Q&A: Leaving 16-month-old overnight

Anon writes:

"When is the first time you (and your readers) left your kid overnight?  My daughter is 16 months old and we have never been apart a night.  My husband had a 30 day work thing, a few day work thing, and 3 or 4 amateur sporting events that have separated them overnight.  My daughter is a great sleeper So I don't really worry about her waking in the night. (I wrote earlier about her maybe sleeping too much.) She cheerfully weaned herself at 11 months so that isnt a factor.

We are going to visit my ILs this weekend.  They live an 8 hour drive from us.  We are staying at a local uncle's house while he is on vacation (house sitting and getting a place to ourselves with plenty of bedrooms, IL's only have 1 spare room so other visits have been a little cozy but doable).  Uncle is a 15 min drive from IL's. DH is putting pressure on me to let DD have her first Overnight at myIL's. I am up with a migraine at 4:10 am at the thought.

He wants them to experience a DD's "first." He says this over and over.

A little more background:  DD is only child, only grandchild for both my parents and his.  My parents see DD a few days a week when I work and probably at least one social visit that is not babysitting for them.  They adore her and my mom and I talk every single day.  My husband used to live 2 hrs from his fam and moved here (8 hrs from his fam) to be with me 7 years ago.  My ILs ( retired) have been here 3 times to see DD.  DD HATED the car until she was 6 months old (could scream more than 3 hours in the car – we never tried longer than that) and flying is not financially feasible for us.  This will be our 3rd visit to ILs since she was born. DH has occasionally  expressed sadness/anger/grief over the fact that my fam gets to see her multiple times a week and his has only seen her 5 times (for five day visits at a time).

Don't  think I am a monster preventing a relationship with my IL's and DD, though.  I call my MIL once a week and give her details on what DD is doing (MIL is tech savvy but never ever initiates contact.  She always either answers the phone or promptly returns my call).  I make sure DH skypes weekly with IL while I work.  I text pics at least 3x week.  I mail packets of photos for mothers day, fathers day, etc. I send flowers on birthdays and cards on holidays.  I ask about their church friends and family events when I call.  ILs always seem to welcome contact and are happy to hear from us, but never initiate contact with me or with DH.  (he jokes that he'd never hear from them if he didn't call).  ILs always seem happy when we visit and always stay a long weekend when they visit.  We rotate thanksgiving and christmas yearly between the families.

Between our infrequent visits and her being my only baby, I feel nervous about leaving her.  Last time they saw her, she was barely crawling and standing shakily.  Now she is running.  They have a two story house with no gates on either staircase.  I have a daughter with no sense of life-preserving fear.  She is fast and they are older.  But do I give my husband this gift?  This first for the IL's? I know it would mean a lot to him and to them. I feel conflicted."

This is a tricky situation, but it's not really a zero-sum game: You could decide not to leave your daughter overnight with people she doesn't know when you aren't comfortable with it, while still letting your in-laws be the first to have her on an overnight.

I can absolutely understand your husband's point of view on this. It is one of the great sadnesses of my life that my parents can't be in my kids' lives several times a week, especially since I know they'd love to be. If we lived in the same area my mom would see my kids all the time and my dad (who's not retired yet) would see them at least once a week. It makes me so sad that they don't get to have each other while the kids are growing up. So I'm oh-so-sympathetic to your husband's feelings.


Your daughter doesn't know his parents, even though they know her extremely well. If you think about it, how old was she when she last saw them? Will she remember them? They, on the other hand, know her intimately because of all the photos and skype time and stories and reports on her that you give them. But she doesn't know them.

16 months can be a weird time anyway for some toddlers, so she could be extremely upset about being left overnight with people she doesn't know. And people (especially older people) who are not around a careening daredevil toddler really have no idea how exhausting it can be and how closely they have to supervise her every single second (especially if their house isn't toddler-proofed).

What if you leave her and she starts crying horribly because she's scared and misses you, and they can't console her, and they feel like she's rejecting them?

I think I'm telling you everything you already know, and what your heart is telling you, which is that it doesn't sound like the best idea to leave her alone overnight with your in-laws.


That doesn't mean that they can't be the first to have her overnight. You can make a plan with your husband and with them to have her have her first overnight at some point in the future when she's more aware of who they are and, more importantly, when she's better able to talk and communicate. And when her physical judgment is better, too. So much development happens in the second year, so a 16-month-old is nothing like a 21-month-old is nothing like a 27-month-old. Once she's older and more able to talk, an overnight will be fun for everyone. (Honestly, an overnight with a 16-month-old sounds about one step up from having blood drawn to me. The wake-ups, the random screaming because you don't understand what they're saying, the never sitting still…)

And now that she's better in the car, you can make more visits, so they will get to see her more frequently and your husband might be a little more at peace with the relationship. (Or he might not, as I'm not. That's ok, too.)

But setting everyone up for failure by leaving her alone with them overnight at this age isn't going to fix the heartache your husband feels, and it might ruin everyone's weekend. So come up with some super-polite excuse about why you can't (18-month molars coming in are a likely story) and then plan another visit for when she's older.

Readers? Am I on or am I full of it? When did you leave your child overnight for the first time, and with whom? Who would you rather spend the night with–a 16-month-old or a feral monkey?

94 thoughts on “Q&A: Leaving 16-month-old overnight”

  1. Nowhere does it mention if the in-laws want to have the baby overnight. My parents are pretty local, know my kids, but they didn’t want overnights until my kids are over 2.5.

  2. We left DS with my husband’s parents for three nights when he was six months old but it was in our house so DS was sleeping in his own crib. My ILs live 14-hours away but I knew that my MIL would be more than responsive & loving to my son. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop me bursting into tears in the car when we started our roadtrip! Motherhood is soooo very primal…I would suggest letting your ILs take your dd for the night on the understanding that if she got terribly upset, that they would call you to come and get her. As I understand it your uncle’s house is close enough to do a midnight pick-up if necessary.
    Good luck!

  3. I didn’t leave my daughter with someone else at night until she was 28 months old. And then only because I was hospitalized and didn’t have a choice. In fact, I think she was already two years old before we even left her with a friend during the day.Would they be happy with a different first on this trip? First haircut, first going out for ice cream, first carousel ride?

  4. Ugh, difficult situation I’m sure! We’re dealing with something similar. The “first” overnight has already passed for our 18 month old (with my parents, about 9months ago), but my ILs REALLY want to keep him overnight too. Problem is, DS is very shy and sensitive and while he likes them he is still cautious around them. OTOH he sees my parents daily and he is in love with them, and my mom is willing to get up with him all night, let him sleep in her bed, etc. My ILs know he’s stayed at my parents and I think they’re jealous. They’re fun but don’t really like the baby-care type stuff DS still needs at night, so I’m not sure how they’ll handle his bad sleeping, his hysterics when he wakes up in the morning, etc. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and believe me I’d love to do it because we could use a child-free night, but he’s just not ready. It is causing hurt feelings, but I’ve just had to say to my ILs that he’s not ready and we’d love to do an overnight in the future.I think Moxie’s suggestions are great. Either make up a polite lie if needed, or just say DD isn’t quite ready for an overnight yet. If you can swing it, letting them be “first” would be great too, though you’ll probably need to make an effort to see them more often if possible. Good luck sorting it out though!

  5. It seems like such a weird thing for your husband to fixate on. Is there some other way to help with his feelings of an imbalance in the grandparental relationships other than this overnight (which is clearly causing you a lot of stress and worry)? Some other “first” that you are more comfortable with? First minor league baseball game? First afternoon trip to Destination X without mommy and daddy?See if you can get him to articulate why it has to be a first overnight stay, and he may realize it’s actually about something else that can be soothed with an alternate solution.

