Mama’s Night Out

by Amber Strocel on June 18, 2012

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Yesterday evening I had the chance for a night out of the house on my own. Today, I’m recalling another evening a number of years ago when I really wanted a night out, but I wasn’t in the place to make it happen. Let’s compare and contrast those two evenings.

Yesterday Evening

  • My children were three-and-a-half and seven years old.
  • Both children were sleeping through the night.
  • Both children had experience being put to bed by someone other than me.
  • Their loving father felt confident taking charge for the evening.
  • I was working from home, so I had lots of time with my kids during the day.

Playing around post-Easter egg hunt
My children now

Long-Ago Evening

  • I had one child who was about eighteen months old.
  • That child still nursed to sleep every night.
  • That child also still woke up regularly after falling asleep.
  • Her father, while very loving, did not feel confident putting her to sleep without me.
  • I was working outside of the home, and wanted to minimize other separations.

Hiding in the bin
My daughter then
As I contrast the two situations, I can see clearly that I just wasn’t ready to take a night out on the town away from my daughter on that evening years ago. I didn’t go out then, and I’m glad I didn’t. Even if everything had been fine at home (and there’s a good chance it would have), I would have been worried about it, which isn’t exactly a recipe for fun. But things change, and kids get older. In my current situation, I feel no qualms about leaving my children with a trusted and loving caregiver while I head out for the evening, either by myself or with my husband.

On that long-ago evening, though, things were less clear to me. While I decided not to go out, I felt some pressure around that decision. Many of my friends and acquaintances often took nights away from their own toddlers. I was receiving some subtle messaging that my decision to spend my evenings with my daughter was harming both her and me in some way. We’re often told that it’s important for moms to get away for the evening, or maybe even overnight. When everyone else seems to be doing it, we may feel sheepish that we don’t.

It’s important for me to pause at this point and acknowledge that every situation is different. Some children are just fine being put to sleep by their father or another trusted adult from a very young age. But some children aren’t. Attachment Parenting International talks about the importance of providing consistent and loving care. That’s going to look different in different families. The important thing isn’t when the separation occurs, or how often it occurs. The important thing is that we do our best to respect everyone’s needs, and that we feel free to do what we know is right for our families.

It can feel stifling to be at home with a baby when it seems like everyone else is going out. But as I’ve learned in my years of parenting, children grow. In fact, they grow at a pace the feels alarmingly fast. If you’re not ready to take that night out on the town yet, take heart. Your day will come. Mine came yesterday evening, when I put on a fancy dress, kissed everyone good-bye, and enjoyed myself with my friends. My family was ready, I was ready, and I was able to really relax and have a good time because I had confidence in the situation. For me, that’s worth its weight in gold.

What about you – did you ever find yourself staying home with your child while everyone else went out because you weren’t yet ready for that kind of separation? And how did you know when you and your child were ready to be apart for the evening? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can catch up with Amber’s other adventures on her blog at Strocel.com.

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Amber Strocel (28 Posts)

Amber is a hippie mama to two, a writer, a dreamer, a student, an erstwhile engineer and a lover of chocolate. She lives in suburban Vancouver with her family and one very cranky tabby cat. Keep up with her on her blog at Strocel.com.


{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Tomoko June 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Thank you for this post. I often think about myndecision of staying home without taking a night out even with my husband because of the reasons you mentioned about your thoughts yearsnago. My child is 2 &. 1/2 yrsnold and the only person I trust is mybhusband’s mother since my families live out of the country. I am a full time working outside of the house mom and I want to spend as much time as possible with my daughter when I am working at home. People look at me pitifully when I tell them that the last movie I saw in the movie theater was when my mother was here to help me when my daughter was 3 months old. But it has been my choice and I don’t feel bad about it at a lll, my decision to rather stay home and be with my daughter. I am sure it will change, but for now, I decide to stay home and witnessing every inch she grows.

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Janine June 19, 2012 at 12:13 am

Yes! Sebastian is almost 2 and I’ve been out for one girl’s night. I ended up coming home “early” at around 2am because I didn’t want to push it. I had a good time, but kept thinking about how I didn’t want to be out too late or too far from home just in case I was needed. I doubt I’ll go out again until my kid sleeps through the night regularly. (He only wakes up once or twice now, but he expects me to be there as soon as he does.)

