“Dr. Sears, My wife is so committed to the idea that our two-year-old son should never feel “abandoned” that she is unwilling to consider having any semblance of a regular “husband-wife date time” or personal exercise time if our son appears unhappy at the prospect of being left with someone other than Mom or Dad, especially in the evening. I fear that her well-intentioned commitment to our son could have undesirable consequences on her physical health and our marriage’s vitality. In one of your books, you mention the importance that kids get used to their parents having occasional but regular date-time, so anything you can offer to help us would be desperately appreciated (my wife deeply values your writings).”
This is a great question. The key word here is BALANCE. Attachment Parenting is all about balance – finding the right balance between fostering a close relationship with your child and maintaining a close marriage relationship. These two sides do not necessarily have to be at conflict, especially if BOTH parents nurture an attachment with the child. When a mom and dad are fostering a close, attached relationship with their child, this naturally brings the parents closer together as well.
There are two main ideas to keep in mind here. For moms, realize that your husband really does need some alone time with you. Make some time to go out on a date once or twice a month. For dad’s, understand that the mother/child bond may be more physically based and therefore your wife may naturally be more reluctant to leave your child alone to go out. Give her time and support. She will come around soon.
Again, the key word is balance. Too much focus in either direction will end up making either dad or child feel left out.
On another note, attachment parenting can really drive a wedge of resentment between a husband and wife if only the wife is fostering a close attachment and the husband/father is parenting more from a distance. Such a difference in parenting ideals can really put a strain on a marriage.
For toddlers that seem reluctant or downright hysterical when you try to leave them with a babysitter, here are a few tips. Don’t try to do it cold turkey. Don’t just hire some teenager one night and take off, leaving your child with a stranger. Build up to it. Have a close friend or relative come over several times. Let your child interact with him or her. Allow your child to see you both laughing and having fun with this person. Give your child the message that this person is “part of the family.” Start this process early on, so that when you are finally ready to go out, your child will be ready as well. Try having just mom leave for an hour or so for a trip to the store, while dad and the friend stay home. See how comfortable your child is with this.