To Target and Beyond: Because Staying at Home Doesn’t Always Mean Staying at Home

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Dear new stay at home mom,

Here are a few signs that you’re ready to enlist the help of a trusted babysitter and do something on your own:

1. When you run out of milk, you consider adding breastmilk to your coffee. It’s easier than putting on mascara and lugging the car seat through the grocery store.

2. When your husband asks you how your day went, you respond by telling him what’s new with Nicole and EJ on Days of Our Lives.

3. You can’t wait for the baby to take a nap so that you can get back on the Baby Center discussion forums to find out what Luvmykids76 is going to do about her oldest son’s potty training problems.

Sometimes, even devoted stay-at-home moms need to get a life.

At the beginning of my pregnancy, I asked a coworker how she felt the first day she dropped her son off at daycare. “It was hard, but I don’t know,” she said. “You just get over it.”

 You just get over it? This was the same advice my husband gave me the first time we took the dog to a kennel before a vacation. This was the same advice my girlfriends gave me when I broke up with my lame (but cute!) college boyfriend who always seemed to need my help writing papers. When my coworker said this to me, Paul was still the size of a kidney bean, but just getting over it didn’t sound like an option. The teacher-to-infant ratio never seemed to add up in my head. If there are two teachers and three crying babies, who has to wait? An infant shouldn’t have to learn how to jockey for position.

As Paul grew beyond the stage of infancy, my working friends had mastered the art of the handoff as though parenting were some kind of relay. I was still just a smidge uneasy with the idea of leaving Paul with Jason for more than a few hours. Yet, I knew it was time to give my mother a try. She’d raised me and my sister, after all. She had been both a labor and delivery nurse and a school nurse, for goodness sake! She was certainly the first call I made every time Paul did something funny, gross, scary, cute or mildly amusing. So, I made up my mind to go to lunch with a friend. My capable mother would take the helm.

I figured I’d give my mom a few notes before I left. I jotted down naptimes and instructions for warming up the bottle. Then, I decided to add a list of the books he liked best. And how long she should rock him before putting him into his crib. Oh, and she needed to know where I kept the clean sheets, just in case he spit up. Whoops! I couldn’t leave without explaining how important it was to keep him on the nap schedule. No one understands the value of a nap like a stay-at-home mom! Maybe I would give her a call to come over early so she could read a chapter from Dr. Weissbluth’s book. Before I knew it, I was ready to e-mail a ten-page instruction manual to my mother, the labor and delivery nurse.

I knew it was overkill, and I knew I’d be sending the same list to my mother-in-law whenever I was ready to give her a shot. Jason thought I was crazy and a little controlling. Looking back, I can say that Jason was right. But, I didn’t owe anyone any explanations. Because I’m the mom. That’s why.

When I finally left the house, I was a wreck. I spent the entire lunch with my cell phone clutched in my hands, fearing that I wouldn’t be able to hear the ring if I left it in my purse. As usual, all the agonizing was wasted energy, and I had worried myself out of enjoying lunch with a perfectly delightful friend. When I returned home, Paul had just awakened from a nap, all smiles and love as he rocked with his Mimi. We had both survived being apart, and every trip thereafter got just a little easier.

I still leave a small volume of instructions with Paul’s grandparents whenever we leave him in their care. And, I am guessing they don’t always follow my instructions to the letter. I suspect he gets a little more sugar, a little more TV and a little less sleep. He typically requires a two-day detox when he returns from an overnighter. But, I think that’s what grandparents are for. The most important thing is that we know he’s getting plenty of love when he’s with them. Plus, the ratio at the grandparents’ house is always two adults to one Paul. If you have a four-year-old, you know that even this ratio might occasionally leave the grandparents feeling understaffed. Still, it’s a ratio I can live with.

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