First-Trip-Away-From-Baby Tips

Will she eat the kiwi and banana I left behind for snacks? Will he remember to pack the sun hat I put under the changing table? And the pink sippy cup, not the blue one? Should I even be going in the first place? My head was filled with anxious “mom” questions. This was my first time traveling away from my 9-month-old daughter, and I was a mess.

Here I was headed to — of all places — the Mom 2.0 Summit, to connect with other women whose heads were probably spinning with the same kinds of questions. If they were doing it, I could too, I reasoned.

Then I took a deep breath and boarded the plane.

Fast-forward six hours, and I was on the ground in southern California. And for the next five days, I took care of me. I focused on work. On learning, connecting, sharing — and letting go.

Travel can transform you, but it can also remind you of who you really are. Now that I’m a mom, making time for those occasions is more important than ever. California’s warm sun and cool sea breezes helped bring me back to me. Me, the optimist. Me, the mom. And me, the traveler.

Being away from baby wasn’t easy, but it was good — and a welcome break from the daily routines of motherhood. Here are eight tips for surviving your first solo trip as a new mother:

  1. It’s OK to say “Yes.” Being separated from your child is a difficult, often guilt-ridden, experience. Remind yourself that it’s completely acceptable to take a break once in awhile — and that time away can actually help you become a better parent.
  2. Accept your emotions. It’s OK to melt down. In fact, I found that once I admitted that I was anxious and sad about leaving and gave myself permission to cry, I felt better.
  3. Help your caregivers succeed. You know your baby best. Leave whoever is taking care of your child a list of things that have helped you and baby have great days – favorite foods, nap times, tips for the bedtime routine, favorite books, etc. — so the separation goes as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
  4. Let your caregivers succeed. Once you’ve offered some tips and written out baby’s nap and food schedule, let go. No, really. Let go. Trust them to care in their own way. Not only will it help you relax and recharge, it will also empower the person you’ve left in charge. Chances are, exposing your baby to a new parenting style will bring out a new facet of your baby’s personality — which you can obsess about when you return.
  5. Thank your caregivers. Leave a Post-it with a little note and a smile on the diaper bag or the refrigerator. It will go a long way toward letting your caregivers know how much you appreciate all they are doing for you and your baby. If they’re doing the job gratis, make sure to show your appreciation by sending a thank-you note and a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or store when you return.
  6. Bring reminders. Several times at the conference I turned on my phone and was met with my daughter’s face smiling back at me on the screen. That smile did so much to ease my anxiety by reminding me that she probably playing with dad and having a ball.
  7. Be present. While it’s tempting to obsess about what your baby might be doing at any given moment, resist the urge. Instead, use this time to focus on recharging — be it via work, play, or a little bit of both. You and baby will both appreciate the result.
  8. Call in the morning. While your schedule changes when you’re traveling, your baby’s will stay relatively the same. Calling during the 5 p.m. cranky hour or at bath time isn’t going to make either of you feel better — and will make your caregiver’s job harder.

Do you have any tips for parents who are traveling without their child for the first time? Share them with the Intelligent Travel community by leaving a comment below.

Anna Irwin works for National Geographic and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, new baby, and very large dog, Minnie. Follow her story on Twitter @AnnaIrwinDC.