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Mom's First Trip

Leaving You

By Amalah

I’m typing this on a train (please to blame any and all typos on a particularly bu-u-u-mpy stretch of tra-a-ack), on my way to a conference in another city, trying to count the number of entire nights I’ve spent away from my children. It hasn’t been that many, yet it hasn’t been that few, either.

Some mothers break out in the sweats and shakes at the idea of leaving their children for long stretches of time. For me, well, I have to admit that I only felt that way when I was breastfeeding. (Nature OR biology or whatever does a damn fine job of wiring the postpartum female brain into sticking around in that regard.) Once they weaned, I was almost instantly fine with browsing hotel and travel sites, ready for a chance to hand them over to the grandparents while I slept the hell IN.

Managing Separation Anxiety (Yours AND Theirs)

Bounce Back ArchivesWell, kind of. Leaving a baby for the first time — really leaving, for overnight or more — is a big deal. I’d even say, in my experience, that leaving said baby for the second time is even HARDER, because you know just how badly you’ll miss them and how you’ll swear they look different when you return and how much it stings when you don’t exactly get the joyous happy greeting you were hoping for on your return. And any time you have to leave them before they reach an age of understanding — when no matter what you do or say to them, you’re still essentially just really leaving them to figure out your absence on their own — it’s hard.

I guess if I want to be Little Miss Useful Columnist, I’d include a list of Handy Tips! And Ideas! To Make Travel Easier On You Both! Have your caregiver wear your clothes! Bring five gajillion photos! Buy them things! Bring along Skype and a webcam! (Okay, that last one is actually something we do all the time.) But really, it’s…okay. Babies and kids are resilient little buggers. It’s us neurotic types who need the handholding and extra hugs, maybe.

I put Ezra down for his nap before I left today — I spent a ridiculous extra amount of time snuggling with him beforehand, to the point where he was gesturing madly at the crib, like, I AM TIRED, WOMAN, LET ME SLEEP.  I asked for extra kisses and had a momentary moment of panic and guilt at the door, knowing he’d just…wake up to me not being there.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Noah — who is now really old enough to understand that Mommy and Daddy sometimes go on trips for awhile — and got hit with another wave of guilt because I was just springing the news on him. He asked if I wanted to play Candyland with him, and I explained that I couldn’t right then, and that I had to go on a trip and would be back tomorrow night after bedtime. He thought about this for a second.  “So, you’ll play Candyland with me THEN, right?”

I said yes, and he said okay.

When did you first leave your baby/child/children overnight? How old? How long? Were you a mess of nerves or simply couldn’t get out the door fast enough? Has it gotten easier with each trip, or only easier if you’re leaving them to go to a tropical paradise as opposed to say, a business conference in Cleveland?

Click here for our Bounce Back archives.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Stephanie

    June 15, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I left my baby for the first time when she was six months old. Just for one night. I was still breastfeeding and pumping, and even though I’d been back to work, my pumping times got out of whack and OUCH. I had been looking forward to sleeping all night without being woken up, but instead I woke up to pain. And no amount of pumping seemed to help until I got back and practically forced the baby on me. My husband reported that she didn’t even really seem to notice I was gone. Second time, my husband and I escaped for the weekend to attend a wedding. I was so excited about the prospect of flying on a plane without worrying about a baby that I felt I needed to go big! When we got to the hotel bar, I said, “I need a shot!” I can’t even remember the last time I had a shot, even before I was pregnant. So bizarre. The next night at the wedding, I started missing my baby and accosted the groom’s niece who was only a month or so older than mine. Came back home. Charlotte totally looked different to me, and my mom reported that there were no tears while I was gone…

  • Bethany

    June 15, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I left my son overnight for a full weekend when he was 8 months old. We were doing bottles of breastmilk since he never latched, but I was still pumping like mad. We live with my mom, so he stayed with her in his own house and his own bed with his own stuff. I think that made a smoother transition. I had a decent amount of milk frozen, so they were fine on that front. I still pumped and stored while away. I was WAY more weird about leaving than he was. He loves to hang out with Grammy. It was all I could do not to call every 10 minutes. But I didn’t! I called in the morning to ask how he slept, and I called to tell him goodnight. And we both survived. And it was nice to not have to sleep with the monitor on. Or have to allow the extra time to feed, change and dress the baby before you can do anything else in the morning. It was really nice to have that little bit of Mom alone time. And I was greeted with a huge smile and a hug when I returned. Yeah. It was worth it.

