Parent Vacations without the Kids

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  • Hi, looking for advice... My partner and I booked a two-week vacation to Europe at the end of August. We specifically routed our flight through Houston, because we planned on dropping off our daughter to stay with retired grandparents there. Now, grandma is having second thoughts, saying she's too old to be able to take care of a toddler full-time for that long. I am also worried that our daughter will have severe separation anxiety or will pick up bad habits (too much screen time, potty-training regression). We don't have other close family nearby.

    Is there such a thing as reliable, extended (day+night) childcare for situations like this? I would consider bringing her to Europe in the end, but the long flights and the whistle-stop tour my partner and I envision might not be enjoyable for her (or us, with her). To be honest, we were looking forward to a child-free break since my partner has never been to Europe, and I used to live there.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!


    Could you arrange for grandma to have some help - not fulltime, but a babysitter for some hours during the day to give her a break? Maybe grandma knows someone, or could ask her friends for help finding a good person.  It is hard for anyone to take care of a toddler full-time, solo, for more than a day, I think, but with a good amount of help, it seems do-able. 

    To me that seems a better option than having someone totally unknown to you take care of your daughter for two weeks while you are thousands of miles away. 

    I would not worry about the bad habits.  At least in my opinion, even if all she does with grandma is watch TV, eat Twinkies and pee in her pants, there won't be any long-term damage.  You may have a few issues on re-entry, but that's the tradeoff for a two-week childfree vacation.    If you really want to control how she's parented during that time, you need to bring her with you.

    I second the responder's suggestion to see if your parents or in-laws would be willing to watch your daughter with some extra help during the day.  But I would also strongly encourage you to consider rethinking a whistle stop tour (if you are without your kid, don't you want to relax a bit?) and reconsidering taking your daughter.  

    We took our kid to Switzerland and Italy for 2 weeks at around the same age.  We had a blast.  Travel with children is different.  It is true that you cannot see 32 countries in 7 days but I've found that people, both tourists and locals, are actually much more social with one another when kids are in tow, which makes for a more enjoyable experience.  You are sometimes limited in where you can eat and how long you can spend at the museum, but in a way it forces you to prioritize what is really important to you to see, and gives you permission to let go of the urge to check every box. 

    A few suggestions, if you do take the kid: (1) consider upgrading your seats to economy plus for the international flight so she cannot kick the seat in front of you (pricey but much less stressful), (2) try to stay in each town at least 2 nights, and ideally 3+ nights, (4) try to keep travel times to 1/2 day or less, (5) bring a carrying pack and leave the stroller at home, (6) plan to stay near a park or some other public area where she can run around, and (6) be flexible (if you plan to do 3-4 things in a day and only get to do 2, you have to be okay with that)

    Whichever you choose, I hope you have a great trip!

    I agree with the suggestion to find help for grandma, perhaps substantial help if needed.  The idea of leaving a 2 year old with someone new for that long a time concerns me---just think about how s/he might feel.   We took our son to Europe at 6 months, 14 months, and later, on a regular basis since my husband is French and somehow it worked.  The Germans and Italians were wonderful with him; the Dutch, not so much.   I think that 2 weeks is a long time in a 2 year old's world to be apart from parents.   

    I know this is a difficult choice, but I don't advise leaving a child this young with anyone for that long.  Find childcare where you travel and take her with you.  It will be a different trip, but at least your daughter will not experience separation feelings.

    That's my advice, both as parent, grandparent and clinical social worker.

    I think you should try to revise your trip and take your toddler along. It’s a rare two year old who wouldn’t be pretty traumatized being left for two weeks with someone other than their primary care givers. If grandma lived local and saw and cared for your child all the time it would probably be fine but if they live in Texas I’m guessing they don’t play a daily role in your kid’s life? How scary for your baby to be left. Scarier if you hired some sort of service to watch them:(. I’d redesign the trip slightly and look into some trusted baby sitting services in Europe that you can utilize for some child free time.

    If you’re worried about superstition anxiety, leaving her with strangers for two weeks is an absolutely terrible idea. Why not take her with? Europeans are wonderfully accommodating with children (way more than Americans in my experience).

    Perhaps you could arrange for childcare to help grandma with the toddler? Someone who could come in during parts of the day to give her a break? Personally, I would say that leaving a 2 year old for 2 weeks is a very long time to be separated, and I would expect regression and potential behavior changes no matter which route you choose. I would take her with me if I were you, and if she is an outgoing toddler, try to arrange some childcare in Europe to give you breaks and time away.

    Obviously if you bring your child, it's a completely different trip. I took my then 17 mo. by myself (what was I thinking!) to Munich for a wedding for a few days.  It was a blast- now- I had friends I was meeting there (wedding), my son was mellow (friends wanted to hang out with us), and people bent over backwards to help a man and his child.  If you do leave your child with the grandparents, it might not be a good idea to FaceTime/Skype with her- I did that and my son started crying badly.  I agree with the first poster- spring for a baby sitter- who can come say half day, and maybe the evenings- say 5-6 hrs/day.  I take it your toddler might still nap?  Running after a toddler is a LOT of work for grandparents. As a toddler, my in-laws took our son for a weekend; we got back from the hot springs, and they put themselves to bed for 2 days.  Now our older son is 6, my in-laws are more than happy to take him for a week later this month.  

    And thanks to 2nd anon for travel w/kids advice!

    Is grandma comfortable with a shorter time period? If so, can you shorten your trip?

    I would take the daughter with you to Europe and scale back the whirlwind level of the tour to something more amenable to a toddler. The long flight is doable. We did a two-week trip to Europe when our son was that age and it was totally fine. It helps if they can take their afternoon nap in the stroller.

