Time away from baby

Like many parents, the thought of leaving my twelve-month-old daughter with somebody else overnight fills me with dread, regardless of who that somebody is. Therefore, the thought of leaving her for four nights with her Granny while I went on honeymoon was a real crisis of character.

Regular followers of this blog will be aware that, when booking said honeymoon, all was not well in the Galton-Drew household. Lizzie wanted to go away for seven nights; I wanted to go for a maximum of four. She accused me of being unable to let go; I accused her of finding it too easy to let go. She wanted our old life; I wanted our new life. And so it went round.

Ultimately we went away for five days, four nights, a result of both my need to be a dad and be there for my child, and the fact we’d misinterpreted the website and couldn’t actually afford seven nights anyway. Building up to it, I wasn’t over eager to leave my troubles (I mean, my daughter) behind. How would she cope without me? How would I cope without her? What if something happened? How could I possibly enjoy myself knowing I’d abandoned my parental responsibility in order to have a jolly?

You know – normal, obsessive, neurotic parent thoughts.

For all parents considering time away from the baby, it’s of course entirely up to you and you should always do what you’re comfortable with, but having now had a holiday without the little one, perhaps my experience will help you make up your mind.

I needn’t have worried. At all. About myself or the baby.

If we start with the little one, she was absolutely fine. She didn’t seem to miss us, went to bed without a fuss and was thoroughly spoiled by her grandmother. Actually, that’s possibly the only real problem: having been fed home-cooked finger food she could feed herself with, she now steadfastly refuses food from jars and food that requires a spoon. Thanks Granny!

Not to blow my own trumpet, but I think the reason it went so well is that we’ve done a great job creating a confident, outgoing child. We’ve been there in the background but we’ve allowed Izzie her freedom, been ready to catch her when she falls but let her explore where and how she wants. It means she’s fearless, ready to face the unknown because she knows there’s a safety net beneath her and rescue just a chirrup away. It’s certainly confirmed there’s nothing wrong with our parenting style.

Going back to the baby-less holiday, I was fine too. Surprisingly fine. I put her out of my mind and barely thought about her. True, there were moments – when I saw someone pushing a pushchair, when I heard a baby crying, when I saw a strawberry-blonde toddler waddling awkwardly along the quayside – but for the most part, I didn’t find it as crippling and debilitating as I thought I would.

Perhaps this is because I’m a person, and not just a dad. It’s easy to forget, when you’re at the coalface, that there’s a whole other side to you – several sides. Lizzie and I finally got to do what we love doing: exploring. We drove down unmarked roads and walked along overgrown tracks, ducked through caves and peered into rockpools, squeezed up spiral staircases and descended into dungeons, danced on beaches in the rain and stared at Pagan trinkets scattered around Neolithic stone circles in celebration of the solstice, and still somehow found the time for hot tubs, steam rooms and meals out. That is who we are as a couple, and what we haven’t been since the baby was born.

Despite my previous claims that you can holiday just fine with a baby, the truth is that you can’t do everything. You can’t just stop at the side of the road because you’ve seen something interesting poking out of the long grass, examine it for five minutes, then jump back in the car. You can’t decide on a whim to explore this ruined castle, or wander across that causeway, or climb down these two-hundred steps to that isolated beach. Around a hundred times I thought, ‘We couldn’t do this with a baby.’

And it felt so good! Not having to think about nappies and food and waterproofs, being able to hold hands with each other instead of constantly focusing on someone else, is amazingly therapeutic after a year of unremitting parenthood. I saw many young families out with kids, and all of them were struggling, arguing, flustered, overloaded with bags and equipment, and it was such a relief not to be similarly encumbered for once.

Lizzie and I connected in a way we haven’t since forever. Of course, when you become a parent you don’t cease to be a partner, but it’s very easy to cease making an effort for one another since you’re so knackered and emotionally overwhelmed by the whole world of baby care. The arguments that characterised our lives over the past six months have gone. And that doesn’t just make you a better partner, it makes you a better parent too.

Before this honeymoon I could barely countenance the idea of going away without my child; now I think it’s a great idea. Parenting is a team sport, and the occasional team-building weekend is essential to keep it running smoothly.

So, anyone know of any cheap getaways?

A Baby-Free Holiday

In June, Lizzie and I are walking down the aisle – rather, she’s walking down the aisle while I stand sheepishly at the front awaiting her arrival. As magical as this event might be (of course it’s not, it’s a wedding! The most common phrase in our household right now is: ‘Don’t let the wedding ruin the marriage!’), it has thrown up the worst imaginable dilemma: the issue of the honeymoon.

My parents have offered to pay for us to go to the Channel Islands. Lizzie’s mum has offered to look after Izzie. All well and good, you might think. But we’re having an issue with the duration of said vacation.

Lizzie says seven nights. A proper honeymoon. A way for us to reconnect after a year’s parenting, because you don’t stop being a couple the moment you become a parent. And the best gift you can give a child is a pair of de-stressed parents who are committed to one another.

I say four nights. I became a dad to create a family. Families go on holiday together. And I don’t think I could leave her for seven nights without feeling I’m abandoning her and being a horrible, selfish, unfit father. Even four nights will be a stretch.

There seem to be pluses and minuses on both sides. You trawl around the internet and 95% of people seem to say: do it! The kid won’t even notice. You need time as a couple. You don’t want to be a helicopter parent, constantly hovering over your child, unable to let them go. If you bring the baby with you, you won’t be able to relax.

And she loves it at her Granny’s.

On the other hand, there are the 5%, who, to be fair, come across as a little holier-than-thou and judgemental, who think it is a terrible thing to go away without the baby. You gave away your rights to grown-up time the second the little one plopped out. Her routine will be ruined and she’ll suffer separation anxiety, and then you’ll be sorry.

I want to do the right thing. The trouble with this is that there is no right thing.

Lizzie maintains I have a problem letting go, and she’s probably not wrong. Be that as it may, just because I struggle to let go doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave Izzie for seven nights.

It’s my choice, at the end of the day, but I’m utterly torn between my future wife, who wants a nice honeymoon, and my baby, who I don’t want to leave. And I guess that’s what it comes down to: not whether it’s right or wrong to leave her, but whether I’ll be able to live with myself if I leave her for seven nights.

I’m not sure that I can.