If there is one truth about having children, it’s that you will never know how much your life will change until it happens. No one can explain the joys and no one can explain the fear. Leaving a baby for the first time is no different. Everyone’s family has a different dynamic and there are no rules about when and how this should happen. Eventually, whether your baby is 5 days or 5 years old, you will have to leave them in someone else’s care. The decision about when to leave a baby (with a family or not) is personal and don’t let anyone tell you that you should do it before you are ready. Having a night out with your spouse, while not necessary like grocery trips and doctor appts, can ease some of the stresses that evolve from the changes that having a baby brings to marriage. Here are some tips for surviving the first night out without the baby:
1.Plan for it but prepare to cancel. I tell people all the time that my plans are up in the air…until I’m there. When you leave the baby for the first time, it’s important that the experience be positive for both you and the baby or child. Things come up and wrenches are thrown, c’est la vie. Parenting is all about flexibility so always be prepared to throw in the towel if you don’t feel right or if your child is having an off day or seems out of sorts.
2.Keep it simple. Simple plans are more flexible. There is nothing fun about cancelling a reservation at a 5-star restaurant. First night out probably shouldn’t be dinner AND a movie because you might get a late start and miss the movie. Plus, I’ve been that mom in the movie checking the cell phone every 5 minutes. It’s not that fun! I have found that going to a place that is close to home will add time to your date (in my case, I was a breastfeeding time bomb) and give you some peace of mind that you can race home in a moment’s notice.
3.Find a babysitter that you love - don’t rely on age as the only gauge of ability. If you don’t have local family, fear not, there is probably a trustworthy neighbor or a family friend that will watch your baby. Don’t assume that your great aunt Edna will make a better babysitter than the 17 year old next door. People can be too young AND too old to be able to meet your care standards. Age doesn’t really matter as much as confidence and responsibility. I have 3 kids and I only leave them with (2) bright, 17 year-old girls that are good at following instructions. Anyone who watches my kids has to have a buddy…kind of like swimming.
4.If you are leaving a breast-fed infant, make sure that they will take a bottle, even if you plan on being home again in time to feed them. Leave expressed milk and feeding instructions, just in case.
5.If you drink, drink light! You will not process alcohol the same way you did before you were pregnant. Even if you had a glass of wine every now and then during pregnancy, sleep deprivation, hormonal changes and weight changes will change the way you process alcohol. I won’t quote the surgeon general or American Association of Pediatrics but obviously, drinking and breastfeeding should be handled with care.
6.Enjoy spending time with your spouse because that it where it all began. Every date night comes with 2 special moments. One is the moment when you look across the table and smile because you think about all of the reasons that you wanted a family. The other, is the moment when you both realize that all you have talked about are the kids and that you can’t wait to get home to them.