10 Tips for A Smooth, Successful Overnight Getaway for Mom and Dad

By Megan

Al and I went away for a night this weekend. The kids stayed home with our beloved babysitter, Lara. This was the first time Peabody’d ever gone to bed and awakened without at least one of us at home, and I’m not gonna lie to y’all, I wasn’t so sure it’d go well. He’s been sick with a nasty upper respiratory virus for over a week now and just GROUCHY and extra-clingy for many, many days. So I left with my heart in my throat, worried we wouldn’t make it to our destination before we heard from Lara that he was inconsolable. But in the end, Peabody (and his big sister) had a lovely time with Lara, and Al and I had a worry-free night and fun-filled day alone together. I’m still a little bit surprised we pulled it off, to be honest, but very thankful we did!

Which makes me wonder … how many parents (who would WANT to do it, because I know some just wouldn’t, no matter what) don’t take the opportunity to do something like this (a quick, restorative get-away alone for a special event – it was our birthdays! – or just because it’s so healthy for partners to have time to focus on JUST one another every once in awhile) for themselves because of the fear that their kids wouldn’t handle it well? And then I thought, after we’d successfully pulled off our little adventure, maybe it’d be helpful to share HOW we did it, so other Moms and Dads might get some ideas that’d make them feel a bit more comfortable about taking time-out for themselves.

So here are some of the things we did that I think in retrospect worked well for our family.

1 – We’ve carefully built a trusting relationship with our children’s care-giver over time. Lara has been sitting for our children for nearly a year. Families lucky enough to have grandparents, aunts, uncles or other relatives who can watch their small people already have this one licked, but because we’re so far from our family network, finding and working with Lara over many months, starting by leaving the kids with her while we went on short dates in our neighborhood and working our way up to this trip, has been a lengthy but worthwhile process. WE know her, and she knows US, and the KIDS know her very well, too.

2 – We didn’t go too far. For this trip, we traveled less than 45 minutes from home. Knowing we could get home in about half an hour gave us confidence that no matter what happened, our kids wouldn’t be without us for long if they really needed us. The location probably wouldn’t have been our VERY TIPPY TOP choice for a place to go if we could have gone anywhere, but it was still clean, cozy and heck, anywhere I don’t have to get up at 6:30 AM, brew my own coffee or make my own bed is pretty luxurious to me, and the two of us were alone and uninterrupted, so it suited our purposes perfectly.

3 – Lara was fully prepared. She always brings crafts or games to play with the kids, but this time, with 24 hours to kill, we all knew she had to bring her absolute A-game to keep Peabody happy and diverted from thinking about and crying for his Mom and Dad, so we planned for that. He loves cars, so I bought a little 97 cent Matchbook car on sale for her to give him the MINUTE she walked through the door. That made our departure a little easier for him. He still whimpered a bit, but the car and Lara’s promise of roads for it out in the sandbox worked very well to give him something else on which to focus immediately after we left. And as of today, he’s still calling that car his “La-la car.”

4 – We left the kids in Their Natural Habitat. By having Lara watch the kids at OUR house, we avoided making them adjust to our absence AND strange surroundings at the same time. Not always possible, but probably the best approach when you can swing it.

5 – Lara followed our regular routines for bath, bed, wake-up times and meals. This is another benefit of having worked with our care-giver for so long; she knows how we operate and she’s comfortable and confident keeping things business as usual. I still ALWAYS leave a note with general guidelines of bedtimes and meal ideas and all of the other important information and numbers, but knowing she’s got a handle on how things work around here makes ME comfortable AND gives the kids the sense that they’re secure as life goes on as normal.

6 – But we also recognize that having a sitter NEEDS to be special, too, so the kids can look forward to it and know they’ll have a great time. I mean, who are we to run off on vacation and leave our sweet little children at home without us with nothing nifty to show for it? So we encourage Lara (and provide the financing!) to treat the kids to special outings. This trip, she took them out to breakfast (for pancakes!) and then to an apple orchard to pick apples and ride a few rides, keeping Peabody busy and curious and active and distracted. She even brought us home a few delicious apples AND made homemade applesauce for the kids as a little snack. BRILLIANT!

7 – We stayed in touch. Not with the kids, and not by phone, because hearing Mom’s voice on the phone is usually a recipe for tears for our kids, but with Lara, via texts and emails. To get temperature checks, answer questions, and so on. We knew what and how everybody was doing pretty much every minute, and that was very comforting.

8 – We came home earlier than we said we would. A little bit. Maybe an hour? Because we missed the kids and home AND because we knew the final stretch before our expected return might get a little bit rough for everybody, as activity would wind down and tiredness would surely set in. We surprised the gang by showing up while the fun was in full swing so nobody had to suffer. (Also thereby guaranteeing they’ll be looking forward to seeing each other again soon.)

9 – We tend to keep plans for all upcoming events on the down-low around here. We don’t talk excitedly about our plans far in advance, even when they don’t involve leaving the kids at home with a sitter, for obvious reasons. One of those obvious reasons is that anticipation of something new is GREAT for Bean but at Peabody’s age and stage of development, it can create apprehension and anxiety. So we are very cool about things until our kids NEED to know. I told Bean about this trip the morning of the day we were leaving, and I sat down and explained it to Peabody, very calmly and gently, about 20 minutes before Lara arrived. (And as predicted, he still spent those 20 minutes feeling scared and sad, which pretty much broke my heart. Next time I’ll wait even longer.)

10 – We’ve spent the 24 hours AFTER our trip giving each of the kids plenty of love and attention. Which has been natural, of course, because I MISSED those babies! But also intentional, because they both need the reassurance that we will always come back, and that when we do, they will reap the benefits of our taking time away. We didn’t bring gifts, but we DID bring rested, relaxed parents who delighted in spending the rest of the day with them, hearing about their adventures while we were apart and telling them about ours.

These are some of the fairly simple, straightforward things we did to make parting with our young kids as pleasant as possible for everyone concerned. The overall key ingredients for success, I think, were understanding our kids’ readiness to deal with separation from us, preparing carefully for their needs, and providing them with the best possible care from someone we all know and trust. Our day away was wonderful and refreshing – just what we needed – which will ultimately be as good for our kids as it was for us.

Megan also blogs at FriedOkra and it’s her birthday today!

5 Responses to 10 Tips for A Smooth, Successful Overnight Getaway for Mom and Dad
  1. nicole
    September 21, 2010 | 12:40 pm

    Excellent tips. I would only add that the parents should convey excitement and confidence about the babysitter to make the kids feel at ease. πŸ™‚

  2. CH-Proud Mama
    September 23, 2010 | 10:25 pm

    I thought I was never going to be able to have a “date night” with my husband until now. Your tips are easy to follow. Thanks Megan! πŸ™‚

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