  • Courtney

    June 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I first left my son when he was 7 months old, just for a night. I took a train about 3 hours away, and got to pump in the train bathroom – that was fun! Especially when a tipsy guy kept banging on the door asking “Is everything OK in there?” I was really looking forward to the night by myself and getting to sleep straight through – and of course I kept waking up, wondering if he was OK and worried I’d sleep through my alarm. When I got home, he was happy to see me, but not – ecstatic, you know? And of course, my husband claims that the baby slept through the night while I was gone (here I was thinking this would be sweet sweet payback for all the nights I’ve gotten up alone) – I’m pretty sure he just didn’t hear the crying.

    Anyway . . . we have a three-night trip planned for October when he’ll be 13 months and that is my official deadline for weaning. We’re going to Napa and it’s very possible I will majorly overindulge. I can’t wait.

  • diana

    June 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    i am glad to hear all these stories about babies not especially missing their mothers! in 2 weeks i head out for 2 nights for work, leaving my 2.5 year old and 8 month old. i am still nursing the 8 month old, and he doesn’t really love the bottle, despite being at daycare 3 days/week and having gotten one daily since 2 weeks old. i am really nervous!! i know he will be ok, and i am sure he will do something redicuous like sleep through the night both nights, but whatever. i am still going to miss the little dude. (i will miss the 2 year old too, but i have been away from him a couple of nights, most recently when the baby was born and he literally didn’t notice).

  • Kristina

    June 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I left my daughter for a five-day business trip to Europe when she was 9 months old. It was the first time I’d been without her for more than 4 (waking) hours at a time. She’d already weaned and was staying with her daddy, but I was still freaked out. I held it together until I had to board my flight. The first few days, my husband reported she was sleeping through the night (as Courtney said above, he probably didn’t hear the crying). But then she and my husband came down with a crazy 24-hour intestinal flu and they were both vomiting and miserable – and I was helpless in another country.

    As for my trip… well, it was AMAZING. I got to sleep more than 4 hours in a row, I got to talk to interesting researchers about my own work, and I got to do it all in an awesome locale. I honestly think that trip made me feel like myself again, for the first time since my third trimester started. And I appreciated my daughter and my role as her mother more for allowing myself to spend a few days apart.

    Of course, I’m now freaking out about my upcoming 2-week-long international business trip (she’ll be 13 months). But I’m hoping that it’s just as helpful at recentering me in terms of both work and motherhood as my last trip was.

  • Jennifer

    June 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    The only night I’ve ever spent away from my 3-year old was the one night I was in the hospital after having her sister, who is now 11 months old and I’ve never spent the night away from her. I have no desire to leave them and, honestly, don’t think I would handle it well, although, yes, I know they would be just fine. Also, where would I go? I don’t have to travel for work and any vacation my husband and I would take would include them.

    I guess this comment isn’t really helpful because I don’t have any advice or experience to offer. I think I’m just worried that if I leave them that I’ll miss something BIG or they’ll grow up overnight and I will have a lifetime of regret for not being there for every second of their oh-so-fleeting childhoods. Maybe a column about letting go and relaxing a little is in order for tightly-wound readers like me!

  • HereWeGoAJen

    June 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    My baby is eighteen months old and I still haven’t left her. Also, besides an occasional hour or two with family members, she’s never even had a babysitter. I am pathetic, I know this.

  • Stefanie

    June 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I just did this a couple of weeks ago. How timely! I was SO SCARED of leaving her, even though my sister, who totally adores my daughter and has an infant of her own, would be caring for her, mostly because my daughter just howls when we let anyone else hold her. When I dropped her off she screamed bloody murder. I managed not to cry quite as hard.

