There is an interesting conversation going on in the one of the early childhood email lists I subscribe to, about leaving your children with a babysitter -- be it a family member or someone you have hired. I think there is a strong instinct amongst parents who practice attachment parenting to keep our children close, and I think that is an important instinct. But I also have some other thoughts...
I'd like to offer a point of view from the other end of this, though before I do, I would like to say that, especially with something as big as spending time apart from your children, I think it is truly a matter of listening to your instincts. If it doesn't feel right to you, and you are sick with worry, this probably isn't a good time to try it out!
But, with that said, my husband and I do leave our boys (2.5 + 17 mo) with my mother-in-law about once a week, and have since my oldest was about 6 months. They have only been "left" with someone outside of our family on two occasions, but each time it was with a dear family friend, someone the boys are very familiar and comfortable with. We usually put them to bed (they sleep early, by 7, so this isn't difficult) before we leave, and they are usually still asleep when we come home.
My husband and I are quite young, as is our marriage, and I have found these date nights out with him to be invaluable. When I have an evening free of (most) worries, I am more fresh and present and happy during the rest of the week.
We are very much attached to our boys, and they are enormously healthy and happy little guys, friendly when we are out walking, confident, even expressing a good deal of independence in climbing on the toys at the park and running about, making friends quickly. I do feel it is important for them to be comfortable in the world, curious and capable. Of course, they are so little! And they need their mama and daddy to guide them and protect them, and we are very aware of that.
We recently moved to a neighborhood that has a high Hasidic population and it has been so fascinating to observe the family dynamics of this community -- and it is truly a "community" in every sense of the word! The families tend to be quite large, and I often see fairly young children (8, 9, 10) out with their
much younger siblings, pushing them in the stroller, running errands for their parents. And this is in a HUGE city! I was at a small playground the other evening (all of the playgrounds in the city are gated), just taking a few breaths by myself after a difficult day, it was about 8 PM. And the playground was full of young children (3, 4, 5), no adult in sight (though there was a group of slightly older girls playing a game with a ball in a court nearby). But these children were PLAYING, in every ideal sense of imaginative, child-led, highly-active play that we dream of in our Waldorf-leanings. There was no fighting or bickering, just pure fun. And when they were finished, when the dusk turned dark, they would walk to their homes together and join their families for evening prayers and bed. Family life in the orthodox Jewish faith
is of the utmost importance. It is everything to them. It is very rare that a young adult leaves the community when they come of age. (we might consider this the ultimate "attached" family, no?) But, I think, this is because there is a play amongst the families in the community that allows them to lean on each other, to be apart, but also so close.
I know that this is a very isolated instance of community, but I do feel --- and this is just how I feel, how I meditate on the decisions I make for MY family -- that it is important for our children to be able to connect with others outside of the parents, to form bonds, and dependencies even, that can carry them through childhood and into a capable, thoughtful adulthood.
Does this have to begin when they are wee little ones? Not for every family. But it IS something to think about...
I truly believe that each mama must listen to he heart, and never make a decision based on the disapproval or principles of someone else. I am sometimes quite floored by the enormity of being THE mama in my family, the one in charge of the decisions and also largely responsible for the safety, health, capabilities and (sometimes) happiness of my children. My decisions are the ones that will guide me and mine through our time together.
I wish you all peace in each of your decisions,