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Want to get away, but who can watch our 4-y-o?

July 2007

Hi- Hubby and I have a four year old. We have never been away from him -- no weekend getaways or the like as I was not ready for that separation. I am now ready to go away for two days with hubby but realized, what does one do when you have no support network to watch your child?

My inlaws only speak another language (can't communicate to my son) and are pretty much invalids. They also have massive clutter -- only way you can negotiate their small home is through predetermined paths. Not a good situtaion for an active preschooler. My parents have three kids still at home with one on house arrest. I don't want my son exposed to all that drama -- heck, I don't like that drama. And neither parent would dare leave to watch my son at my place for fear a massive party would break out at their place.

Who does that leave? All my friends (all two of them) have kids themselves and that isn't fair to ask. And my single friends are VERY single and don't even know how to interact with a child. What should I do? need mini-vaca with hubby!

i would find a good nanny who has references to watch them. i actually have one who has taken care of my son for a year. she has been a nanny for 7 years and has done several weekend trips for her various families. she works with two other nannies who are excellent and i trust them as well. i would leave my two children with her on a weekend trip in a minute - no reservations, except maybe the added cost to your vacation. let me know if you want her info. beth

Head to an all inclusive resort. Take your son and drop him in the kids camp all day... I'm sorry, but that sounds like the only option. 14 years from now, you can take a real vacation... Sarah

Wow! You need a break! Congrats for taking the initiative! Try Bay Area 2nd Mom. They have nannies for hire for occasional, weekend, temporary or permanent jobs. We've used them many times for sick kids or sick nanny replacement, and I've always been extremely pleased. I haven't used them for overnights but people do, and you can interview them and find someone you like. Good luck! fan of weekends away

I hear you, sister -- we're pretty much in the same boat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, because your 4-year-old will become increasingly independent & social. Have you considered asking your friends with kids to do some babysitting TRADES which could eventually lead to sleepovers?

Our daughter is 5 & she & her friends absolutely adore sleepovers. Of course we only do this occasionally with close family friends who we trust & know each other's children very well & for one night only. You & dear hubby could start out with a nice dinner out & eventually be able to take a mini-vacation at the Claremont, Benicia, or in San Francisco.

These sleepovers have worked out fabulously! One set of parents gets an evening & morning to themselves while the hosting parents also get a bit of a break because the kids entertain each other. We've even discovered that we love hosting the sleepovers as much as we enjoy having time off!

These sleepovers do require planning. We first take the kids to the park to get their yayas out, set up activities for them while making dinner (& a special treat for dessert), throw the kids in the tub for a bubble bath (sometimes with bath tub paints or some special bath toys), help them brush their teeth & get into their jammies, read a few books to them, & let them stay up a little late & watch a movie. In the morning, we get them washed up & dressed, let them help us make fruit pancakes & bacon, & then take them to the park. When our daughter sleeps over at a friend's house, we have her help pack up her stuff & also provide an information sheet & copy of her health insurance card for the parents. Needless to say, we keep the cell phone on!

We hope that these trades may eventually lead to entire weekends. Finally getting a break!

You don't know us, but we are a happy family of three - mom, dad and a 2 1/2 year old son living in Pinole, and we could take your son for a couple days. Dad stays at home during the day while mom goes out to work. We live in a small house with a backyard, walking distance from a good-sized park. We would probably need to borrow your booster seat for our car, but otherwise I don't anticipate any problems. If you are interested in meeting sometime - I'm sure the two boys would have fun together - please email or call ! Lori

When our kids were younger, we did trades with other families- they would take our kids for the weekend, and then we'd take theirs another time so each couple could have time alone. I think you should ask a good friend if they'd be interested-it brought our families closer, and was a wonderful thing for my husband and me. a

Um, if you don't have someone that he's comfortable with to watch him, then it seems to me that you can't go. Seems simple, although frustrating. Your one option might be to ask a friend to watch him for two nights with the promise that you'll reciprocate. Make sure that you cut the deal with the friend who has the fewest kids! got first night without kid when he was 6

How about doing a trade with one of your friends -- you'll keep their child a night and they can keep yours a night? Need a break too!

I was the same way; believe it or not, we have 3 kids, the oldest 7, and this spring was the first time we EVER went away overnight without the kids! (It was worth the wait!) We had a friend watch them--our age, not married yet, no kids. She was wiped out, but did volunteer to do it. For you, I'd suggest offering a swap with your friends who have kids. Talk it over, and offer to care for their kid(s) for a night, if they'll do the same for you. If this is just an impossibility, wait a year. Make connections at your child's preschool if he goes. you have single friends, or an aunt or uncle (your siblings) who could come for a weekend and do you this huge favor? I hope this works for you. You deserve it! Berkeley mom of three

would it be possible to do a trade with one of your friends so that you would then watch their kids for a similar amount of time sometime in the future? all parents need breaks

Is your son in preschool? You could ask one of his teachers if they are willing to watch him (paid, of course). We have a teacher at our preschool who babysits the kids all the time. Do any of your friends have a trusted nanny that has watched their kids for a long time? You could hire her. Just some thoughts

Can you arrange with one of your friends to do a weekend childcare swap? Or even just a one-nighter to San Francisco or something? They might be willing to do it if you're offering the same favor in return. Otherwise, you could go to a nice hotel that has babysitting services.

Maybe you can try seeing if one of your friends with kids will swap kids with you for a weekend. You watch your friend's kid (s) for a weekend and she watches yours. We also don't have a great support network but we have exchanged overnight sits with another family. Its tough on the parents who are doing the sit but well worth it if you get a weekend away later!