  6. If you’re there multiple days, could you do a “test-drive” and see how they do with a couple hour outing during the day? If that goes really well AND DD seems ok with them, then you could think about the overnight.I would definitely want the understanding that if she is upset at *any* time, that you can go and pick her up with NO hard feelings. It is a tough age and she doesn’t know them well.
    If you aren’t comfortable with that, I like Jen’s suggestion of letting them take part in another “first”. Has she been to an amusement park or zoo or museum or something that they can be a part of.

  7. I’m in total agreement with Moxie. It sounds like your “gut” is not to do it this time, but you are afraid you are being selfish or something! I say, “Go with your gut!”Personally, I think it’s easier to leave two kids than one (because they have each other) and 16 months is really young to be away for a night, particularly with someone that you aren’t used to. Plus, it could end up that she’s worried you’ll leave her every time you go.
    I agree that since grandparents feel like they know the kids because they see pictures, get updates, etc, it isn’t the same as spending a lot of time and really building a trusting relationship.
    Plus, I think it might be easier to have an overnight in her own environment, so maybe in a year you and your husband go away for the night (in the middle of one of your in-laws stays, so she’s had time to get used to them) and they keep her at your house. She’d be more comfortable, they still get to watch her first (if that’s important to you), but it’s more likely to be successful and enjoyable for everyone involved.
    Side note: I hope the in-laws also visit and you aren’t solely responsible for going to see them! If they want to see your little girl more, they can also visit!

  8. Could the overnight be at your house? What if you and your husband got away for a night the next time the in-laws visited? I think the combination of unfamiliar people in a strange place might be stressful. I’ve left my daughter overnight a couple times a year from the time she was about 8 months, but it was at our house and my parents babysat.

  9. My daughter was just over a year old the first time she spent the night at my parent’s house. They spent a lot of time with her, she was really comfortable with them, she had spent time alone with them before…and I was still in a total panic at the thought of her being away for the night. So it may never be something you feel comfortable with.In my case I was getting a lot of pressure from my husband to let her stay with my parents overnight, but that was because he wanted me to himself for the night. I’d be looking to find out if there’s some other agenda – does he maybe have something special planned for the evening?

  10. My daughter is four in a couple of weeks and and I still haven’t.I would, with my siblings, but my husband is not comfortable with it, so I respect/accept that, even as I (secretly!) find it vaguely irritating.
    When my niece was born, my nephew, who was 18 months old at the time and is a pretty sensitive kid, stayed with us on a few occasions (she was in the NICU), once for a couple nights in a row. It was mostly fine. He got to the point when if I picked him up from daycare or if his dad dropped him off, he was QUITE unhappy, knowing he was staying at my house. But once his parents left, he was fine – had fun, played, did arts and crafts, etc. He cried when he talked to his dad on the phone, but was over it very quickly. And I think if there hadn’t been so much turmoil at home, with his mom being in the hospital and the stress over the sick baby, he wouldn’t have gotten upset at all.
    I think if you decide to go ahead with it, your daughter will be fine. I also think, though, that it isn’t going to the as much of a great experience as they/your husband thinks it will be. Your daughter won’t appreciate it and it will be sort of exhausting for your in-laws. It might be just that they want to forge a closer relationship with her, though, and the easiest way to do that is without you there – because she’ll really open up to them without her parents being present. I know that my nephew and I were closer after he stayed at my house.

  11. First, an answer to the specific question the OP asked: My daughter was about 16 months the first time we left her overnight. We left her with my parents, who had been babysitting 1-2x a week for her since she was an infant.Now, my musings on the subject: It’s obvious that the OP does not want to do this. It’s equally obvious that her husband does. I think this is the sort of decision that falls into that gray area of Choices We Make. And I don’t know, but isn’t this where parenting as a team is just tricky?
    Where is it written that The Mommy gets to decide, end of story? This sounds like a conversation the OP needs to have with her husband. Is it OK that she’s not completely comfortable with leaving her baby overnight yet? Is that a reasonable position to take? Absolutely. But I think it’s equally reasonable that her husband has a different position on the matter.
    This is not a situation where there’s no compromise available. The child could stay with her grandparents for an extended evening, or they could take her out to lunch or some other fun thing. You could make a commitment for them to have the right of first refusal on her first overnight.
    IMO, this is also not a situation where either choice is going to damage the child. We’re not talking about an argument over whether or not the baby needs a carseat. Either choice is valid, and there’s nothing to do but muddle through the relationship aspect of this.
    Am I making sense? I feel like I’m not explaining what I mean very well. I just see this as more a relationship issue than a parenting issue, when it comes right down to it.

  12. A happy medium might be for you to put her down at your ILs, stay there until you’re sure she’s out for the night and *then* go back to the Uncle’s house. You can leave instructions that they should call you as soon as she wakes up in the morning, at which point you can head back over there to great her. That will limit that total amount of “awake” time to the 15 minutes it takes you to get there after they call in the morning!

  13. My opinion is that kids are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for. I was nervous leaving my little one overnight with anyone, and he had absolutely zero problems. No problem with my folks who he sees two or three times a year or with my MIL who he sees every week. There was no issue.I would also say that in my relationship with my husband and son, it has been very important for me to realize that my spouse is an equal parent. If he thinks the child will be fine and it is important to him, his opinion should have equal weight with mine. We generally decide these things with who feels more strongly. If I feel at about an 8 that our child would not be safe at my inlaws and he feels at a 4 that he would, I prevail.
    I think because of how primal and natural our connection is with our children, sometimes mothers (ME!) feel that our instincts are more ‘right’ or important than our spouses who do not have the same primal link. That may not play a role here, but it is a constant issue at my house.

  14. I left both of my babies overnight for the first time at about 7-8 months old. My parents give me and my husband a night away every few months. It was, frankly, one of the few things that kept me sane during the bad sleep months with my first child.We have never had any problems. My girls both sleep better for my parents than they do for us.
    However, my kids already knew my parents really well, so that wasn’t an issue in my case. I agree that it can be a concern. If you decide to do it, can you at least make it not be the first night? Even now (my kids are 4 years old and 21 months), we usually have my parents come in on Friday and we abscond at about lunchtime on Saturday.
    Also, we USUALLY do this at our house. Although, anytime we go and visit them (they live about 6 hours away by car), we usually take a night away, too.
    On the plus side, 16 months is a pretty good time, separation anxiety-wise. Once the kid hits the 18 month separation anxiety phase, I’d be loathe to leave her with anyone she doesn’t know well. It *might* work out at this age.
    So I don’t know… I like Moxie’s idea of starting to execute a plan that will lead to your ILs getting to have DD’s first sleepover- but maybe not this weekend. But if it is going to cause a major family fight not to do it- I suspect it would work out fine for your daughter if you go ahead. You might be a nervous wreck, though!

  15. 16 months was about the time that I left my kids overnight for the first time. I knew people who did it earlier, but my gut felt, “no way”. So I didn’t. 16 months or so felt good to me. That being said, they stayed with my mom, who they know well and I trust her implicitly. Also, she’s happy to do it. My MIL on the other hand would have done it, but she wouldn’t have liked it. I would not have been able to relax if they were with her.(I nursed each of my three kids ’til 12-14 months.)
    I knew a woman in my baby group whose husband “made” her go to Hawaii when her baby was about 3 or 4 months old (her words, not mine). This was his solution to her stress and exhaustion with a newborn. She was pumping for a week in Hawaii to keep her milk going, and was miserable.
    I remember thinking it sounded like a horrible idea!
    Go with your gut.

  16. On the back of the not sleeping through the night thread, no one would’ve asked for an overnight with my 16 month old!I agree with testing out the waters the first day or so and seeing how comfortable the ILs and child are together. If you decide to do it, you are only 15 minutes away – not a very long time if bed time turns into a disaster.

