Friday, July 23, 2010


North is nearing two years old and I still haven’t spent a night without him. I can’t imagine doing so anytime soon. As for the days, I happily leave him for two hours twice a week at the gym creche while I take a yoga class or pop over to the cafe for a coffee and a bit of a breather before getting some errands done. He knows the girls that work there well, and he enjoys having a free play with the other children. I’m also happy to leave him for longer periods of time with his grandparents or with close friends in my Mother’s group who I trust and know he feels comfortable and secure with.

But this weekend has presented a bit of a bump in the previously gentle and mindful childcare settings I have immersed him in. Through his business, my husband and I are meant to entertain another couple at the footy game and none of my usual childcare settings are available, which has left only one other option: a babysitter. There is a lovely girl who sits some children we see around the neighbourhood and throughout the week at various activities, who is more than willing to help out. The plan being that she will arrive at home while North is down for his nap, and when he wakes up she will play with him, perhaps take him to the park and start getting his dinner ready. Overall she will be spending about 4-5 hours with him before we arrive in time to read a book, have a cuddle and put him off to bed.

But something just doesn’t feel right about this plan. I am mulling and stressing over it and am surprisingly emotional about the whole thing. Am I being a crazy, pregnant overbearing parent or is there more to these feelings? I just hate the idea of him waking from his nap to a girl he hardly knows and having to “brave it out” for 3-4 hours. I hate the pressure and expectation for him to grow up, to force him to act older than his age in situations like this. It feels cruel to put him in a situation like this without choice and understanding. I know he won’t cry the entire time. I know that he’ll be upset at first, he’ll become distracted after 5-15 minutes and then play with the sitter for a little while somewhat contentedly. But I also know he will be up and down emotionally, he will be extra sensitive the entire afternoon and will most likely get upset and cry for mama more than he usually does. I know that he will try, in the most brave and admirable way to be strong while he tries to figure out where we've gone and when we're coming back. But that's just it, most of all, I hate that he doesn’t have the mental and emotional capacity to understand why this drastic change in routine is taking place. I am afraid a feeling of abandonment will maim his little soul. It just feels so unfair and selfish- why should I put him through it? I am now in this very moment crying and I can’t tell if it’s because I am heavily pregnant, emotionally holding onto something that I should be letting go of, or because I really am a crazy clingy cancerian mama.

Why do other mothers seem so much more able to let go when it comes to childcare for their little ones? What is the right thing to do in this situation- follow my heart, or my head?



Rebecca The Greeniac said...

Wow. I have no advice to offer you, but am really impressed at how much you care about what your child feels. I think my mother would have locked me in a room and thrown away the key if she thought she could have gotten away with it.

It seems obvious to me that North must know how dearly he is treasured.

Vic said...

Oh I so understand where you are coming from. I'm not sure that I could do the plan that you've proposed, especially leaving while he's asleep. I know that isn't very helpful, but it's honest. Do you have to go? I'm not a Mother that can leave her children with just anyone and the boys have never been with anyone but family without us for an extended period of time. I desperately wanted to write a 'oh, he'll be fine, go and enjoy yourself' comment, but that would not be at all honest. How would you be for that afternoon, enjoying yourself or worrying for the whole time? Could just your husband go and use an illness or something for your absence? Go with your heart, always. He's only little still and will be for only such a short time. Massive hugs, it's not easy. Vic xx

Bending Birches said...

hi love- i know what you mean. My boy is only 1, not as old as yours, and I haven't left him at night ever, just like you. People in my family can't believe "how I'm tied down", but I embrace it. I love sleeping next to him...his smell, his warmth.I know that he needs me, esp. when he wakes up from a nap.
It sounds like this girl from your neighborhood has made a good impression on you....
You have considered your son's feelings far as the majority of mama's I know, this is sort of hard to come by. I have a few friends who I feel are "really on the same page" as far as thinking and consideration...and the others seem to be constantly looking for their next break away from the kids.
Today is my mother's 50th birthday...she couldn't get off of work, so our family hired a "chicken lady" to enter the kitchen of the fine dining restaurant she works in, and embarrass the heck out of her. This is taking place at 9:30...during bedtime for little one. family members (without children, mind you) have been throwing ideas at me all day ("give him a longer afternoon nap", "take him with you" ??, etc.) but it's hard for them to understand. I think of him waking up without me, looking around the darkened room and wondering where I am. this will be on my mind all night's almost not worth it to me.
On the other side of the token, I am SURE that your beautiful little boy has a trust fr you like no've been there for him, comforting him, holding him, laughing with him, nourishing him....I think he will know that you will return!!! And that will be a sweet moment for both of you:)
sorry if this didn't help much- I am always glad to read the musings of thoughtful mamas, such as yourself:)

LJ said...