Or you can try going to a hotel that offers a kids club or babysitting service. You can try the Cliffs in Pismo Beach. They offer some kids activities. Or family camp with a daycare program. Or bring a babysitter along with you to your hotel. Pricey but perhaps worth it. Or if worse comes to worse, drop your child off at the babysitter's house for an overnight. Your kid will be fine. Alone time with the spouse is very important no matter what it takes to get it!

Just because your friends already have kids doesn't mean you can't ask them. We have friends we do sleep over trades with. Their kid comes over to our house one night and ours over to theirs another. Gives everyone a break. I also like doing it as gives me some free time -- my son will occupy himslef playing w/ his friend instead of bugging me to play with him. anon

I know how you feel. We have 2 kids and would love (need) to get away for a weekend. We have all of our families here and quite a few friends with children. However, it would not work out to leave our children with any of them for a weekend away for various reasons. Honestly, I don't know very many people that have that as an option either, unfortunately.

It sounds like you answered your own question: it does not sound like you have anyone that you can comfortably leave your child with for a weekend. Even if one of these people were perectly willing to watch him, you probably wouldn't have a relaxing weekend because you would worry about the situation with him.

I think your only option is to find a babysitter and slowly increase the time that you leave your son with this person. Maybe the first weekend you could try 3 hours, next weekend an 8 hour day, then try one overnight, etc. This will probably need to be a slow transition for him and you may need to ''shop around'' for a caregiver that all of you click with. A great babysitter/nanny is worth their weight in gold! Your son may even see it as *his* vacation .... but that could take some time.

I can say though that one evening once a week, or every other, can be just as rejuvinating as an entire weekend. We have found that we prefer to go out every other Sat night and do something very relaxing--hot tub & quite dinner, or whatever else does not involve children. After those few hours away from the kids, we feel like it has been an entire weekend!

Another option would be to splurge on going to a resort that has a childcare facility, or child activities, and bringing your son with you. love time alone with the hubby too!

Why is it no fair to ask friends who have kids? If I were one of those friends and you asked me, I'd say yes! With the understaqndind you would watch mine at some later mutually agreed date so we could go away too. Build your village - ask a friend - they can always say no. But I'd say yes. Really, an extra kid is not 2x the work - most times it is less work b/c the kids entertain themselves. Otherwise you hire a nanny and pay pay pay. a yes mama

The short answer is, there are babysitting agencies that will hook you up with someone, or you can contact someone through the bnp childcare digest. But I hope that this is a wake-up call that you need to expand/strenghten your support system. I don't think you should be afraid to ask one of your friends if they can keep your son for 2 days. Yes, it's a favor, but it's one you could return for them one day. Does your son have any friends from preschool that you could cultivate so that at least next time that might be a possibility? Do you have a babysitter you occasionally use for a few hours? Would one of the teachers from preschool be interested in doing the job? It just seems to me that unless your child is not in school and is with you 24 hours a day, there must be some more people you know. Just remember to offer to repay the favor and remember what they say, to make people like you, having them do something *for* you works even better than doing something for them. This is an opportunity to strengthen your social ties. anon

Pressure from the in-laws to get away

March 2003

I am a stay at home mom to 2 daughters, 1 and 3. We have no childcare, and are not sending our kids to preschool, by choice. They are both very social, confident, normal kids. Every time my inlaws come to visit, there is tremendous pressure for my husband and I to ''get away'' for a weekend, and leave the kids home with Grandma & Grandpa. I don't want to do this. The only time my older daughter has been away from me for more than 4 hours is when I gave birth to the second one. She was just 2 then, and was with my parents, whom she adores, but she was an emotional wreck most of that 48 hours and was very tender the next several days too. My mom says I was the same way as a young child.

I feel very capable as a SAHM, and love every minute of it, despite the lack of sleep and normal daily struggles that come with taking care of 2 toddlers. How do I continue to say ''no thanks'' to these people who feel insulted; they hint at ''you don't trust us.'' My father in law is 74, hard of hearing, doesn't see well, and has very little concept of parenting in general; mother in law is younger and much more adept, but gets exhausted babysitting; and the two of them bicker in front of the kids, which I hate. They think our kids are too attached to me. My husband is satisfied just going out to dinner or a long walk with me when they visit; that's a treat enough for both of us. Any advice greatly appreciated.

I Like Being With My Kids

It sounds like you are very content with your situation so I would think that a simple ''no thank you'' would suffice. In some cultures, your way is the norm and mothers are never separated from their children. You may be perceived as a clingy mother who is coddling her children by your in-laws but who cares. It's really none of their business how you raise your children.

By the way, I wish I had this problem. I'm pretty burned out on being with my kids and would love to have family members offer to take over for awhile (especially grandparents) but we don't have being with my kids and would love to have family members offer to take over for awhile (especially grandparents) but we don't have family nearby. --Envious mom

To Like Being With My Kids who has pressure from inlaws to go out and leave kids with them:

I face the same thing, and I'm not comfortable with it because mom in law has such different type/standards of care than me, and because my 23 mo. Old is not comfortable with them. I tell them she still needs me to go to sleep, but then I happily take a date night with my husband after she has gone to sleep already, and my inlaw is home to watch the fort. This allows her to feel helpful, and gives me a break without the worry.

Different than Mom In Law

I feel the same way, except I know that mine stems from not trusting people with my child due to my own anxiety. I just try to be honest and tell people that leaving my child with anyone except her caregivers at daycare (and a few select others) gives me too much anxiety. A lot of people have been very cool about it (my best friend even sat through infant CPR to make me feel better).

