I’m A Wreck! You Gotta Help!

Dear Ellen,
In a couple of weeks, my husband and I are finally going to take our honeymoon after three years of marriage and two children. Since I stay at home with the boys, I have never left the two of them for more than one night. The thought of leaving them for a week for an overseas trip is turning me into a ball of nerves. I have no fears for their safety or happiness since my parents will be moving into our home to care for them. I also have no doubts as to their capabilities as grandparents but I cannot shake these feelings of anxiety.
Is there any advise that you can offer in order to prepare all of us for this time away?
Thank you very much.

Okay, so let me get this straight: in the past three years you have gotten married, had two pregnancies, gone through two labor and deliveries, given birth to two children and have been at home taking care of them ever since. My guess is that you are more than a tad sleep-deprived, too. And now you are contemplating going overseas for that honeymoon that you never had the time, opportunity or strength for.

Gosh, I wonder why you might be feeling a little anxious. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Honey, the stress level you’re dealing with is literally off the charts!! Each one of the events you mentioned is considered a major life stressor. Combine them all together and squish them into three years and you have a very, very stressful little package to contend with. You have every right to be feeling a bit whacked out. Who wouldn’t be?

SO! The first thing I will say is God bless your parents. How incredibly wonderful of them to come to your turf and give you and your husband this chance to get away. You need it. Period.

It’s also a golden opportunity for your kids to bond with their grandparents in a way that isn’t possible when you are around. I can’t emphasize how precious that relationship can be for your children and how much it gives to your parents as well. It is a win-win for everyone (assuming, of course, that they are not fugitives or hardened criminals)!

Now to settle your nerves as best as possible so that you can pack your bikini or a little black dress along with a ton of magazines and get ready to fly off on your long-overdue honeymoon. I hope you’re going someplace really cool!

Here’s my prescription:

1. If possible have your parents come a few days early so that the kids will be comfortable with them. Hopefully, they already know each other well. Even if they don’t though, a few days will definitely make the whole thing a lot easier for all of them. This will also give your parents plenty of time to get their routines and schedules down pat.

2. Write everything that seems important to you about the kids down in a notebook. Even if your parents don’t read it, you will feel good knowing it’s all there just in case. Include: sleep and eating routines and schedules; any allergies and any medications they are on including dosage amounts; foods they hate; fears they have; fool-proof ways to settle them down; favorite toys and which stuffed animals they sleep with; how to make them laugh and relax; where you like to walk or play with them; directions to the park, grocery store, pediatrician’s office; favorite books and videos.

3. Make sure your parents are super familiar with the car seats, the strollers, the high chairs etc. Have them practice operating all the gadgets you regularly use during the pre-game period before you go.

4. Get together a list of trusted friends and neighbors who know the kids and will be willing to pinch hit in case of emergency. Make a list of their names, addresses and phone numbers for your parents. If possible have them stop by to meet your parents before you take off.

5. Let your pediatrician’s office know that you are going out of town and that your parents will be in charge. Type out a document that states that information and gives your parents permission to obtain any necessary medical treatment for them for a one month period beginning the day you leave (I always liked to have that cushion even though I never needed it). Include your doctor’s name and address and also your insurance information. Print out a couple of copies and sign and date them. Paper clip your insurance card to one copy, put it into a marked envelope and stick it under a magnet on the fridge. Have your mom put the other copy in her purse.

6. Tape yourself reading a favorite book to them and have your mom play it for them a few times while you are gone. They will enjoy hearing your voice and flipping through the pages while you read. My kids LOVED this when I went away.

7. Rent a cell phone that will operate overseas. Use it every couple of days to check in. Don’t talk too long. Limit the calls to under 10 minutes. Or, since we live in the age of the internet, check in through emails at the hotel. But again, just a quick check and never more than once a day!

8. Don’t spend too much time talking to your kids in advance about leaving. Keep it light. Don’t make a big fuss when you leave. Let them know that you will be coming home with a surprise for them and that Grandma and Grandpa are going to take really good care of them while you are gone.

9. Don’t forget to pack! And remember to include the sunscreen and a great book.

10. BREATHE and keep breathing. Expect to have a fabulous time. They will be fine, you will have more energy for them when you return, and your marriage will be stronger, which will be a gift for everyone. This is a good thing. Trust me on this one. And bring those wonderful parents of yours a special gift. You are very lucky to have them!

For some good tips on how to calm down those anxious nerves take a look at this post. A little anxiety now and then kind of goes with the territory of being a mom but there is much you can do to reduce those feelings and find a more secure place to operate from.

HAVE FUN AND LET US KNOW HOW IT WENT WHEN YOU GET BACK!! We’ll be waiting to hear all the details. :>)

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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