I will say something similar to Vic. I don't think it is what you want to hear - but it is honest. I don't think I could leave my children with a baby sitter that they don't know well - know matter how good or kind or wonderful she is. I am leaving my girls for the first time ever this weekend and although they are with their Dad & their grandparents...I am still nervous.

My girls have only really been left with very close friends they know well, or my parents.

I have always had people tell me that I should start sending my girls to daycare or leaving them more often with others as it builds their confidence etc etc. But I look at them at KNOW that they were not ready. I know my children and I trust me instincts. I don't care if people call me a clingy or overprotective mother...

if it doesn't feel right...don't do it.

I am sorry if this is not what you want to hear.

Mrs B said...

I'm another to say go with your heart. I havent left Little B with anyone other than my mum or at kindy. But I also wouldnt be comfortable leaving him asleep to wake up to someone he doesnt know very well.

It would be very confusing. They dont quite have the capacity to understand where you went and when / if you'll come back.

But if you have to attend these plans then start trying to talk it through with him. Even though they dont quite understand, I believe it helps to verbalise a few things for them.

Leave him some "special" photos of you and your hubby for him to access easily all day. When I first started leaving Little B with my mum for long periods, he carried around a laminated picture of me and him. Along with his nightime lovey toy, my mum tells me this gave him the most comfort.

Also any chance the babysitter could come by earlier so he could meet her and have a little play / acclimatise to her?

You are a great attached mum and you will not do a lifetime's worth of damage in this one instance. But I totally understand where you are coming from - I stress / worry / obsess about the same things and Little B is 3. It's about being a mum - you just have to be comfortable with what you are doing.

Also dont hesitate to cry off the event with a health excuse (being heavily pregnant is a great one :-) My DH runs his own business also but he also understood that I wouldnt be "helpful" for business if I spent the whole time stressing about Little B.

eliza said...

You all are saps!!! :)

As a gal who will one day be a mother of the tough-love variety, I think it's really good to leave him home with somebody new. It will socialize him, which is a huge life skill: exploring new people. It will be good for him. He can handle it! I used to have sooo much fun with my babysitters that I'd be depressed when my parents came home and the babysitter had to go. The first time will be tough, but it's worth doing once, right? ONE time won't ruin him.

It's a grown up's world, we make the rules. Not our kids. If kids made the rules, they'd grow up to be lousy people. Go to the event, have a ball, and know that the babysitter WILL call you if something isn't right!

You're fabulous and deserve a night off!!!

Much love.

angelina said...

hi love - my son is two and i have never left him. i would feel just as you..however my sister has a son the same age who has been in daycare since day 20 of his life, she is a busy nurse with a degree etc and her son is so adjusted and thriving in it it seems. kids are 'tougher' than we softy moms think, so do what you have to do this time and see how it goes. and pick up on how YOU are feeling so ifyou want him to do ok and be calm then you do the same. xxxx

willywagtail said...

I am with you all the way. I was extrememly lucky in that I didn't have to leave my children with strangers ever and only overnighters with friends when THEY were ready. Is it possible for your son to maybe meet with the babysitter for half an hour before hand or for her to come earlier but you still put him to bed. Cherrie

Bianca said...

We're yet to have babies of our own so I am not sure how much weight my comment will have, but the more I reflect on growing up and the person I've become, I've realised, many of the 'bad' experiences I've had have shaped me into the person I am today more so than have the good. And as backwards as it sounds, that is a good thing. I am an independent, intuitive, confident, reasonably well adjusted person. In so many ways it comes back to the butterfly in the chrysalis argument. We need that struggle and that little bit of hardship to shape us and make us stand (or fly) on our own.

Ask yourself –do you feel that he will be safe? If your anxiety is coming from fear that he will be in an unsafe situation, trust your instincts and never doubt it. Don’t leave him.