Having people watch her at our house (or their house if they have a child and I know its childproofed-- like other mom's in my moms group) makes it much easier, too. I feel pretty comfortable telling my mom that her house scares me (stairs, unsecured bookshelves, detergents under the sink, ant poison on the floor) and that I prefer that she not give my child chokables (once I caught her giving my two-year old those necco wafer candy hearts) and even though we get into it (''I raised three kids and you all came out fine!'') in the end she respects my wishes, but I rarely have her watch my daughter. When people balk, I just say, its me, not you, so don't feel bad. And I also say ''I appreciate that you want to help me out''. That usually ends it. anon

It sounds like you already know that your kids are fine; and, that your in laws' insistence and questioning is throwing you off of what you know. As long as you're sure that you're not keeping your kids away from child care out of trying to get your own needs met, I don't see that there's a problem with how you are choosing to raise your kids. I think that people of your in laws' generation really don't get the whole attachment parenting idea, since they've long since buried any unhappiness about not getting their own needs met in that way. I'm sure it makes them very uncomfortable to see you with your kids, interpreting it as coddling or some similar idea. You'll know when they're ready. Just be sure that you're giving your kids the signal that you (mom) will be fine when they decide to be somewhere else. If they sense that you have reservations or anxiety about it, they will exhibit it. As for coping with your in laws, you can acknowledge their concerns, and firmly and kindly state that you're all doing fine. (If you really want to engage them - or, scare them off! - you can ask them to elaborate on what it is they're worried about. That may diffuse some of this.) It sounds like they're taking it personally; and, while most of your choice has nothing to do with them, it actually is personal! You instinctively know you don't want to leave your kids with them for lengths of time. Good for you for not overriding this just to make them happy. You may not be able to stay true to yourself without offending them. Seems the best route in this case is to accept they may take it this way, and to communicate clearly and kindly what you need to, without feeling obliged to elaborate. You don't owe them this. It reminds me of what's required to set boundaries lovingly with our toddlers.

You are doing a great job Mom. Imagine your in-laws are your neighbors 2 doors down. Are these people you would want to watch your children for long periods? Don't take their pressure personally and remain clear about your parenting style. This kind of pressure is fairly common for those of us who are attachment parenting. You will definitely know when your children and you are ready for a parent ''get away''. And when you go on that get away you will feel at east and relaxed knowing everyone is in the right hands. In the mean time thank them for the 1, 2 or 3 hour period they give you and leave it at that.

another attached parent

Your message raised a red flag for me. It sounds like your children are way too dependent on you and have not learned how to adapt to and accept other adults in their lives, especially the 3 year old. Sometimes it's very difficult for parents to imagine leaving their children with other adults, but I think that it's essential for children to figure out how best to deal with this situation and you have not allowed them the opportunity to do this. Your comment about how your 3 year old reacted when you had your baby was really indicative of this.

My advice is that it would be best to start weaning your children from you. It's in their best interest. Having them stay with their grandparents is a great start, but then you might want to hire a babysitter or have a friend watch them.

I also think that, because most children are in daycare or nursery school, certainly by the age of 4, your children will be at a real disadvantge, both socially and developmentally, if you don't allow them to figure out how to best deal with other adults and children. Please think about how your decisions are affecting your children. Toby

I can totally relate. My in laws have long stated that my children are too attached. I have grappled with this for 8 years and I can't really seem to understand what they mean . Maybe it is a generational thing. I am a SATHM of three and I enjoy spending time with them. It is hard to continually deny someone of something they desire (i.e overnights with the kids) and not feel some guilt.But my kids DO NOT want to do this. But you have to remember that only you know your kids and only you really know what they can handle. Our ''job'' is to respect them and advocate for them. I am not always sure that what I am doing is right. But I am sure that I am thoughtful about my choices. anon

I appreciate the range of responses on this subject. I think having some grandparent perspectives would be really interesting too. I have to wonder if the grandparents saying that you coddle your children aren't somehow trying to say they want to be more involved with their grandchildren. If you are meeting all of your child's needs, then they have a harder time making a connection. Can you arrange another way that is acceptable to you for your child/ren and their grandparents to develop a relationship? Of course, if you don't approve of the grandparents parenting skills or if you have trouble letting go, you have to weigh the value of your kids being able to know their grandparents (for better or worse) versus the ''harm'' that may come from this relationship as well as the impact this has on your relationship with your parents/in-laws. (I put harm in quotations, because I certainly cannot judge what that might be and whether, over the long term it is truly harmful or not.)

For us, both sets of grandparents live out of town and with a child and some grandparents who are more introverted than extroverted, it was harder for them to establish a relationship. I had mixed feelings about how to be a go between to support the relationships and the solutions were different for different grandparents. Story reading, lunch together, short trips and excursions to the park or the movies with Grandma/Grandpa provided some very nice one-on-one time for them. While my child was more clingey by nature, I also must admit, that I felt anxious letting my child go and probably reinforced my child's feeling clingey. Without ''pushing her out the door'', I also felt it was important to support my child in building (appropriate) self-reliance at 3/4/5 years old. Half- day pre-school 3-4 days per week, short play dates that gradually grew longer, encouraging her to ask for help from other people, letting other people do things for/with her were all important experiences for her self development. Some grandparents can play that role well.

Ten years later, she is still more introverted than extroverted, has many engaging friends, has relationships with grand parents (some closer than others), is affectionate, has times when she's very independent, and other times when she needs to be with her parents and doesn't want anyone else around.

