When my baby was 11 months old I had to leave him for just under two weeks in order to take a trans-Atlantic flight to defend my thesis. Because my husband had to stay home and work, and day care was not available where I was defending, neither my husband nor the baby could come. Given the situation, I decided the best for the baby would be to leave him with my parents. That way my hubby could continue working while the baby was with his grandparents (whom he adores). After work my husband could then play with the baby and put him to bed. The baby would be with people he knew and the routine would be almost the same (except that mommy would not participate in the daytime care, play and bedtime).
The period before I left was hard, mostly due to the guilt I felt for leaving my baby. This was exacerbated by people exclaiming that 2 weeks was too long to leave an 11 month old. Luckily my baby is used to my leaving for short periods of time. He stayed alone with my husband from three months while I worked on my thesis, and he also spent days with his grandparents and with a neighbourhood sitter before I took the trip. That meant that when I actually left there was no drama (for him at least). He didn’t cry or even whimper he happily watched me go secure in the knowledge that I would return. I got a little teary, but he was fine.
I heard from my husband that the first night without me was hard for both the baby and my husband but that after that the baby actually slept for longer periods than when I was home to breastfeed him. The first night was hard for me too, I cried on the plane, but after I arrived at my destination I was too busy to miss the baby painfully. Skyping every night helped too.
When I returned home my baby looked surprised and then happy to see me. He definitely recognised me and he came to me right away. In the end, only the nights were different. While I was away (and despite valiant pumping efforts) I lost my milk supply. That meant that the baby just didn’t know what to do with me when I came to him at night. I must admit that watching him hug his dad and not me in the wee hours was hard since the nights had always been our private cuddle time. But on the other hand I did get to sleep more while daddy took the night shift 🙂 In the end the night-hug strike only lasted a few days and when the baby came around and melted into me as he fell asleep, I enjoyed that hug more than any other.
Ultimately, I feel that keeping the baby to his routine and not dragging him across the Atlantic was the best for him and me. He got to spend time with people whom he loves and I left knowing that he was with people who love him and whom I trust. Oh, and I also successfully defended my thesis, so I’m now officially “Dr. Mom”.