It definitely feels like I’m the only one. One of my best friends left her daughter with me overnight when she was 11 months old, where she slept through the night in a pack n play with no sadness or wake-ups. It seems like all of my Facebook “friends” from high school are hiring sitters to watch their *infants* overnight. I think people are shocked when I refuse to leave my toddler behind. I usually even take him with me in the daytime. I think a big part of it is that I simply don’t feel like I need a ‘break’ from him (although I do love naps and bedtime!), which is hard for some people to understand. I know that I am doing the right thing for our family, but I do sometimes feel uncomfortable having to decline every event I bring my kid along to.

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Dori Thomas June 19, 2012 at 7:42 am

So well said! I wish everyone could just let parents be, trust that they are trusting in themselves (has to be the first “voice” you listen to). So glad you enjoyed yourself, had the time to reflect and that you shared it with us!

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Shannon Roman June 19, 2012 at 7:59 am

My daughter is 2 now, and a few months ago, I was severely pressured by “friends” to leave her for a week long seminar to support my husband. I would be gone all day long, and home in the evenings, but I had never been away from my daughter for more than an hour. We are very attached, even still, and she was nursing frequently all throughout the day. Needless to say, despite all the pressure and guilt that was thrust upon me, I followed my instincts that my daughter still needed me too greatly to, as I felt, “abandon” her for this seminar. I am very proud of that decision, as I know in my heart, it would have been terrible for us both if I had gone.

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Alanna June 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

I constantly hear “just leave them with your mom.” To our friends it seems so simple because this is what they do. And I have a very willing mother and mother-in-law who also put the pressure on. I’ve had to explain it’s not anything against them, I’m just not ready to leave the girls at night. I work outside the home and I miss my babies. My oldest is 3 and my youngest is nearly 2 and still nursing. The nights and weekends are our family time and I don’t want to miss out on that.

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Rachel June 19, 2012 at 9:13 am

My son just turned one and my husband and I have only gone out for the evening together without him a handful of times. The only people who have ever watched him are my stepson’s grandmother and my parents when they’ve come to visit. And every time he’s had his siblings there with him so it makes it more familiar to him.

I’m so happy that you mentioned that when your daughter was eighteen month she still nursed to fall asleep and woke up during the night to breastfeed. I was not able to breastfeed my son, unfortunately, so I bottle fed with formula but our feeding times have always mimicked that of breastfeeding. He currently drinks goat’s milk out of his bottle and still drinks to fall asleep and he also wakes up for more at night. (We co-sleep.) I remember at his 9 month doctor’s appointment telling his pediatrician that he still woke up at night to feed and he told me, “Oh, he shouldn’t be doing that anymore.” Luckily, he kind of back tracked after his comment after seeing the look on my face and said, “Well, I could give you ideas on how to help him stay asleep, but I’m not the one getting up with him so it’s up to you.” As you all know, it’s tough to attachment parent with modern pediatrics telling you contradicting things.

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Rhianna June 19, 2012 at 9:19 am

I actually wrote a very similar post yesterday about this exact pressure from others and the guilt I sometimes (temporarily) feel when I’d much rather spend the night in with my kid, whose company I very much enjoy. http://theotherbabybook.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/how-important-is-time-away-from-your-child/

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AmyJean June 19, 2012 at 9:57 am

I definitely feel this pressure and our daughter only turned 5 months last week. I’ve been told I need a date night and that i have to get my life back. Our daughter still has a hard time going to sleep without me and she’s very attached (to my delight!). While some nights are frustrating b/c I’m at a loss of how to comfort her, I never want to not be part of her day or nights. I have no misconception that I’ll ever get “my life back” b/c that implies that i will get the life i had pre-baby back. And that’s just not possible. Nor do I want that. Our lives have changed with this child and I embrace every good and difficult aspect of raising our child!

Thank you for this post. Sometimes I do wonder, will I ever want to be away from our daughter? It’s good to know that perhaps in a few years, when things are different – it may just be a breeze and I’ll actually have a good time! The thought of it now just makes my stomach queasy and the pressure makes me feel bad for it. This post makes me feel normal and less like an outcast! Thank you for that!