    I called to check later on to see how bedtime went and make sure everything was ok. Of course, it was. My sister got her to eat more than I ever had, my daughter went right to sleep for her, and only cried for a few minutes after I left. My husband and I had a fantastic time although I didn’t sleep very much because I was just so amped from the sheer possibilities of having no responsibilities for the evening! When I went to pick my daughter up, my brother-in-law passed her to me and she howled and reached for him again. Ouch.

  • Danielle

    June 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    We go out all the time. The kids don’t seem to mind and hubby and I need to time to remember why we like each other sans children.
    That being said, our son was weird because he spent his first 3 months in the NICU and consequently spent many nights away. It left us feeling pretty confident that he would be okay with other people. We went on vacation (just the two of us and some friends) when he was a year and a half old while he spent a week at grandma’s. It was harder on us. We talked every night, we skyped, I missed him like crazy, but I would still do it again. My parents are six hours away and I’d like the kids to spend a week every summer with them. I want them to know even if they’re far away, that they’re fun and awesome.

  • Lisa

    June 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I also haven’t really left my 12.5 month old daughter. Well, for more than 7 hours… She’s been taken care of by my mom on a different floor of the house to let me sleep when she was 6 months old… ahhh… sleep. But we haven’t handed her off and gone for more than the few hours at night or the day care during the day…

  • Mary

    June 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    This is very helpful to me right now because I am going to a foreign country (Moldova) for six days in about seven weeks and I am already freaking out. Like many said, my seventeen month old (eighteen months when I go!) will be well-cared for by her Daddy – a SAHD anyway, but I have never left her overnight before. Not to mention that I will also be fourteen weeks pregnant with her baby sister/brother (letting that bombshell drop to my husband on Father’s Day this weekend!). I’m sure I will be a mass of quivering nerves — while she will be her usual, zen self. I’m already missing her!

  • Wallydraigle

    June 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    The first time I left my baby overnight was when we went to the hospital to have our second baby. Our first was 16 months old at the time.

    I’ve never been one of those suction-cupped-to-my-children types. While I’m nuts about them, I’m also nuts about having a social life and not having to deal with little humans and their neediness from time to time. But before then, I’d never been away from her for more than half a day or so. At the very longest, I think I left the house in the morning after she’d gotten up and didn’t come home until after bedtime. So until then, I’d always seen her at least once a day for 16 months.

    I wasn’t expecting to miss her that much. But the day after our daughter was born, some friends of ours came to visit in the hospital (I had a C-section, so it was a 4-day stay), and they brought their 18-month-old with them. I know part of it was the crazy lady hormones, but I about lost it. My whole body just ached for her. It really surprised me. We got home, and I think I held her for at least an hour. Or tried. She had things to do and toys to play with. The worst thing was that she’d had a growth spurt while we were gone, so she really did look different when we came back. Those four days felt like forever.

  • Natalie

    June 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    My 18 month old has been going to grammy’s house four days a week since she was 6 weeks old because I had to go back to work to keep our insurance. When she was around 9 months a work trip came up for me, it was a week long and I thought I would be fine but I freaked out at the last minute and ended up staying home. At 14 months my mom kept her over night the weeknd after valentines day (which wasn’t a huge deal) and then again over memorial day weekend. That was a little tougher because we left the area. I called alot and checked in a lot but she was so used to being ith grammy, plus my brother and his wife were in town and it was a holiday weekend so everyone was there (I have a very big Italian family), my daughter never really had a minute to rest and I doubt she realized we were even gone for the first 24 hours

  • Julia

    June 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    The first time I left daughter #1 overnight was when she was about 2 and 1/2 and I was pregnant with daughter #2; we were doing a trial run of her staying with my parents in preparation for being there for a few nights when her little sister arrived. And I have not yet left our now-18-month-old daughter #2 overnight yet. I don’t feel bad or embarrassed about this; when we travel, we go as a family and I don’t work outside the home. We don’t have family nearby that could watch them and we don’t have a lot of money for vacations. I feel like if I went away, it would be just specifically to get away from them and that’s not how I feel about them. I mean, I do get time to myself and time alone with my husband, but not for days at a time.