  17. Lots of good ideas here – I don’t think Mouse spent a night away from both of us until she was 5, honestly.And it sounds to me like the mom here is doing absolutely everything she can to facilitate her child’s relationship with the grandparents. 5 multi-day visits in 16 months is one hell of a lot of houseguesting! So you shouldn’t feel like you’re somehow depriving the grandparents if you say no (if it’s even what they want, which is a great point).
    Speaking simply from my personal situation, we have a lot more grandparents that want to *feel* involved than that want to actually *be* involved, if you know what I mean. And they exhibit some of this type of behavior – setting a ton of store over superlatives like “firsts” i.e. my mom is positive that my MIL buys Mouse all kinds of fancy clothes (which she doesn’t – MIL doesn’t really make big deals of presents, tends to forget occasions, etc. but my mom can’t quite believe that) so my mom goes over they top to get Mouse the “fanciest” dress of the year to feel like she’s winning. But she doesn’t check on colors, events coming up, or Mouse’s current likes – I guess what I’m saying is, it has a lot more to do with her relationship with me/her own ego than actually with Mouse. Mouse loves fancy dresses in general so it’s fine, but I do a fair amount of shielding her from the 1-sided competition.
    Anyway, while all of Mouse’s grandparents love her and she loves them, I wouldn’t have trusted at least 2 of the 3 sets to really meet her needs at a much younger age, even for one night. (Various reasons I won’t go into.) So I’d say, listen to your instinct and stick to your guns. If the grandparents actually do care about “firsts” find another one or promise them an overnight “when you’re ready” and leave it unspecified when. You’re doing great. I also agree with the suggestion to talk to your husband and see why the “first” is so important to him and whether a different one would serve.

  18. My son didn’t spend a night away from both of us (I had done some traveling for work and once or twice DH & DS went to visit family in another state without me) until he was 2.5. I wanted to treat my husband to a mini vacation for his birthday. We were gone for 2.5 days. It was too long and too soon. My son stayed with my mom, who he has an excellent relationship with, sees frequently and loves. He is always asking to go to my mom’s house and enjoys spending time with her, but after a day of being with her she said he kept asking where we were and if we were coming back to get him. We actually cut the trip a little shorter (left the hotel right after breakfast instead of spending the morning exploring & shopping). I also missed him a lot. It doesn’t sound like this mom is ready for her baby to have an overnight yet, from the letter. It also doesn’t sound like the ILs would be the best people to take her for her first overnight as she doesn’t know them well enough.

  19. My first take reading through the question is that DH is wanting to do this to appease his parents and is not thinking of the daughter or the wife. That’s the only reason I’d push back. Totally understand he is torn but he needs to put his immediate family first. I think just the stairs alone with no gate is reason enough to not have her stay overnight without them.It isn’t the daughter or wife’s fault that the ILs don’t see the child as frequently. The ILs can make more of an effort to plan and reach out. Shouldn’t be the posters responsibility to make up for that at the expense of her personal comfort level. I’m guessing if the original poster does let the daughter spend the night, the poster will be up all night worrying. That’s not fair.
    Probably can tell from my reply that I’ve experienced a little of this first hand…
    Good luck!

  20. That’s a tough one… I haven’t been farther than an adjoining hotel room from my DD’s. We have a trip in Dec. planned and we are going to leave them with Nana and Papa (my IL’s). It will be hard, but my MIL has a great mothering instinct, so I know it will be fine. I know that when the DD1 was younger I couldn’t imagine being away from her at all.I can see both sides of this… but your MIL is a MOTHER-in-law, right? It might be ok.

  21. My son just turned 4, and he has never spent the night away from me. He has been away from his father, because son and I have traveled without my husband a few times.In fact, we are currently visiting my husband’s parents without him because he hates air travel so much and I am more invested in my son knowing his grandparents. We have no relatives closer than two (large) states away. My mother can visit us, but my FIL is too ill to travel, so we come here. As it is, it’s been 10 months since our last visit.

  22. The answer is obvious: nobody will have you arrested for putting a feral monkey in a cage (with food and water of course)! Or…maybe they will. I don’t know. I still vote monkey.I think leaving her with them for an afternoon of babysitting may be a better move this time, and agree with Moxie’s suggestion to plan on her first overnight being with them…when she is older and more aware of the situation.

  23. You’re spot on, Moxie.I’ve only been away from my daughter for two nights. She was about to turn three, and I was at the hospital having her little sister. My college-age sister took care of my older girl. I’m told she was a little sad and woke up a lot, but it was nothing a screening of “Toy Story” and some peanut butter toast couldn’t fix.
    I’d only spend the night with a 16-month-old if she were my own. Otherwise, I’d take the feral monkey.

  24. My daughter was left with my parents for two nights when I had my son. She was 22mos old at the time and she saw them all the time and had a very close relationship with them. She just had her first overnight with the ILs at Christmas time (she was 4ys 8mos) because she’s not as close to them. Neither she or they were ready before that. My son had his first overnight with my parents a few months before he turned three and is still not ready for an overnight with the ILs.An overnight with grandparents she doesn’t know well in an environment that is not childproofed and doesn’t have someone who is able and accustomed to chasing after a fast toddler seems like a recipe for disappointment at best and disaster at worst. Have they ever even had her for a solid block of time (4+hrs) on their own and at their non-babyproofed house instead of your house?

  25. I don’t think anybody would disagree that children are resilient or that parents need to learn to let go as our kids get older. But I think there’s great variation in people’s opinions and feelings about just when such “letting go” steps should occur. Which is why I honestly think it’s better to err on the side of the reluctant parent. It will probably make little difference to the OP’s daughter when she gets left overnight for the first time, but it’s a big deal to the OP. And if she’s not ready, she’s not ready. Yes, she should talk to her husband and try to find a potential compromise that addresses his feelings of wanting his parents more involved. But I don’t see that it’s good to spend time away from your child if you aren’t going to be able to relax and enjoy it. And I’d honestly feel exactly the same way if it were the husband who wasn’t ready to leave their toddler for an overnight.

  26. First time I left my son with my mom for a few hours, he was 4 months old and…well…let’s just say that he’s now 9 years old and my husband’s STILL not comfortable leaving him overnight with my parents. But that’s MY mom (and in a different incident, my dad. They’re divorced, but still).I like the suggestion of letting your in-laws have your daughter to themselves for a few hours, while you’re out eating or whatever nearby.
    I also like the suggestion of talking to your husband about why THIS milestone at THIS time. Is he anxious that your mom will get this milestone first, due to other events in your life?
    It seems to me that, if your in-laws want this milestone for themselves, then it should happen when they are on a visit to your house, since your house is toddler-proofed and your child will be more comfortable. Ask them to come on a weekend when you can stay at a nearby hotel or something.

  27. I left my son with my parents when he was 19 months. Both sets of parents live far away from us, but my parents, especially my mom, had spent more time with my son, taken care of him independently, etc. so I was comfortable leaving our son with them at that age. We have not left our son with my husband’s parents yet, and I don’t know if we will until he is old enough to essentially fend for himself. There is a mental health issue there, and we’re both (me and my husband) just not comfortable with it yet. (And how to explain that to his parents, who don’t acknowledge the issue…THAT is a whole another question).I like the idea of a test-drive. Maybe pitch it as a get ready to overnight with Grandma and Grandpa visit. I think I’d also point out that if you’re concerned enough about this step being too much now, think of how you’ll be the night of. Neither you or your husband will get any sleep!