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Lisa June 19, 2012 at 10:04 am

I kept feeling pressured to go out, and did occassionally (I also worked full time, and though my baby was perfectly happy to be put to bed by dad, I really wanted to maximize our time together) – and was often told that it was unhealthy for me not to go out, that if all I felt like doing was staying home with the baby, that was a bad sign, and I *needed* to get out. Every time I did, I just wished I was home with my baby, even if I was having fun. I couldn’t *wait* to get home to him. SO I stopped going out. When my son was a little older, I’d go out for special occassions (like a close friend’s birthday), but I wouldn’t leave the house until he was already in bed. It was a good compromise.
Now, with my little mister #2, I’ve been SAH the whole time, and can’t leave him for any length of time, even with his father, and especially not at night. I just decline to attend outings that require me to leave them behind. Occassionally my husband can wear the sleeping baby in the carrier and take both boys to the park for an hour, but that’s my only “me” time. But you know, while that sounds like a nightmare to some moms I know, I don’t know, I’m pretty okay with it. I think its because I know this won’t last forever. My baby will only need me SO much for a short time. I don’t feel like me life is “on hold” or anything like that. This is still my life! In fact, it’s a part of life I’ll always look fondly back on, even if I’m exhausted most of the time! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I just hate the insinuation that it’s unhealthy to be “so attached” and to not want to leave your kids with sitters. My MIL once told me angrily that I deprived my brothers-in-law of the experience of being uncles because I never let them babysit (my oldest is still only 2.5, btw), in spite of my many times explaining that when I wasn’t at work, I wanted to make up for lost time, and that I didn’t *need* a sitter. They often made suggestions like, you and your husband go out for dinner and a movie and we’ll watch the baby. I felt sad that instead of understanding (or at least accepting, even if they didn’t understand) that I just didn’t *want* time away, and that being together as often as we could is what made our family happy, they chose to see it as depriving them of some essential privilege. They would insist that the baby was fine, the problem was *me* being too anxious. That was rough. I’m glad we moved and don’t have to deal with the criticism and negativity anymore!

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pomomama June 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

Oh my! I confess – this all seems so long ago now (my son is 9y old) but I remember I took a slightly different approach. After the first four months, my son and I settled in to approximately 2-hourly breastfeeding sessions (which of course growth spurts knocked cock-eyed so we just rolled with it). He became a swift and efficient feeder so I did have just under 2 hours to get out and about. It wasn’t so much that I needed to get out but that both parents needed to feel comfortable flying solo, with or without baby. So I went out for walks and my husband got solo-time with our son.
I’m so glad we started this early on as there have been no breaks in the consistent and loving care you mention, and my son and his dad are very comfortable with each other. We’ve all had our freedoms and we’ve all had our togethernesses.

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Amber June 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I think we’re talking about two slightly different things. When my kids were smaller I would do things like go out for walks or zip to the grocery store by myself, or even go out for lunch with my husband. Also, I returned to work when my daughter was one year old (Canadian maternity leave) so I definitely had time away from her. However, at the time, I wasn’t ready for a full “evening out”, if you catch my drift. Thirty minutes to an hour during the day was generally OK, but more than that wasn’t working for me. And, really, we all need to figure out what works for us. :)

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Nyphredil June 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

My feelings exactly! I never left my daughter in the evening before she was one year old, and only very rarely during the day since I’m a stay-at-home mom. When she was 9 months old she would go to our neighbor across the street for 1 hour each week to play with the children there (she was still a daycare mom at the time) and every now and again my husband would take her shopping or I would go shopping in between nursings. After she had turned one I went to a Prince concert and my husband stayed home with her and gave her some cow’s milk in a bottle (since I never pumped my breasts weren’t used to it, which was one more reason to wait until she was one before leaving her with her daddy in the evening. My son is now almost 14 months and I have never yet left him with anyone during the day (our neighbor has retired and he has his sister to play with) and I couldn’t yet leave him in the evening or night as he still needs to be nursed to sleep and wakes up very often.

And yes, people seem to think it’s weird, you’re locking yourself away and you’re missing out on things… I don’t think so. Our daughter was born on our 16th anniversary, so we’ve had 16 years to go to the movies, concerts, etc. We do still go to restaurants, but for lunch, with the children .