One grandfather died this winter and we went to the funeral. Although they didn't have a close relationship, we had had enough times together that she remembered him and was very sad by his death. The funeral, in many ways, was a wonderful experience -- the family drew together, supported each other, it was ok to cry, we were all together. We watched Grandma be sad and carry on. To me, here was the value of developing these family relationships early on, although I didn't think about it like that 10 years ago.

Mom's 9-day camping trip

March 2003

I'm having high anxiety about an upcoming trip in July that will require me to leave my daughter here (who will then be 22 months) for 9 days with my husband at home. She is not breast feeding any more, and is used to being in day care 5 days/week for ~6-7 hours/day.

Let me say that it is a trip of great bearing and a once-in-a-lifetime thing -- a trek with my father and sister to a remote town above the Canadian arctic circle to revisit a community we once lived in when I was a child. So in addition to the obvious adventure and eye-opening opportunities, it is an important family (re)bonding time. If it were not for these factors, I would not consider this trip. [I will note that it is only possible to fly in and out of this town (from Ottowa) on Wednesdays -- so our stay can't be shorter than 1 week -- and then there's a day of travel to and from SF to Ottowa.]

However, I have my new family now. My husband, who sweetly (and courageously) has agreed to hold down the fort and be a single dad for those nine days, has fully bonded with our daughter and they have a solid relationship. That being said, like most parents, we have our areas in which we disagree about how to do things, and my general impression is that he is less nurturing to her than I am, and more authoritarian. So I worry about the shift for her (since I am the primary caretaker), and I wonder what this will do to my daughter's heart and mind, and my relationship with her. I'd really like to hear your opinions on this. I've never before been away from her overnight...

I calm myself by remembering that we have many capable people in my husband's extended family that we can call on for help during this time. My question here is how can we best ask these people to help us -- overnights? weekend day-long visits? delivered meals? anything creative....? conflicted, anxious, excited

Two things strike me about this situation:

1) you are leaving her with her father, who has a ''solid'' relationship with her


2) it's only 9 days, not 9 months!

You are stressing about this because YOU will miss HER. Do not mistake your stress about this for concern that she will be traumatized for life because you were away for a week. VM

I empathize with the dilemma about travel away from baby and partner. My situation was a little different because I had to travel for work and had no choice, so yours may in fact be a more difficult decision. In any event, I had to be away for 10 days several weeks after my son turned 2. He was just barely weaned and also had a solid and bonded relationship with his dad, who had been primary caretaker for most of first year. My mom came and stayed for the first few days that I was gone, and my sister-in-law came for a few days too, which was a help. The hardest part about that help tho was that my son then had to say goodbye to them as well as to me. My son also got sick a few days before my return, so the last few days for them, husband especially, were tough. Now (one and a half years later) I don't think my son remembers it at all. I had a few teary breakdowns while away, but ultimately, it was fine and in your situation, I have to say I'd be inclined to go. Lise

Dear Conflicted and Anxious,
Wow, does this sound familiar. I had the chance to take a 6 day trip to New York for a family reunion, and the cost of my husband & child coming along wasn't feasible. After much agonizing, especially since my husband & 3 yo daughter weren't 100% bonded, I decided to take the trip and am SO glad I did. I actually found myself packing to leave NY while wishing I could stay longer. Keep in mind that I'm very into being a SAHM mom, had never spent more than 5 hours away from her, co-sleep with her, and adore spending time with my child.

Now, as for your specific questions, my H ( who can also be a little less patient and more authoritarian than I) did what you are suggesting. He broke up my absence with trips to grandparents' houses, visits to the zoo, etc. While no one brought food, it sounds like a good idea. Our idea was to get her out of the house as much as possible, instead of having visitors, so she would be occupied instead of moping around looking for me. Then we had exciting distractions to talk about during my daily call instead of just 'when are you coming back?'. Another ploy I used out of desperation toward the end was to explain that I was looking for the perfect toy for her and didn't want to come back until I had found it. I knew of a specific doll she'd been wanting, which I'd been saying no to, and made sure to bring one home in my luggage.

You'll really be so glad that you went on the trip. It helped me remember who I was before I became a mom, and I'm really doing a lot better parenting job now because of it. Also, it's important for your daughter to develop a strong relationship of trust with her father. I'm sure you've heard of all those studies connecting a strong paternal bond with increased math scores and self confidence in girls, especially in the teenage years. It's good for her to know you're not the sole source of comfort and love for her, and that while Daddy does things differently, it's still valid.
Been there and enjoyed it

Thinking about vacation in Europe without 18-mo-old

April 2004

We have been planning a two week vacation to Europe with my in- laws for the past year. We had always planned to take our 18 month old son but recently my parents (who live out of state) have offered to fly out pick him up and take him back with them for the two weeks. The possibility of a different type of vacation where we won't have to cater to naps etc. is intriguing. My question is: If you've done this before how was it for you being away and how did your child do without you for that period of time. I'm struggling between figuring out if I am the one who will have a hard time being away from him for so long or if it may be a hardship on him. He now typically sees my parents about once every 3 months and he recognizes them by pictures. Thanks! Stephanie

I just returned from a two week trip in Europe with my husband and my in-laws. I left my children (5 yr and 26 mos) with my parents, who, as yours, do not spend regular time with my children but my children know them well.

