Alone Again Or…

June 21, 2006

My daughter is 17 months old, and I have spent a grand total of two nights away from her.

So I’m wondering: does that seem pathetic? Normal? Somewhere in between?

The first time was just after her first birthday, which falls two days after my wedding anniversary. We were visiting family in Los Angeles, where we threw her a big first birthday bash. The day after the party, we left our girl with my parents and drove off to Laguna Beach, where we had dinner and spent the night at a lovely beachfront hotel.

All our conversation revolved around her, of course, and we couldn’t help but wonder and worry: was she happy? Was she crying? Would she eat well and fall asleep without a problem, or would she cry all night because of our absence?

The next morning, we woke up early, had breakfast and raced back to my parents’ house, only to find our girl happily crawling in the kitchen, examining the contents of the cabinets.

Total time away: 16 hours.
The second rendezvous was a couple of weekends ago. This time, we left Maya with my parents and headed to Huntington Beach, the scene of our very first date more than nine years ago. We stayed at a swank waterfront hotel, had burgers and fries at a diner at the end of the pier, admired the scenery and capped off the evening by dressing up and having drinks at a beachside bar.

The next morning we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and made our way back to my parents’ house at about noon. They reported that while Maya had been somewhat subdued and melancholy after we left and wouldn’t eat dinner, she slept well and woke up happy.

The smile on her face when we came home was all the justification anyone could ever need for becoming a mommy.

Total time away: 21 hours.

Our family is 400 miles away, and our closest friends are 100 miles from us. Which means we don’t get much support when it comes to caring for our child, and we hardly ever get any time alone as a couple.

When we’re down in Los Angeles, it’s wonderful to have grandparents, aunts and cousins hanging on Maya’s every move, relieving us from our parental duties long enough to eat a meal or just have an uninterrupted adult conversation.

Here in Sacramento, we’ve had friends and neighbors offer to babysit, but other than a couple of nights when we had someone hang out after Maya went to bed so we could catch a movie or a concert, we just haven’t felt comfortable taking anyone up on it.

I guess my fear is that she will cry or be unhappy and just make the sitter miserable. If she cries for my mom, I know she will still love her the same; if she is a banshee for the neighbors, I’m afraid they’ll think, “What a nightmare this kid is!” and start avoiding us.

What about you, fellow MotherTalkers? How much time have you spent away from your kids? Any tips on cultivating a local support network without fear or guilt?