  28. I agree with Moxie but to add -I have real fears about sleepovers and I am not sure they’re really a requirement. My son has had two with my parents: once when I was on a press trip and my husband got sequestered on jury duty, and once when my second son was born. The first he was 4, the second 5. So you can tell your husband, at least you are not as crazy at me.
    Also, I honestly don’t get the firsts thing. Of course since it’s important to him it’s important to listen. Here’s how my son took his first steps. I was at home with him basically 24/7. My mother came over. I stepped out of the room to put the kettle on for tea. My son walked. Voila! 🙂

  29. My older daughter was 3.5 when she had her first overnight away from us, and that was with my mom and dad, who she sees at least 3 days each week. My younger daughter was a little younger, but not much, and she also stayed overnight with my parents (along with her sister).I have friends who left their son with his grandparents (who live a few hours away) for a long weekend when he was 2 months old – I thought then and think now that was crazy, but they were happy and their son seems fine.
    So, I guess it comes down to what you’re comfortable with and what works for your child. It sounds to me like Anon isn’t ready and so my opinion would be to stick with that, but as Moxie said, maybe promise the grandparents that they can have the first sleepover when everyone is ready.

  30. DS1 spent his first night apart from me at home with his dad at 5, then 1 night with his grandparents at our home when I was having DS2 (DS1 was 5 1/2) so obviously I haven’t any direct experience. My 2c worth is that I wouldn’t do it in a strange place, with people she’s not overly familiar with and who don’t have recent experience of her.However could you not think of a couple of “firsts” for them to do with her that don’t involve staying overnight? A first visit to a zoo or circus or aquarium or a ride on a train or whatever? Far more fun for everyone concerned!

  31. I first left DS overnight when he was 18 months. He was taken care of by my sister (who was our full-time nanny at the time) and she moved into our house. It went well.I left DD overnight the first time at 5.5 months. Also with my sister. Also at my house. It went fine for them – it was miserable for me because I struggled pumping and was so uncomfortable.
    I sounds like Anon already knows how she feels about this, and I think her arguments as set out in her letter are all valid. If it is so important to the grandparents, perhaps they could come to her house? But, frankly, it doesn’t sound like it is so important the grandparents – it sounds like it’s the OP’s husband’s issue. He moved away from his family to be with the OP and perhaps he’s not too happy about that decision any more. Is there another conversation here that needs to happen?

  32. I’d agree that for your child’s first overnight away, it is best to be with caregivers who are pretty familiar with her routines and needs.The other thing I’d ask: Are the grandparents willing to follow/honor the parent’s instructions for how to care for the 16 month old? (ie. sleep routines, foods, etc). In my experience, I am unlikely to leave my toddler with my mother for extended periods because: She.Ignores.My.

  33. Let’s see… you could probably get a cage for a feral monkey, and there wouldn’t be any need for a baby monitor. With a 16-month-old you’re likely to end up asleep on the floor at the foot of a pack n’ play in a puddle of your own drool, having sung yourself hoarse through hours of incoherent, half-forgotten and ultimately useless lullabys.Yeah, I’m going to have to go with ‘monkey.’
    But seriously, I think this is one of those situations where you have to get to the needs and feelings behind the stated desires of all parties involved. How much does this one ‘first’ count to the in-laws, or to your husband, and can it be replaced for the time being with another?
    Don’t ignore the mommy inner voice that’s telling you This Is Not A Good Idea. Because honestly, even if nothing bad happens, you’re going to be so stressed out that you’ll have a miserable night away, and who wants that? (Gee, let’s get rid of the kids and spend the ENTIRE NIGHT fighting about it! is one possible fun scenario. Or how about: the first night send your daughter over to the in-laws, the next night you take daughter back and banish the husband.)
    On the other hand, if you do consider it thoroughly and finally think it might be do-able — your daughter sleeps through the night consistently, the uncle’s house isn’t that far away, you’ll sleep with your cell phone set on an appropriately wake-the-dead ring tone under your pillow — consider trying to keep it as short as possible for your sanity. Stick around until your daughter is in bed or even asleep, if it’s feasible. Then arrange to bring over breakfast early the next morning. Or meet everyone for brunch at a local restaurant.
    Come to think of it, taking a 16-month-old to a restaurant may be about as much fun as taking a feral monkey. Maybe you could start by taking your in-laws out to dinner with your daughter to convince them that they don’t have an overnight stay in them just yet?
    Finally, for what it’s worth, we first left our son overnight when he was almost two and a half. We probably would’ve been ready sooner but my in-laws weren’t quite, even though they are very close to my son and see him multiple times every week. We found it much easier for everyone to leave my son at home and invite my in-laws to stay at our place.
    Good luck, and whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a wonderful visit!

  34. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the babyproofing factor. If you have a child with “no sense of life-preserving fear,” I’d be quite wary in this area.Since DS was the kind of toddler you rent out to stress-test the babyproofing in other people’s houses, we waited quite a while to do overnights (or even day sits) at unprotected relatives’ houses. One auntie stayed with him at our place when he was almost 3, and he did his first away overnight at around 4, at the other auntie’s. He adores both of them and they both have great childcare skills.
    On the babyproofing note, it seemed like the grandparents just didn’t get it at all, despite repeated requests and reminders – 2 out of 3 grandkids were VERY curious toddlers. My brother and DH finally just went out and bought/installed the basic outlet/cabinet/glass table protections at their house, then I stomped around moving all the furniture polish, alcohol, vitamins, prescription meds, dry cleaning bags, giant knives, etc. etc. into a giant pile on the kitchen table, and told them to put them away somewhere above my eye level. They finally got the point. Now the kid is 5 and has gained a remarkable amount of common sense, and we let him stay at the grandparents’.

  35. 16-18 months was ‘date evening’ not overnight. Work up to the overnight. This age is a bit too unpredictable for overnight with strangers (to the child), IMHO.This would be a PRIME time to talk about the Grandparent Job they want with this child, though. Is it ‘art’ or ‘history’ or ‘gardening/outdoors’ or ‘culture’ or ‘homey stuff like baking’ or what? I asked my mom if she would be willing to take on ‘Enchantment’ for our kids. What lights them up that they want to share and you don’t have time/inclination for? Start talking about how they picture themselves as grandparents, what their grandparents did/did not do that they want to repeat/avoid, what would they just bust to brag to their grandparent friends about doing with their grandchild?
    I think if you go in trying to defend against the ‘overnight’ without a strong positive strategy of ‘how to elevate the grandparent discussion positively’ you may end up feeling guilty and pressured. But if you come in with eyes shining and engaged on ‘what do you want to ‘be’ to this child, and how can we make that happen?’ you will be able to shelve the overnight as what it really is – an age based logistical decision, not an emotional measure of the grandparents’ worth.

  36. ooh, man I’m loving @hedra’s comment.Go with your gut. You aren’t ready and she isn’t ready yet, either. But I love Moxie’s suggestion of saving her first overnight for them in the future, or some other great “first”.
    As a data point, my son was 16 months old when we left him for the first time but it was with his grandparents that he knew as well as us. It was still hard for me but he did great.

  37. All great advice. I see this as more of a marriage problem than a grandparent problem. The husband is pushing it when the grandparents don’t sound like they’re going to any lengths to show how much they want it to work out. My MIL put up gates on her own and had it all worked out how the time would be spent.IMO “firsts” is a crazy concept for a child who has no memory yet. It sounds like the grandparents either have some insecurity they’ve voiced to the uncle who is interceding on their behalf, or maybe they just want some bragging rights among their posse. What it sounds like they’re doing is asking to be trusted without earning it from the child’s mother. Could the MIL be working through some baggage of her own from her days as a young mother?
    But I just don’t see why this has to be painted as the wife/mother is being the obstacle.
    For the record I was hospitalized out of town and gone for a week when DD was 25 months old. She stayed home with Dad and the inlaws visited. DD (even with the comfort of known people) kept walking around looking for me. So, I say the overnight at this age (without a dry run during the day) is not optimal.

  38. HA! My son is 28 months old and I’ve still never left him overnight with anyone. Mostly for lack of opportunity. I don’t think I’d leave him at my in-laws’ un-child-proofed house even now. Maybe if they came here.First trip to the water park! First… banana split! Yeah, there are lots of other ‘first’ things your daughter can do with the ILs that won’t make everyone full of angst, wrath, and anguish.
    And also? I’d take the monkeys.