I did miss my children a bit, but I realize how different the trip would have been if we would have brought them along. I was able to go to museums and spend as much time as I wanted in front of a painting, or go for late dinners in nice restaurants, or take afternoon walks without worrying about naps, or children being tired. Those were places that I had dreamed of visiting for years, and I was happy that I was able to immerse myself in the experience without having to pay attention to anything else. In addition, I provided my parents and my children with a wonderful bonding experience. They had as much fun as I did, and they did not miss us a bit. Overall, a win-win situation. If I had gone only with my husband, it would have been different, because we could have planned a child-oriented vacation. But given that my in-laws were coming with us, I did not feel much like subjecting them to childrenB+s activities during their precious trip to Europe. So if your parents have offered, I would say go for it. I bet that everyone will have a great time. Anon

Don't do it!!! If your 19 month old had a consistent relationship with these grandparents, I would say no problem. I have heard that this age can be seriously affected by a long separation from parents. I know it is tempting, trust me, yet there may be a price to pay on the other side. I don't mean to sound so dramatic, but they really are young only once and you can take your little one with you and know that your trip will be at a different pace, etc. or you can skip the trip and wait till your child is older. I went to Europe with our 18 month old. If I had to do it over I would have brought a grandparent or found babysitting while I was there. have travelled with 18month old

I have an 18 month old son, who shares childcare with a 2 year old boy. Recently this boy's mother went on a 3 week trip abroad (she's been gone about a week and a half now), and I have really noticed a change in him! This was surprising to me, because he only lives part time with her, and has two parents in his other house. Every time I see him now (and I mean every time), we inevitably hear or see a plane fly overhead and he tells me, ''my mommy's on a plane''. He asks the nanny, ''is my mommy going to pick me up today?'' and asks me where I'm going when I leave my son, and if I'm coming back to pick him up. I have been really moved by this, and a little haunted by his image of his mother constantly on a plane, never able to land to see him or pick him up. He seems to be doing pretty well behaviorally, although he often seems forlorn, and I imagine my 18 month old in the same situation and I just can't imagine how long long long 2 weeks would seem to him, and he would understand the separation even less. I think that a few days away at this age would probably be fine, but 2 weeks is such a long time for a little one! And 18 months to 2 years is just when they're getting to be more anxious about separations... Good luck whatever you decide! Toddler's Mom

We just returned from a 3 week trip to Vietnam with our 16 month old. Overall, it was fabulous. Yes, we had to take turns chasing him around in some non-baby proofed areas and yes, it would have been nice to have someone with us to watch him occasionally. But I think outside the U.S., and especially where we were, people adored kids. We felt very supported. We went out on dates many times - just hired local babysitters. We put him in our backpack and carried him all over. All of the sounds and sites kept him occupied or he slept. Unless it was convenient, we didn't change our plans for his naps. We took him to plenty of museums, temples, etc. He just napped in the backpack. We had very low expectations for how hard it was going to be, so we didn't have a full itinerary, which was good for all of us. anon

Want to visit my sister without 21-month-old

Feb 2004

I would like to travel alone to visit my sister across the country but have not yet spent a night away from my now 21 month old. My daughter is fairly independent, has been in a nanny share, but seems so attached to me, especially at night, that I don't want to do any damage by leaving at what could be the wrong time in her life to do so. If you have tips/tricks for making this easier, or recommend against it, please let me know. anon

Toddlers are amazingly resistant. Just make sure she's staying with someone she likes and trusts, and she'll be fine. My toddler is also very attached to me as well, we'd barely spent any time apart, but she's adjusted to the little time we did spend apart very well. anon

OK to leave 6 month old for 3 days?

Dec 2002

Through my husbands job we are invited on a three day all expenses payed vacation to Beaver Creek, CO. It includes free ski lessons/tickets, meals, massages, etc. and is something that we would never be able to afford on our own. Our baby will be 6 months old when the trip is being offered and even if I will emotionally be able to leave him I am not sure if that is too young of an age to leave a baby for that long. Developmentally is he too young for that long of a seperation from my husband and I? We would be leaving him with my parents who he is very familiar with. Thanks for your advice!

Your baby will be absolutely fine. It is only three days and the baby will be with familiar people that love him. If you're like me, you're the one that will have a hard time! :) Are you still breastfeeding? I found that when I was breast-feeding, my body actually ''longed'' for my baby. Even if that were the case, I would imagine that this is very important to your husband. It is important to nuture your marriage with all the craziness of a new baby. Go and have a great time! Helena

In my opinion that's a terrible time to leave your baby overnight, let alone for 3 days. If it were me, I wouldn't be able to enjoy the trip for worrying about my baby's separation anxiety, his grandparents letting him cry, whether I'd managed to pump enough milk to leave (not to mention all the time and hassle involved in pumping while I was on the trip), and on and on, plus I would just miss him terribly. But I know other parents don't feel that way and have successfully left their young kids with grandparents for a week with no apparent problems, so it's sort of a personality/parenting style thing I guess. My recommendation is to plan on taking the baby with you. Babies that age usually travel fairly well (though not quite so easily as a 3-4 month old) and cheaply. All you'd really have to pay for is the third (half price) plane ticket, since a 6- month-old needs very little in the way of bed and meals, and you and your husband would have to take turns on the slopes. I think all concerned would enjoy the weekend a whole lot more. Holly

hi--i think that you should go!! your child won't remember your absence (at all, i should think) and you and your spouse will be all the happier for it for such a great vacation (i think i'm a bit jealous :) ). i'd be worried if you were concerned about the childcare your kid would get, but it sounds like the grandparents are just fine! i'd say have fun and treasure the little time alone together! jessica

Go for it! When both my kids were little, the really intense separation anxiety set in around 8 or 9 months, so I think 6 months would be the ideal time to take a much-needed respite. Your baby will be fine with his/her grandparents and you'll be glad you took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think it's important for moms to recharge their batteries and enjoy themselves occasionally. Plus it will do wonders for your marriage. -East Bay mom with two

Please go!! Six month old babies are usually pretty laidback and flexible (a ''golden'' age) and given that the baby is comfortable with your parents and their home is so lucky for you. Babies sense of time is not like ours and night/day isn't really distinguished by the pattern of sleeping and being awake like for us. I'm sure your baby is quite used to being fed, held, helped to go sleep, and being entertained by your parents. For 3 days, your baby isn't going to forget you!! AND parents deserve breaks and a chance to rekindle themselves as a couple. Going when the baby is 6 months is ALOT easier than leaving a toddler. Karen H.

