You would have thought I was planning a conference involving world leaders with the logistics that went into leaving my kids. (Surprisingly enough, the trip did actually fall during the UN summit!) You also could have gotten the impression I would be gone for weeks with the angst and hesitation I felt beforehand. It was actually right around 48 hours. To be fair, it was a major milestone: the first time leaving my baby. But she wasn’t six weeks–she was nine months old—and she is my second.
So why was it so hard?
I suffer from mom guilt when it comes to leaving my kids. If it’s after their bedtime, I’m the first to suggest a drink or dinner, but missing chunks of the day is a harder sell. I used to think it was because I worked full-time, but now I stay at home, see my kids plenty, and am still afflicted.
I know that quality time is more important than the quantity of time. I know that I need balance in my life, but the guilt still creeps in.
One big opportunity came in the form of a college friend’s wedding. I hadn’t seen the bride and many other friends in more than five years. Sadly, I say no to so many weddings because of distance, logistics, and cost. I had Christmas money burning in my pocket/bank account, and my in-laws were available to come help when my husband was at work. I could actually say yes!
Wait, I could actually say yes?
I was so excited, but tried to talk myself out of it on several different occasions for reasons that escape me now. Was it all too much to go? Would my baby start crawling or hit a big milestone while I was gone? Would I miss her too much (and vice versa)?
Sidenote: I should mention I knew I would miss my 3.5 year old too, but I was not anxious about leaving her. This is probably because I’ve left her before, she understands I’m coming back…oh, and the attitude she throws my direction on a daily basis!
Getting sick almost derailed my plans, but I made it to the airport in one piece, excited to fly! I didn’t even mind the security lines!
The Breastfeeding Factor
(If you aren’t nursing, skip this part…you’re doing great! No mom guilt! It’ll be even easier to travel!)
I probably wouldn’t have planned my first overnight trip away until I was done nursing, but the world doesn’t revolve around me–or my kids. (Always a good reminder!) Here were three of my biggest concerns and how it all played out:
Fear #1: My baby would no longer have interest in nursing when I returned.
A story from a friend stuck with me. She came back from a work trip only to find her baby had no interest in nursing anymore. Let me be clear that I think nine months is a wonderful amount of time to breastfeed, but I wanted to wean on my own terms. My daughter, Adrienne has been a good eater for a long time, and I’m happy to say she did not miss a beat with nursing when I returned.
Fear #2: She doesn’t really take a bottle.
Adrienne used to be a champ with taking a bottle, thanks in part to a NICU stay. When I no longer had to give her a bottle, I stopped–fewer dishes to do! I assumed she’d hang onto this skill, only to find out from my mom and a babysitter that she was not a fan. She is, however, good at a sippy cup and took breast milk from it. She also did take a bottle from my husband. I guess if you’re really hungry, you’re less picky.
I would be extremely physically uncomfortable
I left my first daughter at 4.5 months for two nights and was fairly miserable by the end of the weekend. Even though I was pumping at work, my body was not used to pumping that much in a row. Adrienne is older, so I had that going for me, but I was still dreading that feeling. I did end up with a plugged duct about 30ish hours into the trip, and of course I was at the wedding when it started to bother me. It was uncomfortable, but not as painful as my first experience. Tylenol and distraction helped. Luckily, it went away with nursing and some warm compresses as soon as I got back.
My only travel tip would be to build time in your itinerary to pump. I’ve flown with a baby before and knew to allow time then, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me with flying solo and pumping. As Mary wrote in her article on pumping while traveling, many airports have lovely nursing rooms, but you actually have to have time to find them. Instead, I tried to discreetly/awkwardly pump in the corner of the terminal while keeping an eye on my boarding flight. It seemed better than pumping on the plane, but lesson learned!
Shockingly, in the moment, it did not feel like a big deal to be gone. I was busy catching up with friends and didn’t let myself really tap into emotions when thinking about the girls.
It felt normal, and I did not feel guilty. In fact, I wondered why I was so hesitant about it all in the first place.
If you are nervously contemplating leaving your baby/toddler for the first time soon, just do it. You’ll prove to yourself that you can still be a person outside of a parent, and your child will be fine. Plus, as I told myself a ton, babies need to learn to trust other people as caregivers. This was a wonderful opportunity for my husband to bond even more with Adrienne. We’ve both noticed that since the trip, she reaches for him a lot more often. I’m guessing he also appreciates even more what I do on a daily basis. That combined with the fun I had celebrating a marriage and reuniting however briefly with old friends? A win-win if I’ve ever heard one.
Go ahead–leave the guilt behind and enjoy your trip away!