  39. I think you do what you think is best regardless of what pressure is coming from DH or ILs. Sounds like you have very valid reasons to feel the way you do. You’ll end up being worried and anxious if you let them take her.I vote say, maybe later. Even better would be to have them watch her at your house while you and hubby go out for the night. Maybe you stay at a hotel. Maybe you just come back really late. THAT’S what I would do.
    But I really really really hope that you listen to your gut and follow your instincts and not be pressured by ANYONE to do otherwise.

  40. We left our DS with my MIL for one night, at our house, when he was 22 months old and it was the first and last time (he’s now 4). There weren’t any issues with that overnight stay but, knowing my MIL better now, I most certainly wouldn’t leave him with her again. When she came to stay and watch DS while we were moving house, she’d get a little bored of the whole babysitting routine and kept going to her room to read or play Sudoku – w/out letting either of us know. Suffice it to say, we’ve demurred often when invited to leave him with her on the farm – yikes!

  41. I spent my first night away from my son when he was four months and I had a business trip. I travel regularly, and since then have spent at least a few nights a month away (he’s three now). He’s always been fine, whether he’s with my husband or with my inlaws. He spent his first night without either me or my husband at about 15 months, with my inlaws and it was great. He’d been sleeping terribly and I was worried, but they got him to sleep with no problem (I have no idea how) and he slept wonderfully for them. Ever since, I’ve been thrilled to let them have sleepovers! I wish they lived a lot closer. Yes, they let him stay up too late and give him crap for dinner, etc., but they all love to be together, so it’s worth it. And worth it for me to know that we can all survive being apart for a few nights!

  42. We deal with this by saying that both people have to feel comfortable with something. In practice, this means that often I am deciding, because I am more cautious/in-tune/paranoid. But it still feels fair, because we both get to say what feels comfortable.I still listen, and sometimes am swayed!
    To add to this, toddlers are wildly different in how much vigilance they require; it’s not so automatic unless you do it regularly; *some* people from my parents’ generation have a higher level of tolerance for risk than I personally do.
    I personally think some grandparents get hyped on things like an overnight because they want the relationship that would cherish such memories. IMO, that’s the wrong way to go about it–build the relationship, and the rest will follow. I feel a little uncomfortable with grandparents wanting symbolic things, because I think it tends to get in the way of responding to the person and relationship in front of them–when a breastfed new baby is sobbing for milk, and the grandparent refuses to hand it over because they want to be the one to calm the baby, for instance. Not saying this is going on for the OP, but this is the concern I would feel in this situation.
    OP, how about engineering some time where your husband and his family are together while you go out and do a museum or something?

  43. My daughter was four years old before she spent the night away from both of us. I spent my first night away from her at about 15 months, and I was a wreck, even though she was at home with her mom.

  44. Wow. wow.Um, so our 6 year old just had her first overnight, with a friend, about a month ago. I’m not quite certain she was ready. Our 4.5 year old hasn’t had an overnight anywhere, but would probably be fine. I wouldn’t leave my kids overnight with my parents now (large unpredictable dog, unfenced pool, smoking, possibly resurfacing alcoholism) though they would love to have them. I would leave them with my in-laws, who are delightful if a bit crotchety,but they know their limitations and would most likely refuse. It’s a moot point because both sets live about a day’s travel away (one via plane and one via car). Seriously, I know we’re on the late side here, but there’s no reason to rush it. None at all.
    Also, you seem to be feeling a lot of pressure to make this relationship happen. It’s not your responsibility. Really. It’s the responsibility of the grandparents and the child to create the relationship. You’re there to make them available to each other and to facilitate when necessary, but you really don’t need to make this perfect for them (or for your husband). Which brings me to: if he’s so sad/angry/guilty about a lack of involvement with his parents, *he* should be the one calling with updates and sending packets of photos.

  45. I agree with having the in-laws do something really fun/firstish with her during the visit (and let them choose, maybe taking her somewhere unique to their city/area) and then fairly soon (so they are fresh in her memory) have them do her first overnight at your home. Overall, the whole situation sounds like there is too much tension surrounding it to end well if you were to have her sleep at their house. And as was pointed out, they may not even really want to deal with an overnight!!I have only been away from DS twice, for single nights, and he was home with DH both times. However, DH and I are going to Maine for a friend’s wedding in July, and DS will stay with my parents who he adores for the weekend. He will be a few weeks shy of his 3rd birthday at that time, and I think it will go ok, but I do get a little sick to my stomach when I think about him being away from us for 2 nights! And that if something ever went wrong, it’s a loooong drive. But I’m trying to focus on all the fun we will have at the wedding, and I trust my parents 100% so I know it will be fine… still hard though!

  46. My son had his first overnight with my in-laws when he was 16 months old. And it wasn’t just an overnight, it was 2 weeks. And I sent him off to Iowa (from DC, on a plane) with my sister-in-law. Running a low fever.Everything went really, really well. I missed him like burning, but he was entirely happy and came back babbling about all the fun he had.
    In my own defense – we were in a desperate chilcare gap, my in-laws are fairly young, and my sister-in-law is a nurse. And my son is now a happy well-adjusted 5-year-old who spends every July with his grandparents.

  47. One more thought. OP, this doesn’t resolve your current issue, but in some ways, I think this issue gets easier as the children get older. Either they develop a satisfactory relationship with the grandparent, and your job is simply facilitating contact. Or possibly the child does not feel the same connection for the grandparents, but in some ways I still think it’s easier than now because the child’s voice becomes clearer, and your role becomes more a question of helping the child be kind and responsible about feelings, and less gatekeeper.

  48. My husband and I spent 2 nights away from #1 child at 11 months. We had been staying with them for 3.5 weeks, and left to fly to a friend’s wedding. They had no baby gates, but they had spent a lot of time moving all the cleaning chemicals up high, moving any mediations etc. And I totally trust my parents – while realizing that they do things a bit differently from me.My mum looked after #1 again at 2.5 years for 2 nights when I had had #2.
    My parents looked after both kids aged 4.5 and nearly 2 years for 2 nights while husband and I went to Venice. (We left at 4.30 am and returned at midnight, so it was more like 4 nights.) Absolutely blissful! Husband and I are always looking at the photos. Again, we had been staying with them for 3.5 weeks before we went. And the kids did fine.
    We are incredibly lucky that we trust my parents. I see staying overnight as an investment in their relationship, and also a reality of living far, far, far away from my parents.
    It has also given my husband and me some really precious time together that feels great.
    Oh, #1 also did an overnight with a friend at about 2 years old. We are part of a babysitting co-op and various overnight stays have happened at various times.
    But these are all people who we trust and the kids know.

  49. The problem as posted needs to be reframed so as to put oneself in the child’s shoes. The ILS are grownups and need to behave that way. No child should be left with people he or she does not know. I know this sounds harsh but really. Come on. The child should come first, not the parents or the grandparents, in issues of grown-up ego like this one. Imagine how you would feel if you were left alone with people you didn’t know, who didn’t know you, and you woke up in the middle of the night in a strange place. How horrible!This is not really a question of overnights but one of childcare, it seems to me. If the child knew the grandparents then it would be a totally different issue. We have not left our 22 month old yet overnight mostly because there is no one that she and we know well enough in our close proximity to leave her with, or to have stay with her. But if we did have someone that we trusted, and she trusted, then we would leave her. But again, this is about her, not us.

  50. Oh, and yes, I also agree with those who have said that the ILS and the child are responsible for their relationship. And the ILS don’t sound all that into it, really. Good luck, OP. I feel for you – won’t get into my situation here but ILS are complicated all around!