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Pamela June 19, 2012 at 11:03 am

I’ve had a little anxiety about this one this week, so your post was well timed! We’ve been debating whether to take our daughter to a family wedding, where she is welcome to attend, rather than go on our own. We decided to take her. At 2.5, she nurses prior to sleeping, though she is gently child-led weaning right now. She needs snuggles with mom and dad to get her to sleep though she pretty much sleeps straight through the night at this point. I don’t know how it would go over to leave her, even with trusted family members, to try to switch the night time routine while we are traveling and away from her comfort zone. The anxiety of leaving her wasn’t worth the few hours of alone time we might have had. We know our time will come again and we still make other couple time for ourselves. I know when we see her dancing in her party dress and feeling safe and happy during the wedding party, we’ll have no regrets:) Thanks for the reminder that it’s ok to do whatever works for our family, even if it’s not what some family members would choose for themselves.

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Amanda June 19, 2012 at 11:43 am

My son is only 4 months old, yet I’ve been struggling for 3 months with my mother pressing me to leave the baby with her so my husband and I can go out. She “thinks it would be really good and is really important for us to have some alone time” and so on. I want her to understand that I’m just not ready, that we’re nursing on demand, that we never let him cry it out, that we are attachment parents because it feels right and works for us. It’s so hard, because my parents were sort of an early 80′s version of us, with a lot of the same ideas, but were very heavily influenced also by prevalent ideas at that time – that holding a baby too much would spoil it, that baby should be moved to their own bedroom by 3 months, that supplementing with formula is necessary, that solids at 4 months is best, that babies need to cry, etc. And I have a really hard time getting him back from her when she’s holding him, which means he winds up getting more upset than usual when we are with my family. I’m pushing back against my mom’s advice gently and a little at a time, and she’s respectful and willing to change or suppress her opinions, but it’s still hard!

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Ashley June 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Look her dead in the eyes and say give me back my baby. Period. I get parents and their opinions, but now we do things different. I went through a lot of that with my first. When my second comes, I don’t care I will do whatever I want. Talk to your husband and agree. The set rules together for YOUR family. :-) Good luck it is hard, I know.

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Steffie June 19, 2012 at 11:58 am

It seems the original poster and two commentors are both (reasonably) content to stay home with their kids…. But what about moms whose kids aren’t ready but desperately NEED a break, even for a few hours? My 22 mo son is a very high need child but my 3 mo son is very easy going. The oldest will scream and cry if I so much as leave the house to go get the mail. Once, a twenty minute trip to the store had him crying so hard he threw up. I can’t even pee on my own half the time. God help us all if I have to answer the door for UPS during his nap! Any advice there?

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Jorie June 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Steffie – I have been there, had that child! Just wanted you to know, you’re not alone and yes, they really do grow out of it. When my DD1 was that age she was just as intense, we lived in a new city and my DH worked long hours. We had no family close by, and my DD freaked out if we tried to leave her with her grandparents anyway. It was hard. All I can say is – they really do grow out of it! About that time I made my husband commit to coming home on time one day a week, I put DD to bed, and then I went out and took a class. I was almost always home before she woke up to come in our bed (which was only a couple of hours) but it was great time alone, and I learned mad cake decorating skills. I make great birthday cakes now! Anyway, you might have to be creative to get a break for the time being but your son might surprise you. When DD turned 3 it was like someone flipped a switch. I worried terribly about starting her in preschool, and yet, she never had a problem with school and absolutely LOVED it. She’s five now and still intense but she loves school and doing things without me (even if she still prefers that I put her to bed!).

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Steffie June 20, 2012 at 8:45 am

This is almost exactly the situation….. We’re alone in Houston, no family or friends, I don’t work. Nor do I have a car. Complicate matters by adding in a company vehicle that I can’t drive that only accommodates two adults, or one child and one adult. We can’t even go anywhere as a family!

Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement. Sometimes you need it! Currently the best stress buster outlet I’ve got is baking and cooking. At least we’re eating well!

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Regina W June 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Oh, Steffie! My 3.5 yr old is also high needs! Besides her first 10 or so months (which were hell), the 20-25 month age range was absolutely terrible. I was certain that there was something wrong with her and life was just survive one day (or one hour) at a time. I know this isn’t much comfort, but after his second birthday, I bet it will get better. He’ll still be high-needs, but he’ll be able to communicate better, do more things for himself, and probably start sleeping better. Our daughter started finally sleeping (waking only once at night or so) at 27 months old. As I said, our daughter is 3.5 years old and I have not yet spent a night away from her. She’s almost ready. We have been able to let my husband put her to bed now, but that wasn’t possible until after she was 2 yrs.

