I was recently on a trip to Israel and on my return flight I decided to diligently utilize the much anticipated 12 hours of uninterrupted alone time to work on my next column. As I began to write, I was suddenly plunged forward from a forceful kick to the back of my seat.
Apparently, the little girl sitting behind me was not happy that her movie was over. Moments later, I was again distracted by the screeching sound of a crying child to my right who needed her red crayon. The sights and sounds of needy children got me thinking about my own kids and how they were handling a week without their Ima? I had spent weeks planning my absence, rearranging carpools, cooking and freezing meals, hiring babysitters to accommodate my husband’s work schedule and notifying my friends to be on “call.” I had even spoken on the phone several times to my kids throughout the course of the week and they sounded fine, but I still wondered how they managed without me? Did they shower every day? Do their homework? Eat too much junk food? Go to sleep before midnight? As these questions swirled in my head, the subject of this column became very clear to me: How To Manage Separation Anxiety From Your Children.
Being away from your children on a business trip or vacation is an extreme case, but on a daily basis mothers are faced with leaving their kids with caregivers for work or even just to run errands. We all want to believe that the babysitters we choose to take care of our children are watching our prized possessions like their own, and many do. But, how do we deal with the anxiety that inevitably comes along with trusting a qualified stranger?
An important point to note is that there is no right or wrong time to leave a child. Children are ready for a babysitter when you are. So if you are a working parent and have to hire child care, then that is the right answer. If you feel that having help watching your child, even when you are mostly around, will make you a more patient and sane mother, then that is the right answer. Not only do we deserve, but we need to have some time to ourselves every so often, even if it’s just to exercise, see friends or go out with one’s spouse. Whatever the need, there still may be a normal emotional reaction to leaving our children and there are easy ways to manage the “Babysitter Blues.”
If we take the time to communicate carefully what our needs and expectations are from the child care provider, the experience is bound to be more peaceful. For example, if you let the babysitter know that the top priority is ensuring our child is safe and cleaning up the mess is secondary, it is likely to foster a better end result. Realistically, can we make dinner, bathe our kids, do homework and clean all at the same time?
I also found that keeping the “goodbyes” brief showed my kids that there is nothing to worry about. If I linger, they sense that apprehension and begin to feel anxious too. Leaving your kids home with a sitter when you have to go out should be matter of fact. There shouldn’t be any negotiations.
Try to forget the guilt. Whatever the reason for leaving the kids home with a babysitter, go easy on yourself. If you feel guilty, then that will interfere with your ability to be productive while you are at work or enjoy yourself while you are out. Of course we all miss our children, but it is okay to leave. If you are a happy mother, then, most often, your children will be happy too.
As for my trip to Israel, I calmed myself knowing that my own children were in good hands with my husband and gently reminded myself that a father is not a babysitter!
P’nina Seplowitz lives in Bergenfield with her husband and their three children. She is actively involved in the community and works as the VP of Sales & Marketing for an online magazine subscription company. P’nina recently authored her first book of juvenile fiction and hopes to release her second publication before the summer.
By P’nina Seplowitz