But if your fear is only that he will be a little unsettled and emotionally insecure, then know that he’ll be fine. Better than fine, he will need that period of adjustment and all the emotions that come with it in order to allow him to develop confidence and independence within himself.


Julie said...

Yes, I have to agree with some of the other comments, in that I have never left any of my girls in the car of others, even family, while they are asleep. I feel it's too disorienting & potentially distressing for them, and you are right in that a) he will be clingy afterwards because of it and b) you will worry the whole time you are away instead of enjoying the occasion. I feel there needs to be a transition period where he can wave you off after you've explained you'll be back soon, even if it means disrupting his usual nap time, although if you can work around that, all the better. Good luck, and have fun!

dixiebelle said...

Yes, you are more emotional about this, being PG, but also because you might have underlying feelings about the big adjustment coming along soon, when the new baby arrives. It's perfectly normal to cry and be anxious about all of this... go with it, sook and cry and work through it.

Giving lots of explanation and reassurance and run down on what is likely to happen, is what helped me & my children to get through things like this. Keep repeating some of the same parts over & over in the lead up to the day, ie. "...then once you've played with *babysitter* and she gets you some of your favourite dinner, Mummy & Daddy will be home to kiss you good night!!" (Don't set it up to def. be there for bath time or story time, in case for some reason you run late).

And sometimes, the thinking about it beforehand is way more worriesome than the actual event!

Can you have a 'trial run' beforehand? Arrange for the babysitter to come on a different day, play a little at home, take him to the park, then come back shortly after & you are still right there at home where they left you? Help ease the seperation anxiety on the day?

Agree with Julie, a transition period to ease him into it, rather than he wakes up & you're not there.

Other mothers are not you... you can only go through what you need to, and no one can force you to be a 'tough' mother, or a 'guiltfree' mother. Alot of the times, those mum's are sooking on the inside!!

Christina said...

Cohen is 19 months old, and we have only ever left him with family and only for a few hours maximum at a time. I hope to wait until Cohen is old enough to ask for a sleep over before leaving him anywhere overnight. Even my husband finds this difficult to understand.

The longest time I was away from Cohen, friends with children his age who work full time and whose children are in full time child care, laughed at me and said I was 'cute' when I expressed my concern at being away from him.

I guess it is each to their own. But if your not comfortable and there is a way out of it, I would be taking it.

All the best.

Madkap said...

Would it not be better to have her come round before he goes off on his nap so he understands that she's in the house, and that Mama and Dada are ok with her being there?

This should make it easier for him when he wakes to cope and adjust - not such a shock to the system.

Twig and Toadstool said...

Oh sweet mama...I would listen to that inner voice...leaving your son with a relative "stranger" goes against your primal mothering instincts, (as it should)!
I know mamas out there sometimes have to make these decisions out of neccessity, but really, if it's not do or die, then find some way to get out of it, and enjoy your peace of mind!
Good luck sweet lady!
xo maureen

Mama Mogantosh said...

Look, I hear you - the first time we left Ivy and Ted with anybody other than Nanna or Pop for a few hours was on our wedding night - and only because all of the family were actually attending the wedding and we had to look outside the gang.

They were FINE - had a great time. I think North will be too. It's not overnight, or anything too full-on. You can prep him beforehand and have lots of toys and familiar things- maybe even some new special fun things you can get him excited about beforehand.

You know, the worst that might happen, really, is that he gets really really upset about you being gone, and the babysitter rings you to come home. It's unlikely,but even then- he won't be permanently damaged!

I say give yourself some credit for raising a well-adjusted, securely-attached child who can play for a few hours with someone else.

But I do agree with the others about not leaving when he's asleep - that's starts things off scary for him. if you have to, get the babysitter to arrive before he goes down.

Good luck!


Emma said...

Megan, there is no right or wrong. You are the one that knows North the best and it is your decision.

If it was my daughter, I would try to excuse myself from the event but if that wasn't possible my second choice would be to get the sitter to come early so that she's there when she goes to sleep. That way she won't wake up to a complete stranger.

It's not ideal, but sometimes life needs to be lived by the 90/10 rule. All your hard work won't be undone in a few hours.

But...listen to your instincts cause you will regret it if you don't.