  51. I won’t comment on the question as such, because I think all the other comments pretty much cover it – just my data point of first overnight with in-laws is planned for towards the end of a 2&half week trip to New Zealand when Moo will be 21 months (we’ll be off on a plane to another city for a rugby match.) I’m looking forward to it & so is my MIL.Also, a tip for keeping in touch with far-away relatives without much effort- I take frequent short (30s) videos on my phone and email it straight away from my phone. I’m lousy with downloading photos so it is much less effort for me than sitting down at a computer. My ILs love them and my MIL circulates it to all my husbands siblings if she thinks it’s funny.

  52. this sounds like it is more about the husband’s grief about not being closer/jealousy of his in-laws’ proximity than it is really about anything anyone wants — grandparents, kid, parents. Your gut feeling that your daughter is too little is enough to make no a totally fine answer. As Moxie said, she doesn’t know these grandparents. She will eventually, but she doesn’t now. The lack of babyproofing in the grandparents’ house is another great reason. Honestly I would be shocked if they really wanted that responsibility or had the energy for it.Data: My daughter was 3 when we left her with my mother overnight fo the first time (in our house). And, oops, she woke herself up with a stomach virus. Neither she nor my mother were that happy about it, but they survived.

  53. My DS was 9 months or so when my DH and I went on a solo weekend and MIL stayed at our house with DS. I think that helped, but MIL was WIPED OUT after weekend. Second time was at 2.5 when we had a staycation and it was only for one night and MIL had help. and I think one more night was when my second son was born and again, MIL had help. All three times were hard, but good. Also is kind of good for who is taking care of them because they realize that it such a hard job and they are more likely to give you props for it after. It helps so much if it is at YOUR house. DS, at 3.5 is still not ready yet for night alone at grandma/grandpa’s house.I think it is a really poignant point though that grandparents think they know the kids because they’ve seen pictures of them, read blogs about them, skyped with them, but they really don’t know them. It might be scary for kid to stay with IL’s.

  54. I’ve only been away at night from my oldest, who is 4, two times – once when I was having her sister and another time when I was at the ER with her sister. She stayed with my parents whom she knows EXTREMELY well. I’ve never been away at night from my youngest, who is almost 2. I love Moxie’s answer to this question. I also think this is an issue of temperament. Some kids separate easily and are laid back enough that an overnight stay in an unfamiliar place might not bother them. Other kids might panic and scream for hours. I would tell the OP to trust her gut. If either her daughter or she is not ready for an overnight away from each other, then don’t do it. It won’t be worth it for anyone.

  55. Well, this is a tough call, but I would let her stay overnight — on the second or third night — if all seems okay with DD and your ILs at that point. There’s no right answer, of course. But I think most Mommys do not want to leave their kids almost ever — and I never would if it were totally up to me — but your relationship with your husband is important. If it means a lot to him and your DD seems okay with your ILs and you can tell her “see you in the morning” cheerfully and she doesn’t lose it, I would do it.

  56. Well, my first reaction is this: Don’t do it if it doesn’t feel right.Then again, my two sons (6 and 2) have never spent the night away from parents, which MAY largely be a result of grandparents and other extended family who live far away, so “sleepovers” aren’t possible. My kids are also crappy sleepers who thrive on regularity; in fact, we rarely spend a night away from home, even together.
    But here is a tip on resolving divergent wishes in partners, passed along to me by a friend from her marriage counselor. It has helped us many times. As a way of getting a gauge of how strong each person’s wish is, each person ranks on a 1-10 scale how much he/she wants whatever. Sometimes the mere act of ranking and discussing leads to a compromise or capitulation. If that doesn’t work, whichever person’s number comes closest to the end of the continuum gets his/her way. Best to do this before much wrangling has happened and positions have become strongly polarized. Seething and arguing can quickly turn a 7 to a 10, or a 3 to a 1!

  57. I definitely like the idea of having the first sleep over without parents to be at the child’s house. I try to keep the kids at my house as much as possible. That said, I’m definitely an outlier so far in the Moxie conversation, because apparently I leave my children *all the time*. I left #1 for the first time when he was 7.5 months old (he had zero attachment issues, and never minded if we left him) for 2 nights with my parents at their house, and then again when he was 10 months (though he was his dad this time), at 22 months (with my parents, at our house), then a small handful of other times, either with his dad or with my parents. #2 I left for the first time without us when he was 11 months old, though I had left him at 10 months for two nights for work. I travel a lot for work, and my husband doesn’t work in the same state as I do, and we go back and forth a *lot*. The kids are used to new people. They see a lot of my parents, but not every day. My kids tend to be on the furthest end of the not-anxious, not-mommy focused scale. (Ie, they are appropriately attached to us, but they don’t seem bothered when we leave them with my folks. And I adore them but also am not devastated to be apart from them for short periods – I’ve been apart for #1 for a couple of weeks at a time because of work.) That said, I wouldn’t leave them with my ILs. We let my ILs put #1 to bed once while we went out and it was a disaster. They’re not as used to kids and don’t know how to handle sleep-related problems. To me, that’s actually kind of the decisive factor. It’s hard enough with my parents ’cause even though they’re generally good at that stuff, and very loving, they often resist following our routine.(If you’re reading this and feeling weird, as I was, because you *don’t* mind leaving your small kids overnight, you’re not alone!)

  58. Let her go, provided your inlaws want her.I left my now 18 month old for the first time overnight with my parents around 14/15 months. We do it with some regularity ever since. You and your husband can have a nice dinner and sleep in the next day. Worst case scenario? Your inlaws won’t want to do it again. I’m sure that they are prefectly capable caretakers.
    As for the familiarity issue, my inlaws winter in AZ, and did not see my son from about a year old to 17 months. Within a couple of hours he was very comfortable with them and the next weekend, they watched him all day and everyone had a great time.

  59. Anon writes: When is the first time you (and your readers) left your kid overnight? My daughter is 16 months old and we have never been apart a night. My husband had a 30 day work thing, a few day…

  60. No advice on leaving her overnight, except I would at least wait until the end of this visit so she can have a chance to re-acquaint herself with them.This is the part of the post that stuck out at me though. “They’ve only seen her 5 times” and she’s 16 months old. Frankly, they are lucky given the distance. My parents have only seen my 26 month old 4 times because we live 22 hrs (by car) away. Thems the breaks sometimes. I always lived 14 hrs away from my grandmother and would only see her once a year or so. It’s nice if they can be closer (I do plan on moving closer to my parents in the near future), but it’s not essential.

  61. I definitely feel this is mostly about the OP’s husband, and his feelings about the role (or lack thereof) his parents are playing in his daughter’s life.A first step, if it were me, would be to find out if the grandparents actually want the sleepover to happen. A very close second step would be trying to figure out what the husband is hoping will happen with this “first.”
    As for it being a good idea, I think the unbabyproofed house with stairs is a big ol’ red flag.
    And my data point: DD was 2 when she first stayed overnight (2 nights) with her grandparents. She did great, the grandparents were utterly wiped out, and DH and I missed her terribly.

  62. Is the issue that your DH really needs the time alone with you? For me, that would be a big motivator, keeping the marriage solid.Otherwise – my DD is 11 months and I don’t anticipate being away from her overnight for a long time. We don’t even leave her during the day really, ever. My MIL is annoyed with me for not wanting to do this. I have gotten really weirded out by her fixation on babysitting. (but then, I’m not a grandmother.) DH is sad on their behalf, but it’s our kid.
    Here’s the deal – they got to have their kids and raise them how they wanted, and now this is your kid. We’re in a constant battle with my inlaws because we do SO MANY things differently from them and they’re often displeased. But it’s your family, and if your child’s not ready (or you’re not) to stay with them overnight, then you don’t owe anyone an explanation! It’s your baby, it’s not a pet! if they need to feel loved and close to the baby and they can’t get that from a regular wonderful extended visit, then maybe they need to look at that.
    Good luck, mama!

