My little man was about 10 months old when we left him for the first time for a whole day. I had left him for a couple of hours before with my husband or my Mum to go to the opticians or a doctors appointment. When I had mastitis he spent a day with Daddy, but this was the first time he had spent a day without either of us. It was horrible. We needed to decorate our new house and wanted to blitz it in a couple of days before we moved in. So I dropped him off with Nanna and Granddad in the morning and tried to sneak out without him noticing. That didn’t work. He has the ability to reach screaming point with his cry in a matter of seconds and as a tried to leave, the screaming came. I went back, cuddled him and then said “bye bye” to him and gave him a big kiss and cuddle and then went. I got back to our house and I cried, more than once that day. I actually bottled it and went and had lunch with him and put him down for his after lunch nap before leaving again.
The next day was better but he was still upset when I left and I still got teary during the day and very snappy at my poor husband, but hey, that’s nothing compared to what he experienced during the first few months of parenthood (see Becoming a Mum).
I wasn’t expecting it to be smooth-going leaving him. He was starting to get very attached and I loved him so much and thought he was at such a fun age. Fortunately I didn’t need to do it again for a while and I was relieved about that!
Over the next couple of months he became very clingy. I couldn’t go to the loo without him getting upset, even if I was leaving him with people he knew well. I couldn’t make dinner, even though he could still see me from the living room, without him coming and standing at the gate across the kitchen door and crying at me. I had to be with him all the time and not just near him, actually with him! I worried I had been too attentive, hadn’t left him to play by himself enough, had never left him to cry for more than a few seconds and basically smothered him.
Then I decided to start working a couple of days a week and I had to face up to leaving him again. One day a week with my Mum (Nanna) and one day a week with my Mother-in-Law (Grandma). The first time I left him was with Grandma. The same experience as before, I snuck out, he cried, but I just kept going and before I got down the steps from the front door it sounded like he had stopped and then I saw him waving from the window. I went home and cried hoping he was actually ok and that he wouldn’t hate me for deserting him with his loving, fun Grandma with a house full of toys, most of which were cooler than ours. What a monster I was! The next day with Nanna, I said bye bye, he cried, I left, then remembered something to tell my Mum, phoned her and there was no crying. Now who was I worried about – him or me?
I’ve been leaving him for a couple of days a week for about a month now and it has done him and me the world of good. He usually doesn’t cry now when I drop him off (this morning was an exception, but he is at the end of Chicken Pox, poor thing). He actually smiles when he sees where he is. He always gets taken to Rhyme Time at the Library or has his cousin come and play with him and when I go and get him he’s really happy to see me with big cuddles and then he wants to get down and play again.
What about me? Well, I like having some adult time, communicating with people about things that have nothing to do with babies, children or related topics, while drinking HOT drinks and realising that there is still more to me than being Mummy. Although, at the end of my working day, I love having a door opened to me by someone holding a handsome little fella, who stretches out his arms, with a twinkle in his eyes and the cutest smile on his face and who is very happy that I am his Mummy.