  • LibraryChristi

    June 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    You couldn’t have timed this post any better! I’m leaving for my first business trip/conference next Friday sans kidlet (she’ll be 10 months old). On the one hand I’m so, so excited about the trip. But, on the other I’m starting to freak out about being gone from her for so long. Between work days and conference days it will be 11 days of little to no awake time with her and that makes me sad.

  • Jenifer

    June 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    I just did two overnight business trips in two weeks. Things were just fine for the boy. The first trip I woke up a lot thinking about him, Then I found out that he slept through the night. The next trip I enjoyed sleeping a full nine hours uninterrupted. It was heaven. The hardest part was the pumping. Scheduling a time and place on a business trip was really hard even though everyone was really nice about it. Plus I pumped and pumped and pumped and still got a clogged duct. Glad the baby was receptive to nursing when I got home. I’m not sure I’m ready for more than one night away, but the trips made me feel like a human being again.

  • rikki

    June 15, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    This is crazy timing. Just last week, I was away from my 17 month old for the first time ever for 4 days away. It was for a 2 day conference, and I briefly considered staying with friends (who had a new baby!), but I opted for a decent hotel room (by myself!) and an extra day in town. I totally expected to sleep in, but like clockwork my eyes were wide open at 6 am (8 am back at home) when she always wakes me up. (I haven’t set an alarm clock in over a year!) It was torture not seeing her every day, but she stayed at home with daddy and granny and was 100% fine. Apparently there were quite a few questioning “Mommy? Mommy?”s and pointing up the stairs (where my home office is), so as far as she knows, I just worked for 4 days straight!

  • From Belgium

    June 16, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Ours has only stayed the night at her grandparents. While they are relaxing nights for mommy and daddy, they are agony for the grandparents, at least at first. They’d jump up at each little cry, noise, cough etc thinking ‘OMG the baby coughed, its going to die’. Now baby is in the first stages of toddlerhood it is going a little bit better. Just a little bit.

  • eva

    June 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I have NO PROBLEM leaving my two and a half year old daughter. The first time I was away was for 3 nights when she was 12 months old. My husband has been away from us many times on work trips, which is how I knew she’d be just fine with grandma/aunt/uncle. This year we went away for a week without her and she had a blast! She was very bitter the morning we were leaving though, wouldn’t talk to me or hug me, but when we came back she was totally fine. We did not skype or talk on the phone to her at all when we were away, just emailed with mom/aunt to ensure things were ok. I can honestly say that although I sort of missed Megan, I really just kept being so thankful that travelling is so much easier without her! She’s also been in 4-5 days a week of daycare since she was 13 months old though, so is used to the idea that mommy and daddy leave her and come back. Oh and we kept her in daycare when away, which I think helped immensely. Planning to do the same when my second is born this coming September….

  • Ms. K

    June 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I first left my DD overnight when she was 10 months old, for a 1 night business trip. I did it again, for another night, when she was 12 months old. Both times were…mixed. Finding times/places to pump (Amtrak train bathrooms, basement of furniture store, etc.) was logistically annoying but not difficult. Storing the milk (in a cooler with dry ice) was simply another item to lug around – I swear breastmilk got more space in my luggage than clothing. DD was generally OK with just papa, but we learned she consumed a lot more milk in night nursing than we had thought – the first time she ripped through our entire frozen stash of milk in a single evening, leaving poor husband to substitute soymilk in desperation, and then formula then next day, for the first time ever. 

    The second time she was eating food and we had stashed enough mama milk but she started to rock back and forth and yell “mamamamamama” around 7pm, the time I usually get home from work.

