can leave him for dates, wouldn't you know it: No one's offering babysitting anymore. That's why we started the co-op, because apparently people only wanted to sit for a cuddly baby, not so much a toddler or preschooler. Or, for some people, maybe it's just that they gave up offering since we used to turn them down.
(All right, full disclosure, I've now escaped to Tully's so I could write in peace! So, see, Sam and I do get out, either alone or together.)
Anyway, I've had two opportunities to leave him overnight recently and turned them both down. The first was BlogHer, the blogging conference taking place right now in New York City. I knew if I went I would be super busy with the conference itself, but then what were my options? I could go alone, and leave Mikko for the weekend, which didn't appeal to me. I could go with Mikko and Sam, but that would leave them to amuse themselves throughout the conference (which they could do, it being NYC and all) — but that would be expensive and sounded exhausting for all three of us.
Then a dear friend of mine sent me an invitation to her final vows to become a sister, and I was torn once again. Could I go by myself? I looked into red-eye flights that might deposit me in the right place in the morning and allow me to leave again in the evening, but the schedules didn't work that way. I would have had to be away for probably two nights at the least. The prices were very high, inordinately high, when I looked for tickets, so the idea of bringing all three of us was too expensive. But that left bringing just Mikko and relying on unfamiliar childcare for any events where he was not welcome — how would that work out?
So those are my stories. I've so far chosen not to leave Mikko overnight, and for the most part I've been content with that decision. Sure, every once in awhile, I have a pang of nostalgia for those old days of traveling on the fly, or a sense of missing out on something fabulous. But I figure: There will be time for adventurous and solo traveling later. Nothing was so urgent that I had to go. Children are young for only a relatively short time, and my needs can wait. I say that not in a martyr sense but in a peaceful one, because it's true. Really true.
That said, I can see circumstances (and have seen, in friends' experiences) where the variables are different. You might need to travel somewhere, such as for a family emergency or a work trip. You might have a schedule that demands more of you than mine does of me. Your children might not be as anxious about separation. You might, quite simply, just want more space.
So I want to hear:
- How do you deal with overnight separations from your child(ren)?
- Is there someone else who can put your child(ren) to bed, and how did you work that out?
- At what age did you first leave overnight?
- What are your thoughts on what the right age is to first leave child(ren) overnight?
- Do you have any tips for parents who need to do so?
I have a few guidelines before we start: While you're welcome to say, as I have, that you have chosen not to leave your kids overnight at a certain age, please be respectful of those who have made a different choice by not making blanket statements about what is "right" in that respect. There are many reasons someone might need to or want to leave their kids, and many different child personality types and potential attachments to other relatives and friends, so what doesn't work for one family might work fine for another. On the flip side, if you do leave your kids, please don't judge those who choose not to, for the same reasons but in reverse. I know you guys are marvelous, though, and don't need coaching. I just wanted to make sure any trolls know to stay away, and I want to make sure any readers who ask questions are given respectful answers. Thanks in advance!