  63. My oldest son is a very sensitive child and a terrible sleeper. We also don’t have any grandparents that are both willing and able to care for him overnight. He was 4.5 years old when I first spent a night away from him because I had our second baby. I actually put him to sleep after early labor began, called the babysitter, had the baby in the middle of the night, and dad was home 1 hour after he woke up. The next night he was solo with dad for the first time ever.

  64. I left my eldest with my SIL and her family for about 4 days when he was about 16-17 months. The only time he’d seen them prior to that was around 5 months, although husband and I stayed for a couple days before leaving. Before the trip, always, really, I also show him pics of geographically distant relatives and talk about them, maybe that helped a little. I knew it would be fine, and it was. They spoiled him rotten; he came back under the impression that If I held him he could point and direct me where to walk, that bedtimes were optional and he could eat whenever and wherever he liked. I expected that, though, and it was part of the treat for him. I also knew that he adjusts easily to new people, that he likes most everybody and he doesn’t have strong separation anxiety.

  65. Our kids’ first overnight without either of their parents was when DS was 3.5 years old and DD was 19 months old. We all flew out to my parents’ well-baby-proofed home in the Midwest (we live in the Northwest), stayed there as a family for 2 days, then DH and I flew to Vegas from Th-Mon, then we came back and stayed 2 more days as a family, then we all went home. It was so good for our marriage to have that little getaway! The kids and my parents both had an amazing time, and there was no crying, no tantrums, no sleep issues; just a ton of great memories.But. I think this is because we have 2 children and like @Katherine said: “I think it’s easier to leave two kids than one (because they have each other)” – amen! And it helped that my parents had vacationed with us for a week just 6 weeks prior, and we skype all the time, and talk about Grammy & Papa 24/7, so the kids really know them and have strong relationships with them. And we are all on the exact same page about parenting choices, discipline, diet, etc.
    So, @The OP, I’m in the “go with your gut” camp. Clearly, you’re not feeling ready for this – clearly, the ILs aren’t exactly pounding the table and showing you they really want this and/or are ready for this anyway = enough said! ITA with everything @hedra said about the conversations regarding The Grandparent Job.
    What @Jan said: “…isn’t this where parenting as a team is just tricky?… Where is it written that The Mommy gets to decide, end of story? This sounds like a conversation the OP needs to have with her husband.” Yes!
    What @Jac said: “it sounds like it’s the OP’s husband’s issue. He moved away from his family to be with the OP and perhaps he’s not too happy about that decision any more. Is there another conversation here that needs to happen?” Double Yes!!
    Plus what @oh hell. anon today: “if he’s so sad/angry/guilty about a lack of involvement with his parents, *he* should be the one calling with updates and sending packets of photos.” Triple Yes!!!

  66. I spent my first night away from DS #1 when he was about 21 months old…I went to my dear friend’s bachelorette weekend in NYC and left him with DH. That was so nice that I did another weekend in NYC with one of my female friends later that year. I’ve also done the occasional business trip away, never for more than a couple of nights at a time (DH, on the other hand, used to travel a lot for work and was probably out of town an average of 5 days a month from the time DS #1 was born until the time he was 2).We didn’t leave him with anyone else until after he was 3. I think my MIL (my ILs are the close grandparents, mine live 5 hours away) would have taken him earlier except my FIL was sick for a while and was more work than 16 month old feral triplets. Fortunately he got better and DS#1 started to spend the occasional weekend night with them this past fall when I was in my third trimester with #2. This was especially helpful since he stayed with them the entire time I was in the hospital recovering from my C-section. Unfortunately, since then there has been some weirdness with my FIL and, while my son does not articulate it, I think he’s now scared of him, as the last few times my MIL has offered a sleepover my DS has said no. And we won’t force him.
    Personally, I would not have left him with either set of parents at 16 months. As many OP have said, he wasn’t aware enough to understand what was going on, and I’m not sure either set could really have handled the needs of a 16 month old. I would, however, have considered leaving him with our nanny, as she was with him every day and totally capable of taking care of his needs.

  67. Seems to me that, regardless of how much one parent wants a child to do something, the trump always falls with the parent who feels uncomfortable about it. Period. If the mom or dad is uneasy, end of story. I think it’s perfectly okay in a situation like this for a parent to say, “I know this sounds like fun, but I’m sorry, I’m just not ready for it.’ Said with kindness and humility, it shouldn’t be offensive to anyone involved. If it is, chances are they’re looking to take offense, and will do so over something else anyway. In this case, I think the husband needs to put the wife’s feelings first, even if he thinks she’s over reacting. Is the sleepover really important enough to inflict a night of stress and worry on his wife? I don’t think so.

  68. My MIL took my son for the first time at about 6 months and my daughter at about 10 months. It was a pretty different situation, however, since the kids see her regularly and know her well. These days, she takes the kids about once a month each (separately, usually). They are currently 34 and 14 months old.My mom has stayed with the kids (in our home) a few times so that DH and I could get away for a night. She lives far away, so we made sure they were comfortable together first before leaving her with them. She has never had both of them overnight, but she has had one at a time on a few different occasions.
    I personally didn’t have any problem with sleepovers; my thought was that if my MIL or mom wanted to help us out by giving us a night off, I’d be happy to take them up on this. I would not leave my mom with both kids, though, because I don’t think she could handle them at this point. My MIL does take both kids from time to time. I really think it depends on the kids, their relationship with their grandparents, and how you feel.

  69. My daughter spent the night at MIL at 10 months. We were miserable. She wasn’t sleeping, we were not sleeping, everyone was cranky after 10 months of little consecutive sleep. My dear husband called him mom and basically begged for a night of sleep and asked for help. We live 2 hours away so our daughter sees her grandparents about once a month. We made sure that we were there for most of the day so she could get used to them (we would leave the room for a little bit so she could play with them and not have us around) We slept, and they survived the night. It was a desperately needed break that I am forever thankful for.

  70. My twins had their first overnight when they were over 3 1/2, approaching 4. Though come to think of it, no one had offered before then.One thing that wasn’t a question in your email that I wanted to comment on. my MIL absolutely never calls our house. Even on his birthday, my husband has to call her. I finally figured out that she somehow thinks it’s rude to call your DIL’s house — she may not want the call at that time, she may be busy, and she wouldn’t know how to say she couldn’t talk. Just to say that them not initiating could somehow be out of a sense of politeness.

  71. @Julie, I thought I was the only one with a MIL fixated on babysitting. I truly don’t understand it because they live 10 minutes away and come over about once a week (occasionally w/out calling, and my MIL will actually try to OPEN THE DOOR if we don’t respond quickly enough to her knock, /end vent). I don’t get what’s so different about seeing her with us there and getting to take care of our daughter alone. Although I know it’s uncharitable, it makes me feel like there are things she wants to do with the baby that she doesn’t feel comfortable doing while I’m around.That said, I *suspect* what’s going on, and maybe it’s true for your MIL too, is that babysitting is the only way she knows how to relate as a grandparent. Out of economic necessity, my husband’s siblings have leaned on my MIL for a LOT – not just babysitting but financial help, chauferring (sp?) (in fact, my MIL still drives my husband’s 21-year-old nephew to work sometimes). I think she might equate providing childcare with loving or bonding with her grandchildren. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to come up with a role for her in lieu of this, as per Hedra’s excellent suggestion – there’s honestly not much I think my MIL could do that my husband and I wouldn’t rather be responsible for. But we’ve settled for emphasizing that we want her to ENJOY her grandchild, not feel obligated to provide part of her care. Maybe that could help in your case?
    Anyway, sorry to go so far off topic, this just really struck a chord with me.