So, it WILL get BETTER! Hang in there! Keep loving your little guy and meeting his needs. It sounds like you are very in tune with him and are caring for him as he needs you to. You are a great mommy! High-needs kids are really, really tough.

(Sorry if anything in the above post sounds weird or is misspelled. For some reason the form is not letting me go back and edit or copy and paste it.)

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Amber June 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Like everyone else is saying, it will get better. It’s really hard while it lasts, though. The truth is that I wasn’t exactly 100% OK with feeling so in-demand when I had just one toddler who cried if I closed the bathroom door. At the time I didn’t know that it would end, but it did. Until then, do your best to hang in there. And maybe get yourself a secret stash of chocolate as a pick-me-up when you’re at the end of your rope.

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Ashley June 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Leave them. Mom insane is not good for them. They will live and honestly you are not scaring them for life. When you hit the Mommy meltdown take a break. Make sure they are well taken care of and do what you need to do. You are not awful at all. I did it and my son lived. I promise. :-)

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Debbie June 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Steffie, my only advice is to repeat over and over and over to yourself, “This too shall pass.” One of the reasons I am content to stay home is because I have worked hard on my attitude about it. My first was easygoing and my second is the high needs one, so my perspective is different – I see how quickly they stop being babies and I am bound and determined to enjoy it as much as I can, to enjoy the little moments, each hug, each snuggly nap. So my second child is a “baby” longer than my first child. At 1.5 and 3.5, they love to play together now, and that helps a lot. I can sometimes manage to leave the room to switch laundry or go potty without her really paying attention or caring. But they are both getting more mature every day and I really don’t want to sour my memories of this time by wishing things were different.

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Abigail June 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm

This is very reassuring, because I’m at the place now, with my 19 month old, that you were with your 18 m/o: nurses to sleep, wakes up to nurse, sleeps with me (or more like ON me) and ONLY with me. As in: if I’m not there, no sleep. And while I love love love sleeping and napping with my son, I am sometimes embarrassed to explain to others why I have a hard time getting laundry done, never mind even  going out for that movie or to that party. (Though my husband and I do go out for early dinners sometimes, before baby’s bedtime).

Anyway, it’s nice to read your post, in which I see a message from my future. The time will come when I go out again –or heck, just watch prime time TV — and there’s no need to rush it. 

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sarah June 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm

i feel the same way janine irarley leave nola maybe a handful of times she is 2 and a half, and we did school interviews where i left her alone in the calssroom and she was fine
i just like being with her i was a todder teacher my whole life and i love being with her and i dont see anything negative from it

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Lauren June 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I have been agonizing over whether or not to spend a night away with my husband for our upcoming 10th anniversary. The truth is, though, that my daughter just isn’t ready. Your post helped me realize that it’s ok and that it’s only for a season. Thank you!

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Angela June 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I just wanted to say I think it’s wonderful that there are such beautiful mothers out there. I love being with my daughter, we co-sleep and I nurse her to sleep etc. I get so disheartened when I see other, harsher parenting styles that it really saddens me. I feel joy when I read these stories of conscious parenting. Thank you for sharing.

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sahn lee June 21, 2012 at 2:13 am

thank you for this lovely post. It really speaks to me. My LO just turned 12 months. It’s not easy that she needs to be latched on for every nap and repeated throughout the night to get & stay asleep, but I’ve realized that I cherish this time with her. Someday she won’t need me and I’ll miss this, especially since we had to wait 5 years (and a lot of tears) for her to be a part of our lives.
btw, as time goes on, she is getting better at delatching on her own during the night. I take this as a sign not to worry about her, that she’ll grow into her independence as she’s ready to.

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Amberle June 21, 2012 at 8:44 am

I really needed to hear this today. I’m being pressured into a bacholerette party. My 2.5 year old would be fine with my husband they stay at home at night a couple times a week and do great with bath time, bed time but my 6.5 month year old there is no way I can leave her. I nurse her to sleep. She sometimes takes multiple times to go down. Even though the bride has a 2 year old and nursed and co slept and kind of is AP she doesn’t seem to understand I have a baby. It’s 45 min away so it’s not even close enough I’d feel comfortable leaving and then getting called home if she woke up.

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