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'We're at A&E. Can you get here?': 11 disastrous tales from the first night away with no kids

‘Needless to say, I didn’t leave any of my kids again for around seven years…’

AS A PARENT, you tend to measure life’s progress in your baby’s milestones – the first smile, the first step, the first word.

But there are dates and landmarks that signpost where you are in your own life, too, as a mam or dad. The first night away from your child is a big one.

I remember the trepidation and frequent texts to check in that marked the first time we left our 2.5 year old with his adoring grandparents so Mammy and Daddy could eat nice food and sleep in a hotel bed as a birthday treat.

It was two bleary-eyed (and slightly less adoring grandparents) who hastily handed him back the following day after a night of little to no sleep.

shutterstock_1584944668 (1) Source: Shutterstock/SofikoS

It’s now been two years since our last child-free night away. Our youngest is 18 months old, still co-sleeping and breastfeeding through the night. It will be a while before I’d feel happy to inflict the night shift on someone else. And that’s fine, one day we’ll both be ready.

It’s hard to know when is the *right* time to attempt an overnight away from your child. Some parents have no choice in the matter; illness can dictate an enforced brief separation or a lack of babysitting. I know some parents whose babies have coped fine with mum and dad making a brief escape early on and others who know their much older child would struggle.

Here, 12 parents share their experiences of their first night away from the baby, from success to try-again-next-time. 

Some babysitters didn’t fare so well…

The first time I left my husband and five-year-old daughter unsupervised was this year when I had to go on a school trip to France. Within two hours of me going, our daughter had cracked her chin open by falling off a chair and had to have stitches! It happened at her school, so it wasn’t her dad’s fault, but of course everyone still took the mickey out of him relentlessly, how she’d got injured when he was ‘in charge’!

- Rose

We left our 13 month old for the first time last week. He got violently sick twice, forcing grandma to have to change the bed twice in the middle of the night…we were popular.

- Steve

After a rocky start with my first, I was petrified at the thought of leaving him overnight, but my husband and I took the plunge when we received an invitation for a friend’s wedding in Dundalk. Nanny and Granda were beside themselves with excitement and all was going well (or so I thought) until I called home at around 10.30pm to check in. Bad idea.

I was met by wails and my mum finally admitted that he had been beside himself most of the day – as if he knew mummy was having a night out! I wouldn’t settle and, even though daddy wasn’t happy, we drove the long car journey home. Since then, the only time I’ve left him is when I went in to have my second!

- Emma

It was New Year’s Eve 2010 and my son was four months old. I’d been invited to a work do and jumped at the opportunity. I was so excited to let my hair down, have a couple of drinks and do a bit of networking. I left my son with my dad and his wife and headed off.

At 11.40 I got a call from my dad. Stupidly I thought he was just calling to say ‘Happy New Year’ but no. He said, “Jo, I didn’t want to worry you but the baby hasn’t stopped crying since you left and he’s making himself sick. We’re at A&E. Can you get here?”

After a pretty tricky journey (transport on New Year’s Eve?) I ran to the cubicle in the hospital where, as soon as my son saw me, he stopped crying and smiled! The nurses all said ‘ah, look at that, he just misses his mummy’. Needless to say I didn’t leave any of my kids again until 2017!

- Jo

Other sitters were the lucky charm

My daughter will only ever sleep in my bed and she was three before I left her with my mother and father-in-law. My hubby and I went to my friend’s wedding and I was terrified she would be screaming the whole time – she has form! I was honestly dreading the whole experience and on edge all day.

I shovelled breakfast into me the following day and hurried back only to find that she had slept the whole night through while I’d been tossing and turning worrying about her keeping her grandparents awake!

- Laura

One parent had an involuntary break away

I had an inadvertent night away from my daughter when she was in hospital at four months old. When they told me I couldn’t stay with her at night time, I cried like a baby. But she got her own back on the nurses by screaming the whole night unless someone was carrying her.

- Sheena


And another mum forgot her wedding attire

The first time I left my son overnight was to go to a wedding when he was 18 months old. I was beyond stressed and left a million instructions, and kept coming back to check he was okay (even though he was being looked after at our house by my mum and dad who did a pretty good job raising two children!).

I arrived at the town where the wedding was and suddenly realised that – with all the tears and stress of saying goodbye – I hadn’t packed my dress and only had the jeans and t-shirt I was wearing! I managed to get a great dress in a charity shop, but I then spent the whole wedding talking about my son, eating fast (forgetting I didn’t have a child to look after) and not drinking much in case we had to leave in an emergency. We left at 7am the next morning. 

I have to add, we left our second son when he was five months and this time I remembered my dress, got drunk, enjoyed the food and only texted my parents to say the flight was delayed and we’d be back after bedtime!

- Sarah

Some parents waited until their kids were older

We didn’t leave our son until he was three-and-a-half, but that was perfect for us. No stress, no fuss, we could really enjoy ourselves and know he’d be totally fine. Each family really is different, and for us, any sooner and I know it wouldn’t have been worth it.

- Julia

Our son was seven months when we left him with my sister to go and volunteer at a 24-hour fundraiser. We weren’t far away and it was a really positive experience. I think a ‘test trip’ is always good if you have friends or family close by.

- Niamh

shutterstock_1338773150 Source: Shutterstock/Ivanko80

It took us a long while to do it and when we did, we stayed in a hotel just a few miles from his nanny’s where he was staying – but that was all about my fears not his, he had a ball!

- Mary

We left our kids to go and see Arcade Fire in Marley Park in Dublin (such a gig!) and once on the train I stopped fretting. Our youngest was just a baby, but we had super capable grandparents and it did us enormous good.

- Helen

And other parents felt the guilt for leaving too soon

We left our 12-week-old for an overnight and it felt like we’d gone back to the couple we were pre-baby. We drank champagne, ate dinner and had eight hours sleep. It was great. Until it was time to go home… then the mum guilt sank in. I felt horrendous for leaving him so young and whilst breastfeeding. I felt like I was the only mum in the world who would leave their baby so young. He was totally fine but the emotions I felt definitely put me off doing it again so early if we have any more children.

- Chelsea

More: 7 parents share their most memorable Christmas Day stories – from power cuts to proposals

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