Go to Beaver Creek!!! I used to be a ski instructor there for 4 years and it sounds like this is a great opportunity for you and your husband! On the more serious note of leaving your beloved 6 month old, I left my son (my first born) with my mother in Philadelphia while I was on business in NYC and my husband joined me for the weekend. Although it was liberating to be on my own again and spend time alone with my husband, I missed my son terribly and wondered if I did the right thing. My advice is that there may be a bit of some anxiety when you return- my son did not really know my mother, coupled with the stage of stranger anxiety. I noticed when I returned he was more clingy to me and cried whenever I left the room.

It sounds like your son knows your parents well so it might not be as much of an issue. I am not sure if you are still nursing but this was also challange for us since my son would nurse at night and being separated from each other affected both of us (I had to pump more frequently in the middle of the night. At the time we were also on our way to having him sleep in his crib but when we came home, we all wanted to be together more often so we continued the co-sleeping arrangement.

One thing that helped is that my husband and I made a video of each other for our son to watch while we were away and according to my mom, it seemed to help out a lot (or at least he seemed interested).

I think it is more us as parents who are affected by the separation than the babies (although I do strongly feel that they know when we are away too. My advice is as long as you feel that your son is in the best care (with your parents), this is an opportunity for your parents to bond with him while you and your husband get away for a well deserved break (and all expensespaid in BC for that matter). Enjoy yourselves, sounds like your son is going to be in the best of care. I think it is good for all of you. Stephanie

No, he's not too young. 3 days isn't very long and he won't even remember it a month from now. Go and have a great time because it only gets harder to get away! Julie

Ultimatly this is a decision only you can make, but I just went through a similar situation with my 9 1/2 month old, except it was only for a weekend, and I decided NOT to do it. I brough the baby along, and used a baby sitter through the hotel. I pumped for 2 feeds, then nursed the baby for the next, this way I had a nice break from the baby, but could still snuggle up and nurse at the end of the day.

And honestly if I had left the baby at home, I would have been very uncomfortable, possibly even got a plugged duct, the pump just doesn't do the same job of emptying breasts as the real thing, and it made my nipples sore. I would have been miserable pumping around the clock (but some women, especially those who pump at work might not have this problem.)

Sometimes I hate this aspect of breastfeeding (not being able to leave), but on the other hand I think it is how nature intended it, for the mother to never be more than a couple feeds away from the baby.

Also it can prematurly wean your baby, maybe you have already quit, or were bottle feeding, but for me I decided I wanted to reach my goal of a year, and that a weekend away was not worth cutting breastfeeding short.

But if I wasn't breastfeeding I think my biggest reason to not go if I were in your shoes, would just be the amount of work caring for a six month old is, and if my parents were biting off more than they could chew. You don't want them to shy away from future weekend get aways, because the first one was so hard.

But if I wasn't nursing I think I probably would have gone, really the choice is one only you can make. Good Luck whatever you choose.

Go. In another 6 months it will be much harder, you'll see. Your baby's age right now is the perfect time for you to do it. Mom 0f 3

Toddler going abroad with dad for 3 weeks

June 2002

I have a 20-month-old son who is very attached to me. My husband is from Spain, goes there every year and spends 3 to 4 weeks with his parents. We have taken our son to Spain twice already (in June and December of 2001), but I cannot go this summer. We are wondering (a) whether our son is ready to go with his dad only and be separated from me for 3 weeks or so; and (b) what impact this separation will have on our son and his relationship with me. Anyone with similar experience? Undecided and concerned mom

Hi, I don't have direct experience except for leaving our now 33 month old, very attached, very confident, outgoing daughter only on two occasions overnight. Once she stayed with her nanny at our house overnight when she was 18 months and once with our 35 yr old neice overnight at 30 months. She knows and loves these people very well! I think it took her a day or two after our return for her to feel back to normal. She was clingy and regressed a bit. It was fine in the end and probably sort of good for her but I'd hate to put her through that for an extended period of time like 3 weeks! Your son will be with his dad but everyone else and everything else will be new and unfamiliar!! Trips like that can be scary for adults. For what it's worth... another mom

My husband took our then 14 months old son overseas to spend 2 weeks in Germany with one set of grandparents and 2 weeks in Egypt with the other (my American in-laws are in Cairo on a long work assignment). Since I am pregnant again, I was not able to join them.

Has your husband taken care of your son around the clock before, or are there any baby rituals (bedtime, bath time etc.) that normally only mommy does? If so, it might be advisable to let your husband take over these things for a while well before the trip, so that your son accepts it when daddy does them. Before my husband and son left, I recorded the baby's favorite lullaby onto my husband's PDA, and while they were gone, we talked on the phone every couple of days. The first few days the little guy frequently asked for mommy, but less so as time went by. The trip was a lot of new impressions for him, and being in an unfamiliar environment and surrounded by people he did not know or did not remember, he became quite clingy and did not leave his daddy out of sight. As long as daddy was in the same room, he was OK, but leaving him even for a few hours with his grandparents, aunts or cousins was next to impossible. When my husband and son came back, the baby treated mommy almost like a stranger. He clearly recognized me, but wanted to be picked up or comforted only by his daddy. It took almost a month before our relationship returned to normal. We would still do this again. Maintaining contact between our child and our families is important to us, and since they cannot all fly out to visit us, we are planning to take our kid to see them at least once a year.

