One Friday afternoon, my mom stopped over after work. After kicking her shoes off and settling into a riveting game of Barbies with my 5-year-old, she dove right in: “So, have you found a sitter for your cousin’s wedding?”
I immediately breathed an audible sigh of annoyance. It was the third week in a row she’d asked me the same question, knowing full well I was avoiding the topic but unwilling to let me off the hook.
My cousin’s wedding is a few hours away — and even though my husband and I could really (and I mean really) use a getaway, I still find myself paralyzed with nerves over leaving my kids. And I hate it.
As someone who always had separation issues with her mom growing up, it comes as no surprise that the same issues have transferred and magnified with my kids. I’m always glued to my newborns and over-attached to my babies. As my kids grow, I’ve gotten comfortable taking day-long breaks as long as I am close. But I’m having a lot of trouble with the idea of a full weekend away, I suspect due to the combo of the amount of time and distance.
The fact that I have four kids doesn’t help. An irrationally nervous person could convince themselves that the likelihood of tragedy is high when they leave their solo child home with a babysitter. In my mind, chances double by four, plus the added complexity of sibling stuff. My four-kid dynamic feels like a special kind of circus, one that only my husband or I are fully able to be the ringmaster. So when I need to pass the baton, I panic.
I’m not saying that we never leave them all for more than a few hours, because we do. It’s just that we when we leave all four of them while they are awake – it’s pretty much only with my parents. Both my kids and I feel very comfortable with them handling any mess that might come their way. So when they aren’t available — like for this wedding — I get nervous.
And I guess I could divide and conquer — calling in a group of people and dividing them up — but honestly that always feels a bit chaotic and triggers my feelings of nervousness. A more laid back mom might look into local on-sight venue sitters — I have friends who do that on vacation. But, I am not that chill unfortunately.
Because I start small, thinking about who is going to be able to find my 8-year-old’s favorite show and who will know all the words to my 2-year-old’s favorite bedtime song. Then the big worries creep in. I think about someone choking at the dinner table and falling down an entire flight of stairs. My heart then starts to race, and my throat feels like it’s closing a bit. After about 10 minutes, I decide that no one on my list is capable of keeping them all alive, and I start making a detailed mental list of all my last-minute excuse options to keep me home.
But after a decade of this game — and an exceptionally exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming last year with all four of them at seemingly difficult ages — I could use a carefree night on a wedding dance floor with my husband a few hours away. Instead, I am attempting to avoid attendance altogether with a backup plan of leaving early and driving home to ensure I do not spend the night away.
So, how the hell do I find a comfortable balance? How do I take the breaks I need while finding a little calm and avoiding feelings of panic and stress? I guess the most obvious thing (the one my therapist would likely suggest) would be practice. I need to start taking these kinds of breaks more often, and trusting more people to help me.
I need to lengthen my list of potential babysitters and understand that although it might be a little messy and imperfect, there is an extremely high likelihood that everyone will be fine. And maybe I need to get a little more creative with my resources. If leaving all four kids with one person feels too stressful, maybe I outsource to a few willing souls who can tag-team the situation in a way that feels less overwhelming. And — duh — maybe I need to chill. It’s something I have been trying to master since birth, so I have little confidence in my potential success. But maybe a little more therapy and a couple more CBD gummies when my mind starts to wander could help me take the necessary steps in the right direction, at least at first.
So today, I will call a few wedding-babysitter options and book an appointment with my therapist. My mother will be proud that I am taking this step, and I am sure my little cousin will be thrilled to have me out there embarrassing him on the dance floor. Here goes nothing.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.