Last month the husbster and I went away for the first time since our son was born. Just the two of us. Up until that point we had left our son behind as we had gone on dates around town, my husband had gone away for a couple of days on an annual canoe trip with his brother, and we had all gone out of town together.
But this was different.
Hubbaloo and I actually left the baby, and the State of Maryland, and flew to Florida for three entire days.
As I’m sure you’d expect, leaving baby for the first time was incredibly difficult for me.
And if you’re planning on leaving your baby for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you were a bit anxious.
For me, I was really excited and looking forward to spending some quality time with my husband with all the time in the world (you know – three days worth) to just focus on him and on us. Because everything in our lives seemed to revolve so heavily around our son. And even though we’re in a much better place than those early days when I was nearly always annoyed at him, we still needed some undivided time for us.
But in addition to being excited to sleep in, have a schedule that wasn’t dictated by nap time, and getting to enjoy my husband’s company, I was also incredibly anxious.
I tend to be someone who can spiral into worst-case-scenarios pretty easily, so being a plane ride away for our very first overnight trip away from our son – probably not the greatest idea.
Also, going away for several days on our first trip away? Probably not the best way to ease in, either.
So here’s some of what I learned:
The good stuff
Having some time away, whether alone, with friends, or with your significant other is a good thing.
You may be saying, “duh, Sarah” (do people even still say duh?), but here me out. If you’re anything like me, being lost to yourself can because pretty easy when you’re a new mom. Having an entire identity that is built around another person can be a blessing, but also something that you need to step away from sometimes. Having that time away from my son, as brutal as it was at times, was also really nice. I could talk and engage with things and topics that interested me. I could have conversations with my husband without being distracted by a toddler who is once again running away or playing with something he shouldn’t. I didn’t need to be in mom mode.
Having trustworthy caregivers is such a blessing
The fact that we are fortunate enough to have caregivers that we can trust our son with is such an incredible blessing. I am very much aware of that.
And if we didn’t have people we could trust so much that we were willing to leave our greatest gift with them so that we could leave the state, well, we just wouldn’t have gone.
I knew that our son was in good hands while we were gone. And I also knew that we had left them prepared with emergency contacts, our son’s routine, pre-planned meals and meal ideas, as well as general tips about his bedtime routine and preferences.
These days, my sleep schedule is usually dictated, at least in part, by my son’s sleep schedule. I don’t always go to sleep as early as I should, but you better believe I’ll be getting up by the time my son is awake. Which is earlier than I’d personally prefer. During our trip, leaving baby for the first time meant grabbing some extra sleep, which was wonderful and rejuvenating.
And let’s face it, when you’re not exhausted from work, and parenting, and general life there may be more time and energy for other bed time activities with your husband too…
The hard stuff
Missing your kid might be more intense than you expected
I have anxiety, so admittedly, my experience may contain a more intense physical reaction than your own. But for me, I would hit a point in the evening each night that I would be overwhelmed by the distance between me and my son. So overwhelmed, that I even had a couple of panic attacks.
I don’t say that to worry you, but really just to be candid about how the distance impacted me personally.
I definitely expected to miss my son. I expected to cry a couple of times, and to want to FaceTime with him, and to pull out my phone at points either to take pictures or videos that he would be amused by or just to scroll through the massive number of pictures of images of him stored there. But I didn’t expect the panic attacks.
Thankfully, I was prepared with access to my Headspace app and my prescription of Xanax.
But the key here is just to be mindful and to be prepared. You will likely miss your kid even more than you expect to (and yes, I do know that sounds impossible before you leave your baby for the first time).
Distance makes a difference
When leaving baby for the first time, I wish I have really grasped what being several states away from my son would do to my head. Because I didn’t really think much about the fact that being a 2 hour plane ride versus a 3-4 hour drive would be so drastically different. Knowing how far apart we were if the worst were to happen, and knowing that I would be totally and completely reliant on flights and weather and who-knows-what-else once we were in Florida, really did a number on my separation anxiety. And honestly, I wish we had stuck a little closer to home for our first time leaving our baby.
Number of days makes a difference
In the same way the distance between me and my baby made a big difference to how well I coped, the number of days we were gone also played a big impact. When we first booked our flights I thought, 3 days isn’t so long! But once we were gone, it felt like an eternity.
Tips based on our experience
Leaving baby for the first time is great, but it can also be really, really, REALLY difficult. So, if I were to do it all again, here are some things that I would try to do:
Go on an overnight trip (1 night) close to home before leaving the state.
I honestly think our 3 day trip to Florida was wonderful, but I wish it hadn’t been our first trip away from our son. I think a multi-night trip out of town would have been better suited for the second or third time away from our son. Not our first.
Schedule a time to call your kid if necessary
For the most part, we knew we would be able to call my in-laws in order to be able to FaceTime with our son. But if we had a busy schedule while we were away, or if our son’s caregivers were going to have a difficult time being available at regular times, then we would have been scheduling our phone calls around our son’s bedtime or dinner time. And even if you don’t have to schedule a time to talk, sometimes its still a nice thing to do so that you know you’ll be seeing your baby’s face or hearing their voice at a particular time. Which provide you with a bit of comfort when you’re leaving baby for the first time.
Stay within driving distance
I really wish we had stayed within driving distance for our first trip away from our son. The flight from Maryland to Florida is relatively short, but knowing that we would be at the whim of airlines rather than our own ability to hop into a car and get home if something happened to our son was hard. Really hard. As if just leaving our baby for the first time wasn’t difficult enough.
If your kid is in daycare, go on your trip so that at least part of the time they still attend daycare
I know this can be difficult if you work for a company and you’re low on vacation time, but it really gave me a lot of piece to know that my son’s routine was at least somewhat in tact when I was gone.
Make sure you have paperwork for your caregivers
My husband was so much better at getting this organized, but he found a caregiver authorization sheet for his parents to have while we were gone. The gist of the paper is information authorizing the person caring for your child (in our case it was my in-laws) to make medical decisions in the event of an emergency. It contains general information, the signatures of the child’s parents (you) and a start and end date (so the power is only granted to the people watching your child for the timeframe you provide).
Meal prep or create a list of meal ideas
I pre-made a bunch of different meals for my toddler and had them packed up and ready for daycare before we left. Also, I had purchased food he would be willing to eat and gave my in-laws a list of foods that we had along with simple ideas. I prepped as much food as I could to simplify their time together.
Give your caregiver a simple list of instructions/tips along with important contact information.
Along with the paperwork we gave to my in-laws with authorization to make medical decisions, I also made a simple form and put it on the fridge. It had critical contact information (such as poison control and his pediatrician), a general schedule (including naptime and bedtime), meal ideas, and general information about the house and information about feeding our dogs.
You can grab the printable copy of the sheet when you sign up for access to the Resource Library.
Allow for some flexibility
When leaving baby for the first time, you’ll have to accept (whether you want to or not), that things will not be done exactly the way you would do things while you’re away. The best you can do is to trust the people you’re leaving your kid with, accept that they may do some things different than the way you’d prefer, but also acknowledge that your child is resilient. Also, take a deep breathe and remind yourself that, if your chosen caregiver goes off script a little bit (say, with the sleep schedule) and your child terrorizes them for it, well, you told them so ?