    I’m not sure how easy it would be to leave her now that she’s a toddler – the demands for Mama start at a certain time of night, and after I get home she refuses to be separated from me until the morning.

    I miss her more now that she is older, too. She is more fun. LIttle baby was just demanding all the time…now I get hugs and kisses!

  • Tracy

    June 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I had surgery when my daughter was 4 months old, and spent one night in the hospital. I’m not sure she even noticed. The good thing about being in the hospital, as compared to a business trip, is that you’re on all kinds of lovely meds to distract you. 🙂

  • KimberlyC

    June 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I left my breastfed 8 month old overnight for 3 nights while I was in the hospital recovering from the virus from hell that SHE gave to me. I pumped, she was with my mother in law and she was okay- MIL did say that she got weird and sad toward the end of the third day, and that they thought she was getting sick again… turns out she missed me! Yay!
    Since then, though, not much scares me about leaving her. I won’t be letting her go on any out of state vacations without me or anything any time soon but…. yeah, after the trial by fire? I know that she is okay. Me? I get a little weird with the missing my baybee thing.

  • Anne

    June 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    This is such a timely post. I just left my 8 month old for the first time for a three week business trip, it is HARD. And yep, i was still nursing when I left….and i am pumping 5 times a day while I am here to keep up with my supply. The icing on the cake is I am in Germany where my pump can’t even be plugged in with an adapter because of the voltage over here. The guys I am traveling with are laughing at (I mean with) me when we go to the store and I come out with a few 30 pack of AA batteries. I am making it work. I miss him more than words, but I really didn’t have a choice other than quit….I am the primary breadwinner. Anyone have questions about how I make it work, feel free to email me…

  • Anne

    June 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    What a timely post….I am on a three week business trip right NOW! My sweet-pea 8 month old son is at home with daddy right now… I miss them a ton. By the way, I am still nursing/pumping and continuing my schedule while I am here. To add to the misery, i am in Germany where the electricity for my pump would make it explode. I am sure the hotel people think I have some weird sex toy with all my AA batteries around. It is really kind of funny and heart breaking all at the same time. I am pouring all my milk out but I am working to just keep up my supply for when i get back. I really hope he remembers me, it will be a long time. I ache for home, but I really didn’t have a choice. i am the primary bread winner. If anyone has any questions as to how I make it work….email me….

  • Valerie

    June 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I spent my first night away from my little boy when he was 4 months old. It was Valentine’s Day and my mother generously offered to watch him so my husband and I could go out.

    There were lots of tears on my part, but he did wonderfully. He spends the night with her about once a month (give or take) and just loves getting that time with Grandma.

    That being said, we have a 3-night trip planned in a couple weeks and I’m already sick to my stomach thinking about being away from him for that long.

  • Tiffany

    June 22, 2010 at 12:44 am

    I am an L&D RN and I work three 12 hour night shifts a week so I am used to being at work at night while my son is home with his “Dada”, but in a couple of weeks it will be the first time he will be staying at his Aunt’s house while I am at work and my husband is having a night on the town for a bachleor party for our son’s godfather. You would think I would be totally at ease with this but my baby will NOT be at OUR house for the whole night. Aggghhhh. AND in August I will be leaving him for one night for my turn at a bachlorette get together for one of my best friends. A night at the beach with dinner and drinks and adults sounds LOVELY until I think about fitting in a couple of pumping sessions oh and the guilt from being away from home and missing another night with him without getting paid to do so. I just hope I can relax and enjoy the evening but I know I will be up at the crack of dawn and headed home before the rest of the girls even think about waking up. This whole guilt thing, yeah not prepared for that part of being a parent!

  • Julie

    August 14, 2014 at 1:48 am

    I’m from the UK and on Saturday I fly out to Poland for a week long conference, My son is nearly 2 and I have never left him that long before. I really do not want to go to this conference, especially because there is a guy from work that is going who makes my life hell and the thought of spending a week with him and not my son makes me feel sick.  Its so difficult being a working mum, trying to forward your career but having this constant guilt all the time for leaving the kids 🙁