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The Competent Parent: Too soon for separation

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Too Soon for Separation

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My husband and I have an opportunity to take weeklong cruise (business related for him). Much as I would enjoy the time with him and can see how it helps his career, I’m not sure I’m ready to leave our eight-month-old son with grandparents for that long. Our three and a half-year-old daughter probably would be upset after a day or two as well. Any thoughts?



Don’t miss last week’s post on teaching table manners.

Dear Torn,


Yes, at eight months, your baby is way too young for that long of a separation from you. The risk at his tender age is that missing you would be like being without part of himself. You are as much a part of him as his own mind and body. And your control of his daily activities and needs is so much better than anything he can do without your help. A moment without you can feel like an eternity to him. Psychologically, it is quite stressful.

Sometimes there is no alternative for a parent and infant to be apart, however in this situation there may be some wiggle room.

When my husband announced he had earned a spot for himself and me on the company’s annual awards trip – to Kuai, Hawaii – I was thrilled, but knew I couldn’t totally enjoy it if our children couldn’t also come. The all-expense-paid trip only covered the two of us, but I immediately investigated nanny services at the hotel. Sure enough, I was able to arrange care for our four-year-old and seven-year-old when the schedule had me busy with grown-ups’ activities. We found out the sitter was well-versed in all the amenities to entertain children at the massive hotel – several swimming pools, the ocean beach, the many exotic (to us!) animals on the grounds, and scheduled resort events just for children. She impressed them with the many celebrities’ children she had care for, and all in all, gave them a wonderful experience. Side note – thanks to her native knowledge, she helped us win a scavenger hunt around the island which earned us all the cash we needed to pay her fee!
It may be hard to pop in and out of a sea voyage – as compared to events based at a resort hotel or even a typical conference center. But families today are finding ways to blend work and parenting demands, even with traveling. See if you could bring your own nanny – or granny! – or if the ship provides such services. If his company has never before had to accommodate a working parent with very young children, your inquiry may help them to shape future excursions to be more family friendly.

And if you think your chance at happiness is over because you don’t get to go on a week-long cruise with your husband, remember what Dorothy Gale had to say: “if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com

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