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keobooks's avatar

How young do you think a child could go without their mom for two weeks?

Asked by keobooks (12797 points ) August 11th, 2014

I have the opportunity to go on a two week retreat for meditation. My husband and several members of my family REALLY want me to go. I want to go, but I fear my daughter is too young to be without me for so long. Everyone is saying that they would chip in time and effort to make sure she was never alone and was as happy as possible.

Here are the facts:

1. My daughter is only three and she’s in a “mommy phase” where I am the most important person in the world to her right now.

2. I am a stay at home mom, so she’s used to seeing me all the time. Several people are willing to chip in time so that she’s never alone.

3. The meditation retreat requires a vow of silence. No phones, electronic devices, pens pencils or paper allowed. This means no communication at all with my family.

4. My husband, father and in-laws are thrilled with the opportunity and want me to do it as soon as possible. I want to do it, but I wonder if I should wait at least a year or two.

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20 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I think three is a fine age. It will be a good experience for her. She will miss you, but she will be learning that mommies have a life too.

jca's avatar

I say go. She will be distracted by all of the other people playing with her.

longgone's avatar

If your daughter has good relationships with the people who will be taking care of her, I think you should go. In the long run, a well-rested and happy parent is priceless to children.

To make the separation easier for both of you, I might consider doing one or both of the following:

1. If at all possible, I would spend a night away beforehand. Just as reassurance…moms leave, but they also return. At age three, your daughter will already know that – especially since you seem to be very mindful of how much she can handle. However, it may do her good to be reminded once more.

2. If I was leaving a child that young, I would want to talk to her. As you can’t do that, maybe you could think of some other ritual? A pre-recorded voice memo of you reading her favourite bed-time story? A scarf of yours she can borrow? Marbles to count down the days until you’re back?
While it’s possible that she will not need any of these, it couldn’t hurt to plan ahead. What’s more, I imagine having taken care of her in these ways might make separation easier for you.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Do it!!! A two week separation would do all of you some good. You, your husband, your in-laws and your daughter would all benefit!
If you want, make a recording of you reading her favorite book. (a simple voice recording is enough). Your husband or In-laws can sit with her and turn the pages while your voice plays. (Back in the day, for my kids, I used a Care Bears tape recorder.)

(Make sure you leave credit cards and cash at home.)

keobooks's avatar

I’ll probably bring cash. It’s a free retreat that only accepts donations after a person has gone through the entire course. So I’d feel a bit chumpy not to bring anything at all. The retreat is a Vipassana meditation course.

I’m more than a bit surprised that everyone so far is saying GO! I seem to be the only one worried about leaving her. Of course the real fear is that she’d do just fine and I’d find out I’m not totally indispensable.

jca's avatar

It’s better to go now then when she starts school and will be more in a regular routine of homework, school bus, etc. Right now it’s what I call “Nirvana time” for you.

JLeslie's avatar

Since she is in a mommy phase I can understand why you might be even more reluctant than if she was simply just 3. However, since you are around all the time she easily can call out for you and cling to you, and if you aren’t around she might be not as mommy phase oriented. Can you do a test before you decide? Stay away for a couple of nights and see how she does? See how you do also. I recently said on another Q that my guess it isn’t usually a question of whether the child can handle being away from their parents, but rather whether the parents can pyschologically handle it. Since she will be with her dad and other relatives she loves it probably will be fine.

You can Skype her possibly from where you are staying. See if that makes it easier when you are away. Some children it might things worse.

hominid's avatar

@keobooks: “I want to do it, but I wonder if I should wait at least a year or two.”

You may want to ask yourself if this question would reappear if you were to wait a year or two?

On a side note, 2 weeks? Have you done intensive silent Vipassana retreats in the past? It’s my understanding that the 1-week retreats are the beginner retreats. My local insight meditation centers offer single-day retreats, and it’s recommended to move to weekend retreat, then 1 week, and eventually 3 weeks when you are ready. A couple of years ago when I was researching retreats at our retreat center, I read many about experiences people had during these one-week retreats. They can be very challenging.

Just a thought – would a beginner one-week retreat be an option for you? And would this make your decision any easier?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Gosh. But in a year or two she’ll have a better grasp of time. She’ll have an idea of what “two weeks” means. The way it is now, she won’t know if you’re ever coming back until you do. This is a hard one.

I agree with @longgone. Spend a couple nights away, see how she reacts to that.

Wait…I just had a thought…. you might get a calendar and start marking off days so she can begin to grasp the concept.

And if you do go, put a big circle around the day you’re coming back, and have the people who will be caring for her help her mark off the days.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I never liked the countdown thing on calendars. Why do you like it or think it is a good idea? I feel like it makes time pass more slowly, and creates too much focus on time. A lot of people do it so it must help some people.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, you feel that way because you already have the concept of “time” down. If someone says something’s going to happen in 2 weeks you stash that in your brain and think about it once in a while, maybe saying to your self, “OK, just 2 more days!”

But a three year old doesn’t have any concept of time. If her mom just leaves she could be left with a feeling that she’ll never see her again. That could be really, really scary. A calendar, something concrete that she can look at and count with, could help alleviate that.

You could start by writing “Ice cream” on a day a couple of days from now, and tell her that on that day you will take her for ice cream. Start practicing this. I think it would help.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I didn’t even grasp the concept that the years actually change until I was in the 3rd grade. I clearly remember that “Aha!” moment.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I could see doing it for the day her mommy would return, but I dn’t think I would do it leading up to the time she leaves.

For me, being able to talk to my mom really mattered when I went away. It didn’t have to be daily, but just enough that I knew she had not disappeared. I can’t remember how I felt when I was three of course, and each year is significant when you are that little. What I remember was feeling happy and safe with my grandma so I was not homesick much when with her. Homesick or mommy missing happened sometimes when I went away to camp.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh…no. Sorry. I didn’t mean that. I meant to start practicing the concept now, by marking a date on the calendar and saying “XYZ is going to happen on this day.”
No, the leaving time I would keep low key.

I remember being home sick at camp. :(

JLeslie's avatar

I understood. I agree with the practice thing, at minimum to see how the child responds to it. She might like the project.

jca's avatar

I like @hominid‘s idea of going for the beginner, less intensive, one week program.

Cupcake's avatar

Hats off to you… I don’t think I could go 2 weeks without contacting my family voluntarily.

I think your 3 year old will be fine. Perhaps a bit more attached to daddy by the time you get home. I think the separation will be harder for her as she gets older.

I left my breastfeeding 1 year old for 5 days while I visited family. He was thrilled to see me when I got home. He wimpered a bit the first day of my absence… but he and his daddy got along just fine without me.

longgone's avatar

@keobooks “Of course the real fear is that she’d do just fine and I’d find out I’m not totally indispensable.”

Should that be the case, give yourself an A for helping your daughter to become such a well-adjusted kid.

talljasperman's avatar

For me it was 36 years old… I am slowly figuring out how to care for myself and my apartment.

Adagio's avatar

Just don’t grow a beard! When my daughter was almost 2 and a half her father went away on a yacht for two weeks, when he came back he had grown a beard and she was rather standoffish but it didn’t take long for her to realise who he was and to get back to their normal close relationship.

I think if your husband is going to be around and a constant, even if not 24/7, she will be fine, there will be enough familiar people for her to “hold on to”. I think it is often us, as the parents, who struggle with the separation. Not being able to telephone will be a real challenge for you but the meditation course sounds like a valuable experience, you will be all the richer for it.

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