Separation anxiety isn’t just for kids. Believe me, I know how hard it is to leave your little one when your protective mothering instincts are in hyper drive. However, the occasional break can be absolutely liberating. Getting away gives you a chance to remember who you are without a baby on your hip and unwind in the process.
If you’re approaching your very first time leaving baby with a sitter, start small with an afternoon of shopping or an evening date night. Once you’ve grown comfortable with that—and realized baby can survive a few hours away from you—consider working up to a weekend trip. We promise, you’ll return a rejuvenated mama!
Because those first baby steps away can be daunting, we’ve rounded up a few tips to help you prepare.
1| Choose someone you trust
This is No. 1 for a reason. Leaving baby behind is going to give you a bit of anxiety no matter what, but when you know you can count on your sitter, you’re going to breathe a heck of a lot easier.
Personally, I’ll turn to family or friends before hiring a lesser known assistant. My A-list babysitters (particularly for overnight care) are my mom-friends who share my parenting style—relaxed, loving and just a tad neurotic. My own mom is at the tippity-top of the list because I know she’ll watch over my kids at least as well as I would, and she’ll be strin- gent about safety.
If you don’t have friends or family you can ask to lend a hand, do ask them for babysitter recommendations. Word of mouth is often the best way to find a reliable hire. You may also consider a childcare provider your baby already knows from your day care, church or gym. It’s totally acceptable to invite your sitter over for a meet-and-greet before scheduling an official session. This gives you a chance to get to know your would-be sitter, introduce her to baby and see how they interact with each other.
2| Know the environment
Is your hire coming to you? Fabulous! Although baby may wake up to an unfamiliar face, his surroundings will be the usual. Give your sitter a tour of the terrain, pointing out diaper caches and warning about any babyproofed areas (i.e., keeping a crawler away from cords and cleaning supplies). Make sure she knows how to operate gear, too—highchair, car seat and stroller included.
If baby is boarding elsewhere, such as at a friend’s house, controlling the environment will be trickier. Talk through where your little one will sleep, eat and play, and forewarn your friend of any potential threats, like stairs or choking hazards. It is possible to be picky about baby’s well-being while simultaneously expressing gratitude for the favor your friend is extending; it’s a balancing act, but a good friend will get it!
3| Leave instructions
An afternoon spa trip might require only a few notes of instruction, while a weekend away could necessitate a lengthier document. Leave as much detail as you need to feel comfortable. (When it comes to safety, no amount of instruction is too much, really!) But if you find yourself leaving needlessly nit-picky notes about which color baby should be wearing and how his hair should be styled, you might be micromanaging just a tad.
What does your sitter really need to know? Contact and emergency basics come first: Leave your phone number, two emergency numbers, doctor and hospital preferences, and health insurance info in case you can’t be reached. Provide at least general details about where you will be and when.
Next, note baby’s typical daily schedule. When does he nap? What time does he wake up? Once awake, will he need a diaper change and a bottle right away? Leave approximate times. Even if baby’s schedule shifts a bit while you’re gone, it will give your sitter a framework to aim for.
Also note any comfort strategies that could help your baby to calm down, get to sleep or transition throughout the day. If he has a favorite pacifier, blanket or lullaby, your sitter needs to know! Show her how baby likes to be held, too. She’ll be glad to have the tools she needs when your wee one is fussy.
Give detailed instructions about feeding, bathing and diapering. Let your caregiver know where to find all the necessities. You might also include a few “do’s-don’ts”—don’t give baby anything to drink besides your stored breast milk, for example.
4| Check in, then chill out!
Will your sitter think you’re paranoid if you call to check on baby every hour? Probably, yes. But you’re allowed! In fact, you may want to warn her in advance: This is your first time going out without baby, and you might call a lot just to check in.
If your sitter doesn’t answer the phone or respond to texts immediately, try not to assume the worst. Give her a minute because, most likely, everything is totally fine.
Once you’ve checked in and received the reassurance that all is well, allow yourself to relax. You love baby and want the very best for him—doesn’t he deserve a rested, refreshed mama? You will be your happiest, healthiest self when you work in some time to experience adventure, decompress, let loose, or simply sit still and enjoy the peace and quiet! Taking care of yourself, mentally and physically, should top your list of priorities. Claiming this balance between personhood and parenthood will help you to become the well-rounded woman baby needs as his role model. Plus, a little time away will make you appreciate baby that much more when you return!