As a parent, I am sure you are familiar with the “Mommy and Daddy are going out” storm. You put the kids to bed, kiss them good night, wait until everything is quiet, you sneak the babysitter in and just as you are about to leave, you hear a tiny, not-at-all-sleepy voice calling out, “Where are you going?”
In the next few minutes, you do you best to reassure your kids that you will be back, that the babysitter is a good and reliable person, who will take good care of them, and besides, you are going to be back in no time. Alas, the little ones have you all figured out, and they cling to you, wail, throw themselves on the floor, pretend to be sick and put on various other unethical displays of utter desperation.
If at the start you were even remotely confident, by the end of the kids’ show you are totally given to guilt feeling about the poor kids, who will be left at home in the care of an outsider, while you go out and have fun.
I am happy to say Ronit and I use a completely different approach, and since it works great, let me share it with you.
Ever since Eden (our first-born) was little, at a time we still experimented with parenting, we have had no guilt whatsoever about going out, which is what parents usually feel to begin with. We have also respected out children and informed them of our plans and our expectation that they would be fine with them.
As Ronit has written in many posts on this site, if you want to do the best for your kids, take care of yourself first. One of the things put under the most strain by the presence of kids is romance. As soon as the novelty of having your first baby wears off, you realize that there is now another person in the house, and doing certain things whenever you feel like doing them is just not going to work. So you simply must find ways of keeping the romantic relationship with your partner and going out to dinner, movie or just a walk hand-in-hand at least once a week should be considered a necessity.
So if your kids put on a show when they see you trying to “leave the building” in the evening, they are sensing that you do not think it is OK for you to go out. Feeling guilty means you are not sure you are doing the right thing. Kids are like vibration sensors and when you give off insecurity vibrations, this will make them immediately reflect that feeling back to you in the form of clinging, whining and tantrums. When this happens, you should do an emotional house check and ask yourself “How do I feel about going out?”
As soon as you are certain that going out with your partner is a great idea and that you kids should get some sleep, you will feel comfortable telling them about your plans ahead of time. This is fair to them, because just like any other human being, kids need time to adjust to change.
Ronit and I found a young education student, who was really great with kids. We asked her to come to our house a long time before we meant to leave. When she came, we introduced her to Eden, telling Eden she was going to be with her later that evening. We said some nice things about the new person to Eden, and then said some nice things about Eden to the babysitter. This gave both of them a good starting point to develop their relationship.
Next, we brought Eden’s favorite toys and dolls and left the two of them on the living room floor to play. We went back to the kitchen to finish clearing after dinner and heard giggles and sounds of excitement as our daughter was finding a new friend.
By the time we were ready to leave, Eden was so busy having fun, she just looked up at us casually, kissed us goodbye and returned to her game.
Of course, on other occasions, the babysitter came later, sometimes when Eden was already in bed. When that happened, we told Eden that we were going and that the babysitter would be there if she woke up, and she was usually OK with it.
Since then, we have successfully followed the same process with several babysitters. It is important to note that our own assessment of the babysitter has played a big part in making us feel comfortable leaving them in charge, so we have always been picky about our babysitters and sometimes checked up on them a few times until we could trust them completely.
When our kids get ready for bed, we tell them “We are going out tonight”, and they usually say “Have fun” and the next morning, they ask us how our evening was.
So work on your feelings first, then remember to tell your little people about your plans and have fun as a couple. It is good for everyone!
To tell, that is the answer,