Sonia said...

I'm with Eliza on this one.

I was lucky that one of the kindy carers became a carer for families at home. My children know her and I trust her and her mother (who still works at the kindy).

The thing is, it certainly wasn't all an accident. I invited the carer over for a couple of hours during the day while I was around. Then I got her to stay with the kids for a couple of hours while I was out of the house. Only then did I attempt a few hours at night and she would go through the bedtime routine with them. This wasn't for the carer but for me. Knowing for sure that my kids would be comfortable.

I have great family support so this was just to allow for another option just in case I needed someone. (I want my mum to enjoy her grandchildren, not be a burden on her!).

Saying this, you need to follow your heart. If you're not comfortable with it, then don't do it. The thing is, I think it's important to try these kinds of scenarios for your sake and North's. He might be young, but never underestimate children's resilience. And I don't believe you're being cruel at all if he wakes to see someone else and not you. If you decide to do this, North will be able to handle it and then maybe next time (!) it will be an even better experience for both of you.

jodi said...

I've never left Che with anyone except grandparents and he's almost 3. Before I weaned him (at 2) I never left him for more than 2hours. It is part of the journey you have chosen to take as a beautiful muma. In your heart you will know what is right. As I tell my students when they're coming into paschimottanasana - lead with your heart, not your head. x

Luisa @ Dance in my garden said...

Meagan, I haven't read every single comment, however I have briefly seen those that mention a meeting with the girl beforehand. I don't know how practical this is, but it personally to me, that is the way I would tackle it.
I couldn't leave any of my kids with a babysitter they hadn't met before. I think they need to 'wake-up' to a familiar face as such.
I don't think you are being at all melodramatic, because believe me it took ages for me to trust someone enough to look after my first born.
Having said this, I am pretty confident that North will suffer no long term negative effects.
How on earth can you relax with this other couple when you are so worried. This worry will do you no good.
Go with your heart.
I'm sure you will workout some compromise, so you will all feel better.
I'll certainly be thinking of you.

Sandrine said...

I remember vividly going through that same dilemma with my girls when they were babies(specially the older)...However I have learnt that, as long as they are "safe", it is a growing opportunity for both me and them...Very beneficial to get some precious time away as a woman, wife...and also children learn a lot from interacting with others...It is always your choice and we all try our best with parenting but it is never a easy responsibility!All the best with it x

ecoMILF said...

WOW! All I can say is WOW. I can't believe what a supportive response I have received from all of you. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I will be back here tomorrow with a short synopsis of the final decision. No matter what side of the spectrum you were on I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and to give some valuable advice. It was so reassuring going through the day today getting all of these comments and being reminded that I am not alone on this mothering journey, and that we all experience the same primal instincts and feelings. I no longer feel like the irrationally emotional woman I felt like last night, but an in control, calm and intuitive mama.-thanks to all of you! Stay tuned for the final verdict tomorrow if you're interested! xo m.

Kristi said...

i have never left my littles with a sitter ever, quinn is five. i have left them with my mom, and quinn still talks about it. michael and i get to a point where we really want to leave them so we can have a break and get some alone time. but we just revert back to not wanting to leave them. i do feel it would be a good thing for all of us though.

i did babysit babies and little ones a ton growing up (as i am sure you did too), and i never remember one of them getting upset.

still it is hard. i know.

Eve said...

I've only ever left my 5 year old with my Mum, and have had every night with our 3 yr old. I know he would probably be o.k with others, but it just doesn't sit right with me. A mama's inuition is so powerful xo

Redbeet Mama said...

I read your post yesterday and it has been on my mind ever since. I do not leave my children with others very often - just a few weeks back I hired a real babysitter so that my husband and I could have some time together - this was hard for me but it has been very satisfying for all of us.
Here is my take - right now you have a small child that is a part of you.
Where you go your child goes and that is just the way it is - for now - it will not always be this way. Go with your heart -- unless you truly need the break from your child.

Much love, Nicole

cara bear said...

I haven't read all of the comments above, so i don't know if this had been mentioned already, but..

(as a babysitter) i feel that it is best for all parties (mother, child, and sitter, alike) if you all meet before hand for even as short as 30 minutes, to get the sitter acquainted with your home, your rhythm, and most importantly your baby.To see if they have good chemisty, and how he responds to her (because, just like buying a couch, she might not be the right one for you!)

