As someone with no intention of having children, I don’t know much about what it’s like to travel without them. In search of insight about that experience, I sat down with a good friend and new mom, who recently took a weekend trip to New York, leaving her one-and-a-half year old at home for the first time.
Gnometrotting: So why did you decide to take this trip?
New Mom (NM): I think that what made the decision was that I wanted to see this particular show on Broadway that had a limited run. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have delayed the trip a little longer. I know some moms who say they couldn’t spend a night away for the first three years. At a year and a half, I felt bad leaving her, but she’s also not completely babyish.
GT: Be honest, weren’t you excited to not have to be a parent for a while? To be away from the baby poop?
NM: Oh that was a huge advantage. My husband got a whole weekend of doing the diaper changing. He said we need to give the babysitter a raise.
I was excited to get away. I had a great time in New York, and I’m glad I went, but I did miss her.
GT: Did you feel any guilt leaving her behind?
NM: Definitely. The first day, I got a phone call from my stepson, and he said, “Talk to your daughter ‘cause she won’t stop crying. I think she’s looking for you.” So I got teary in the middle of the MoMA.
GT: Did you call home a lot on the trip?
NM: Yeah, we FaceTimed every night, but she wasn’t as excited to see me as I would have thought.
She’s used to FaceTime. She FaceTimes with a friend of mine sometimes, so she interacts with someone on FaceTime. But she didn’t behave the way I thought she would.
GT: Maybe she thought you were trapped in the phone.
NM: Maybe. When I got back, I was nervous she would punish me like how pets sometimes do. But she had the biggest smile. She was hugging me, really happy to see me. That was nice that she didn’t treat me like a cat would. But the whole next week when I was leaving for work, she was really nervous. She had a lot of anxiety.
GT: Is she doing better now that you’ve been back a while?
NM: By the second day, when I got home at the end of the day, she ignored me. If she’s busy, she doesn’t care. So I don’t think it left a serious lasting impression.
GT: How was this different from vacations you took before you were a mom?
NM: Well, this is the first vacation that I take with friends since I met my husband, so it’s the first time I haven’t had a family vacation in some way. I hadn’t done that in almost a decade.
I guess it’s different in that I would see a cute romper in the M&Ms store and think I need to get that for her. You look at souvenirs differently. Other than missing her, that’s really the only difference. I don’t think I went buck wild. It’s a little different not having to pay attention to my surroundings.
GT: So you weren’t wasted drunk all weekend?
NM: Well, we immediately had margaritas at lunch.
GT: Since you’re always having to baby talk and look out for someone else’s safety, did you feel like you had to readjust to being a full adult the whole time?
NM: Oh yeah. It didn’t stop me from singing a song about the three primary colors from Sesame Street when I was at the MoMA. And I have to adjust the other way, too. She’s not yet repeating everything I’m saying, but I have to be careful.
GT: Were you anxious leaving her behind?
NM: Well, I knew she wasn’t gonna die. Maybe he won’t put her in clothes that match, but my husband will get her dressed. She’s gonna be fed, cared for, dressed. I think the anxiety was more along the lines of her feeling like I had left her. Just those feelings about what she might be feeling. Like when I got that call about her crying, I thought “OMG! What have I done?” I didn’t want her to be upset.
GT: So overall, would you say you’re glad you went away?
NM: Yeah, it was great, and I’m glad I went. But I don’t know that I’m ready for another away-from-the-baby trip for a while.
GT: At what age do you think you’d feel comfortable leaving her again?
NM: I’ve never been a mom, and it’s hard to know the milestones. Before now, if you told me what an 18 month old was supposed to do, I would be like ok… So it’s hard for me to know at what age I’ll feel like she’s ready and not gonna freak out or be anxious. I’ll have to be play it by ear. If I feel like she won’t feel abandoned, then I’d do it again.
GT: What tips would you give other new moms that are considering taking a trip without their child?
NM: As with any parenting advice, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. I frankly have gotten a lot of advice that I have ignored. I would say that if you feel like you’re ready and comfortable, go ahead. If you don’t, that’s okay, too. I think that it’s okay to take a break. I’m really glad I went. Despite some of my feelings of anxiety or possibly guilt, I do think that I needed the break. But if you don’t, take it when you’re ready.
There you have it. Do whatever you want, new moms and dads. Our parents did, too, and we turned out alright.