LEAVING BABY OVERNIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME – By Jayne McIntyre
I put my sunglasses on, kissed AJ tenderly on the forehead and headed out the door. No pram, no spare nappies, no emergency spew cloth. D-Day had finally arrived; date night.
For nearly five years it was just the two of us, my husband and me, then baby AJ came along to complete our little family*.
Day in, day out, I have happily (albeit sometimes tiredly) tendered to his every need.
He has brought out emotions in me that I didn’t even realise I had, such as the strange, eye-watering sensation I now get when watching puppy food commercials and documentaries about baby animals.
So when AJ’s grandmother offered to babysit for a night so my husband and I could celebrate Valentine’s Day, I was torn.
Of course I wanted to spend time with my partner, but could AJ (or rather, I) cope with mum being away just yet? We had left AJ with relatives before to go to the movies or breakfast, but never overnight.
In the weeks leading up to the night away I was excited. I was looking forward to a nice dinner, a few drinks and my first full night’s sleep in five months.
Then the day finally arrived and I again found myself experiencing that weird allergic reaction I have to animal families on television…
I like to think that I have fostered positive attachment security with AJ.
His socio-emotional development and well-being is just as important as his nutritional requirements, but I try not to over-think this Psych 101 too much.
I’m all for being sensitive to his needs and signals, but I don’t want to take ‘attachment parenting’ too far and prevent him from forming healthy bonds with others.
We’ve all heard the cringe-worthy phrases of ‘cutting the apron strings’ and ‘helicopter parenting’ whereby one parent, usually the mother, is criticised for being over-protective of their child.
I don’t like such terms, but realise there are some parents out there that may struggle with allowing their child to operate independently in the big wide world.
Naturally, I also want to protect AJ. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered wrapping him in bubble wrap and keeping him within the confines of the house until he turns 18.
Obviously this is an unrealistic and extreme measure which would do more harm than good.
My point is that parents have to find a balance between fostering a warm, loving environment and providing their offspring a secure base for exploration and self-learning.
This isn’t such a big issue for me just yet, given AJ is still an infant, but I know it’s something I will have to be increasingly aware of as he gets older.
I mentioned earlier that some primary caregivers may have trouble ‘letting go’ when it comes to their little one (in this instance the initial separation from baby).
I must add here that we are lucky in the fact that AJ will take the bottle from people other than mum and dad, and we have established a fairly good night routine in terms of sleeping.
We also had the luxury of a trusted babysitter on this rare occasion.
I therefore understand that others may be restricted by more complicated feeding and sleeping schedules, rather than emotional ties.
So back to Valentine’s Day and there we were, just my husband and I, enjoying a wine by the water, sans baby.
Sure, I got a text reassuring me that AJ was bathed, fed and tucked-up in bed, and we couldn’t shake the feeling that we had forgotten something, but all-in-all our overnight getaway was wonderful.
Then of course comes the reunion – the real test of a successful timeout.
Will baby cry upon seeing his mum again? Will he shy away or squeal with glee?
I walked into my home with great anticipation to find AJ…fast asleep, just as I left him.
I realise that our date night was just the first step in my separation from AJ.
Soon enough I will be facing a whole new round of emotional challenges with daycare when I return to the workforce.
But as long as I have my waterproof eyeliner and avoid any David Attenborough shows the night before, I think I’ll be fine.
*I have previously talked about the importance of pets being included in the family, but in this case I am just referring to human members. I haven’t forgotten about Charlie!