Also, to have him up when she arrives, so as not to shock him. ..I have been babysitting the same 3 siblings going on 4 years now, and they still wake up slightly shocked and in tears whenever I arrive before they wake. They get over it of course, but i think its the fact that they didn't have closure or their 'goodbyes' with their parents that upsets them.

I don't think you're over reacting at all, it is a big step, and i know a lot of mothers that aren't comfortable with leaving them with ANY sort of childcare that isn't their selves. It also must not help at ALL that you're carrying another blessing, with all the added emotions and whatever else that might bring!

I hope I helped even a little bit.
Keep me posted with what you've decided and how it all works out!


Gina said...

Hey there - haven't read through all the comments thoroughly so I'll probably be agreeing with some and disagreeing with others. It seems the issue is not leaving North in care for a few hours per se, but leaving him in the care of someone with whom you are unfamiliar. I really get that. In other cases where you have North in someone else's care, there has been a history of relationship (although I assume at the gym he must have been initially unfamiliar with the creche carers?). I guess in the ideal circumstance North would have had the opportunity to build relationship and familiarity with a friend/relative/carer while you were present first. I understand your hesitancy.

I don't think leaving North for a few hours on this occasion is at all a bad thing, so the leaving part is not something I'd be fretting over. I think it's good for EVERYONE when other adults build relationships with your kids (in a village-raising-a-child style, not an abdicating-the-primary-care style!).

But leaving him with someone unfamiliar is the crux of the issue. How well do YOU know the girl? Can you all be familiarised first? Can he be awake when she arrives? Those are the things that would make this workable.

It would be wonderful for you to widen the pool of people you could draw on in a pinch to be there for North for occasions such as this. We don't have family around but are lucky to have a huge church community with many other families who have known the boys since they were born, so those relationships run deep and we have a biggish pool of people to draw on and who have babysat for us occasionally. On the times where we haven't had those options, one of us has stayed at home.

One pair of Hands said...

Poor you. I do feel for you. I think I'd rather have torn my arm off than leave my baby with someone he didn't know. It didn't seem to do them any harm to have that kind of Mum. I hope things work out for you. said...

I just found your blog last week and am loving it. Definitely subscribing.
Your post today resonates with most moms. It's so hard to leave your children with anyone. But, it does get easier as you have more kids...if that's any consolation.
I can still vividly remember my dilemma with my first child. I had to return to work parttime and hadn't been separated from my babe EVER. It tore at my heartstrings. It pained me. But, what I decided was that I could model trust to my little one. It was hard for me. It was hard for her. But, I modeled that I trust the situation and her parttime caretaker with everything in my being. Taking my focus off of worrying and putting into modeling for future reality really helped. Much luck to you in this predicament...and with everything.

Antonia said...

I might just be parroting what the others have said! I hear you! I have a two year old and one expecting and it is difficult for me to leave him as I don't have the extent of family support as I'd like. My thoughts are to have the girl come from the morning on ... to spend time with all of you, playing, laughing, to be there with you as you put North down to sleep and so that when he wakes at least he knows he has seen a familiar face, that you approve of and laugh with. She sounds like a warm, caring, loving girl and will know just how to look after him. Give your little one a little trust too, he just may surprise you!

Catherine Lowe said...

Another opinion??
I love what Antonia suggested. That this sitter be there with you also present, to play and build a trust. I had a babysitter come visit before River had ever left my side, and it took a couple of visits for him to warm to her before I ever left. Its so tough, I still am unsure I have made the right choice to have my babe in 2 days a week with a stay at home mum. He feels so distant. But being a single mama, I do need to work! Ow the heart it aches once being a mama there's so many little things to consider now hey!

Good luck, whatever you do, you'll know if it was right or not, and learn from it. It's not going to scar him for life. :)

Gill@OurParklife said...

Gosh - I do not have much advice to offer but I can let you know I totally relate to what you are saying. And I feel that North is a lucky little person to have someone caring so deeply about his well being - physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally!

No matter what you decide to do, take some comfort in the knowledge that it is the fact that you have North's best interests at heart that is what will most effect the person he is now and the person he will become in the future.

Thanks for such a heartfelt and honest post!

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