If I were you, I would not deprive your in-laws of the joy of seeing their grandchild, and your son of the chance to get exposure to the world where his father is from. Kids are amazingly adaptable, and the separation might be harder on you than it is on your son. Angelika

Going to Hawaii without the kids

May 2002

We are considering taking a 5 day trip to Hawaii this summer without our 2 kids (4 yrs and 2 yrs old). They would be in wonderful care at our home. I'm having mixed feelings about going and would love to hear from other people who have gone or decided not to. I'm worried about leaving them for so long - we've never left them for even a night. (There's also post 9/11 flight fear!) The 4 yr old will be fine, but 2 seems so young to leave for 5 days. He also still nurses and I'm afraid of abruptly weening him. Is it possible he would continue nursing after I return? Thanks for your thoughts!

About a year and a half ago, my husband and I went to London while my kids were about 2.5 and 4.5. I had to wean my son before we went, as I did not want it to be a last minute thing before we took off for 9 days, and I was worried about how he would take it. However, I had been planning to do it soon anyway, and it turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. I was also anxious about how they (and I!) would do with do many days apart, but that also actually turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. I knew they were in good hands, and perhaps being so far away and removed from the day-to-day of caring for the kids made it easier to go about having fun on the trip. Looking back, I am glad I went. I now look back on that trip as a real high point in my life (who knows when we will get to do something like that again?), and was good for me and my husband. So if you possibly can, I would recommend you take advantage of the opportunity and go! Claire

My wife and I try to take a vacation away from the kids about once a year. As long as the kids are in good hands (grandparents for us), we go and have a great time and get to know each other again as adults. It's a really great break from the daily events with little kids. We of course call and talk to the kids every other day or so, but they enjoy being with their grandparents and seem to have a good time with the change of pace for them too. I personally think it's good for them to spend time with other loving adults, experience different things, and I know it's good for my wife and I to get away and remember the couple we used to be! :) Can't help you with the breastfeeding question though as ours were weaned by the time we traveled. -Mike

Our kids were 4 and 2 when we left them (for the first time) while we took a trip to Central America. It was tough for me (especially if I sunk into wondering what would become of them if 'disaster du jour' hit), but bottom line: I'm glad we went. We had a lot of fun, the trip was good for our marriage, and the kids had a great time (with grandparents anxious to dote on them). I highly recommend internet cafes. We emailed the kids each day and got detailed emails in return about their daily activities. I recommend you go. Have much fun. The kids will be fine. kj

We went on our first vacations without kid(s)when each was about 3. Our criteria was old enough to understand the concept of Mommy and Daddy are going on a grown up vacation, but we'll be back. We also made sure that our kid(s) routine wasn't disturbed. With our first child, we arranged for him stay with his family daycare provider for 5 days. He'd stayed overnite once or twice before with her. He was VERY comfortable with the arrangement and in fact when we called to speak to him, he was too busy to come to the phone when she told him it was us calling!!! Similarily with our 2nd child, but this time my sister came out (she'd visited a couple of times before) and stayed at our house. The kids went to preschool/daycamp every day just like Mommy and Dadddy were home. They were SERIOUSLY spoiled by my sister and when we came back wanted to know when Auntie Lynn was coming back to stay with them again!!

I guess my point is that while I think 2 is a bit young, the fact that he is with his older sibling makes a big difference (I wouldn't have felt comfortable with my child at 6 flying across country to vist grandparents by himself even non-stop, but knew he wouldn't worry flying with his 10 year old brother). Also if his schedule is going to be the same as if you were there (ie. still in your house and doing the same routines with folks he's comfortable with) I think that makes a difference too. AND if you've prepped him by going on overnighters so he has an understanding of whatwe'll be back means that's important too (time is relative for young children, I'm not sure that many kids at 2 or 3 really distinguish between a couple of days and 5). Hearing your voice by phone can also be reassuring BUT I with great difficulty based upon my caregivers advice, checked in with HER that nite (she told him that we had called but that he was already asleep, which was true) but didn't talk to my child until the 2nd nite. Also, you know your own kid and probably have an instinctive notion of how he'd handle the situation. I've felt that a child doesn't have to like it (though mine tend to see our vacations as vacations for themselves - particularly when staying with auntie or grandparents!)but must be be able to handle it.

At any rate, I deeply believe that its VERY important for couples to spend some time together WITHOUT the kids to reconnect/maintain the connection between themselves. And, as long as your kids are basically secure - no serious home drama/dysfunction going on - a few days absence isn't going to cause them harm (but I HIGHLY recommend doing a test overnighter first particularly given the rather young age of your 2 year old). Karen

Seem like others have commented on the going away part but there hasn't been much on breastfeeding. You do not need to ween if your gone for that length of time. I was gone for a bit longer when both of my kids were that age and when I got back we started nursing same as always. You might feel a bit engorged on the trip for two or three days and then it will go away. Don't worry there is still milk there. Good luck. Liz

So far nobody has addressed the weaning issue, so I thought I'd chime in. When my daughter was almost 2 I was at a conference in Europe for a week. She did just fine without nursing while I was gone, and when I returned she was very happy to pick up where she had left off. My milk supply was basically gone, but she didn't mind a bit, and continued to nurse for comfort only until we weaned 3 months later. If you are ready to wean, this would be a good time to do it. But if not, taking this trip doesn't mean you have to stop nursing, so enjoy. Jennifer