I remember when Eli was a few months old and my boss asked me if I wanted to go away to a continuing education course. It would’ve been awesome for my job, but I gasped in horror at the suggestion (which was thankfully over email). The idea of leaving my (then) 4-month-old overnight was unthinkable to me, and so I politely declined and said I’d reconsider the next time it was offered. And when the opportunity came around again this year, I couldn’t refuse. So earlier this month, I left Eli overnight for the first time. I know plenty of parents reach this milestone significantly earlier than I did, but I simply wasn’t ready before then. And even at 16 months, it was even harder on me than I imagined.
I knew that two days and nights away would be tough on both Eli and I, so I went out of my way to make this experience as painless for both of us as possible. Since I had never been down this road before, I consulted some veteran parents for tips, and these are the things that really worked for us. Here are some of the tips that helped me:
8 Tips for Leaving Baby Overnight 1 of 9
Click through for tips to make time away easier on everyone!
Pick someone responsible and familiar to watch the baby 2 of 9
This part was easy for us, since my husband was able to stay home while I was gone. However, we have twice now had evening events where we couldn't be home to put Eli to bed, and both times, we chose my mom to watch him. She's responsible and Eli loves her, so it was easier on both of them. Make sure that whoever watches your child is going to respect your wishes about how things are done and that your child will feel comfortable being with them, even in the middle of the night, if necessary.
Write the schedule/routine down 3 of 9
We don't have a strictly timed schedule, but we have routines that are important to us and to Eli. So before I left (and not because my husband is inept, but because I do the bedtime routine each night), I wrote down what I normally do, so my husband at least knew the timeline. The times my dad or mom have watched Eli (which is what this picture is of), we gave a more detailed schedule for meals, playtime, bath, bed, etc. so that both Eli and whoever was with him knew how to make the night run smoothly.
Keep everything as "normal" as possible 4 of 9
This is the benefit of preserving routines. I wasn't able to be there, but Eli knew what was going to happen in my absence. By making sure that at least the most basic parts of routines were kept, he knew what to expect and it made it easier on both my husband and Eli. Too many changes at once are harder on everyone.
Talk to your child (even if they seem too young to understand) 5 of 9
I know that Eli doesn't understand everything I say, but I took some time the days before to tell him that I was going to be gone and dad was going to watch him. Before bed the night I left, I told him I'd see him in 2 days. Even if he only understood a fraction, at least it wasn't a complete surprise.
Don’t sneak away 6 of 9
This is a personal rule I have and I made sure that I followed it carefully for this occasion. Sometimes it's tempting to sneak away because in the short term, there may be fewer tears, but personally, I think it tends to breed mistrust on some level. I'd rather Eli see me leave and hear that I'm coming back later, than realize and not have any idea what's going on.
Check in as needed 7 of 9
When my mom watched Eli and put him to bed for the first time, I felt a little silly texting to check in, but it made me feel better to hear that things were going well and he was asleep without a fuss. Don't punish yourself if you don't need to. Check in — it'll make everyone feel better.
Use technology to your advantage 8 of 9
I think one of the greatest advantages of parenting in 2013 is technology. While I was away, my husband and I set up Skype so I could see and talk to Eli. Getting to see when he realized it was me and having him give me kisses through the computer was exactly what I needed. It was nice to be able to see and hear my son and realize that he was doing great, even without me.
Try to relax 9 of 9
This (and missing Eli fiercely) was the toughest part for me. Being away from my son was hard and I had a hard time letting go. But once I did, it was kind of nice to have a few days to myself and get some quiet time. Now that I'm home, I'm not ready to leave again anytime soon, but I think the time away did all of us some good.
What do you do to help ease the transition when you are away from your kids?