  72. At 3, DS has not yet spent a night away from both DH & I. I did my first (and only so far) 3 nights away for a business trip when DS was 2. My mother came to stay with DS and DH, which I think helped a lot. DS is a very sensitive kid, but he did remarkably well. DH did great. And my Mom, to a certain degree, probably feels like me, so I think that helped. I however, got mastitis from not pumping enough. Though I did enjoy my 3 nights of sleep.I’m pretty much with what @G’s mum and @Erin said. Really, I think the needs of the child need to be the deciding factor and first concern. Followed by the readiness of the parents. And the ability/desire of the grandparents. It’s not like the OP is preventing a relationship between the IL grandparents & DD. Quite the opposite.
    As @Jac and @Charisse mention, I’d look deeper into what’s behind the husband’s wishes. Pushing DD (or the OP for that matter) to do something she is not ready for, does not seem to be the answer to assuaging his guilt (or ego or whatever). From the outside this just seems to be a big red flag that the husband is not happy with being so far from his parents and that it is something that needs to be addressed/acknowledged/discussed with the OP. Even if nothing is changed in the end, it seems like it needs to be on the table. And then potential solutions offered up (like saving the first overnight for the IL grandparents).
    I do empathize with both sides of the equation here. With our DS being so sensitive, I find I’m often putting on the brakes on a whole bunch of stuff because it’s just too much for him, or he’s not ready. The proverbial wet blanket. Quite frankly though, I’m starting to care less and less about my wet blanket-ness. As time goes on, I know more and more what works for my kid and what is respectful to his way of being. Despite repeated attempts to gently advise certain family members on how not to be in DS’ face, etc., they seem to ignore it. I’m at the point of wanting to pull back on visits. Not great. But if they don’t get it…
    And I do feel the tug (from both sets of grandparents) to have more visits. Just our past visit with the IL grandparents, my MIL opined that she was sad that DS wouldn’t be able to stay overnight with them now (he’s slow to warm up with them as he sees them much less often than my parents) and that she wouldn’t know what to do with him if he got really upset. (Never mind that their condo is a landmine of low glass tables with invisible edges and hard tile floor throughout, or that they would struggle in keeping him occupied and having the energy to take care of him.) We’re lucky in that DH and I more or less agree about the overnight thing. I understand my MIL’s sadness. She wants to be closer/spend more time with her grandson. And there are challenges in that. The GP’s are aging, which brings in extra complications.
    I would love for DS to be ready/able to spend an overnight with them. I want DS to have close relationships with his extended family. But it’s kind of like saying ‘Oh, I wish he wasn’t so sensitive so that I could have what I want’. Well, he is who he is. And that comes with a million great things and a few less convenient things. Always goes back to putting the focus on what the kids’ needs are/abilities are, not what the adults wants are. I think more of a case can be made in pushing for it when the kid is ready and the adult is having a hard time of letting go. Not saying that OP’s concerns/readiness should not be taken into account. But I definitely am always asking myself if DS is truly not ready or if I’m the one who is the issue.

  73. Hell no would I do that. And it sounds like this all coming from the husband, not the ILs, right? I can see wanting to give them the “gift” of a first overnight, but doing it when she barely knows them, after a long car trip, in a strange place, would be no fun for ANYONE.My suggestion: have them come out and visit you some weekend. You and your DH go somewhere for the night (a hotel? a B&B? a wedding or some other event?) and let them stay with her. That way she’s in familiar, baby-proofed surroundings, and everything’s the same except who puts her to bed. And she can spend plenty of time with them (and you) during the day before you leave.
    But, no.

  74. And to answer the OP question – we left my son with my mom for an overnight for the first time when he was 13 months. She spent a LOT of time with him (still does) so he was very comfortable with her. We did it again when he was a year and a half. We’ll be doing it with my dad in a few weeks, but only because they’ve recently been spending more time together to the point where my son is comfortable alone with my dad.My IL situation is somewhat similar to yours (far away, not as comfortable with him) and we wouldn’t leave him with them. They’re both older, and of the “we didn’t have carseats/baby gates/etc when our son was growing up” mentality so we’re not really comfortable leaving him in their un-babyproofed house.

  75. My DD is 6 and has never spent the night away from us. (But I’m a control freak and we haven’t needed an overnight sitter) But it was always understood that her first overnight would be at my mom’s house. They see each other at our house for long weekends about once a month and talk on the phone a lot. DD has been asking to have her sleep over at Granny’s so we’re going to make that happen soon.I’m sure they will have a blast, but I won’t sleep at all.

  76. In my experience, letting other adults (no matter who they are in the family or pecking order) feel like their feelings come before (1) the safety of the child or (2) a mother’s gut instinct is not a path you want to go down. The kid isn’t a tool to make them feel better or worse. Follow your instincts and save the overnight until you feel comfortable.

  77. I don’t think kids really want to be away from their parents until they are much older. We have had various people want to have our daughter (who is just 3) for overnights but why would we when she is so happy just to be with us? It is about what is best for your child and that is probably to be with you until old enough to say “I would like to go and stay with Grandma for the night”. All the adults involved need to really be adults about this and do what is going to cause the most comfort for little one. A few times as a Mum I have handed kids over for cuddles etc with relatives when I had a gut feeling they really didn’t want to, just to make the family members happy, and every time afterwards I have felt really bad for my kids. In trying to please other people, I made my kids uncomfortable and to me it isn’t worth it. Go with your gut instinct, you are the Mum.

  78. @Meme, “A few times as a Mum I have handed kids over for cuddles etc with relatives when I had a gut feeling they really didn’t want to, just to make the family members happy, and every time afterwards I have felt really bad for my kids. In trying to please other people, I made my kids uncomfortable and to me it isn’t worth it.”Amen to that.

  79. YMMV, but the times I regret are the times I ignored my gut and didn’t wait long enough. The times I waited a little longer than I needed to, in comparison, I now think I could have worked on reading a little sooner, and worked on toileting stuff a little sooner. But it doesn’t feel like a mistake–just the recognition that sooner also would have been okay.The funny thing is that even the family who was worried and upset at the time that DS was being carried too much, or nursing to sleep, or nursing too long, or taking too long to toilet train… no one cares or remembers. And DS is only 7, it’s not like he’s some college student, but already no one is dwelling on that stuff.
    OP, my cousin compared having the firstborn grandchild to bringing a dog onto a college campus. There’s just one dog, but there’s 1000 freshman who all really miss their dog, and he gets mobbed. My experience (being the only grandchild on both sides for 8 years, and having the second grandchild) is that some of this is breaking in the grandparents. Sometimes it can take grandparents a little while to gain perspective on the what the big picture is.

  80. It does sound like hubby is much more keen on the idea than the grandparents. And as I live in another country to my parents, I can understand that. But an overnight stay for a baby is quite a big step. And I’m unclear about why it has to be the night. If you are staying a few days, why can’t she spend a whole day with them? You and hubby go and do something fun together but not too far away.However everything is a no-go unless the proper safety measures are in place. Your husband doesn’t have a leg to stand on there!
    My son is almost 5 and has never slept away from me. And it’s only in the last year that we’ve felt comfortable about my parents even putting him to bed alone when we stay at their house. But he was a horrible sleeper from being tiny and I just felt it wasn’t fair to put anyone else through it!

  81. Kudos to you for all the efforts you make to keep your ILs posted on your daughter’s progress! I certainly leave most of the responsibility for keeping my ILs in-the-loop up to my husband so I’m very impressed by how much you already do.I left my son with my mother overnight at 7 months because I had to fly out of state to take a bar exam. We had three months to practice for the overnight where I would spend the night in my mom’s guest room while my son slept in a travel crib in her bedroom.
    If your ILs really want this overnight, is there a chance you could “practice” for a few nights before leaving her? This will give your ILs a chance to get a sense of how much it will really take to have your daughter overnight with you there as a safety net.

  82. I know this isn’t exactly helpful, but I am so tired of hearing about grandparents who get jealous of the other grandparents, seem to feel entitled to have the kids to their house (especially when they don’t even make attempts to babyproof), etc. I know so many people who’s parents or ILs are clueless and still expect to be treated as if they are the parents of their grandchildren.

  83. Wow – I am stunned by the number of people who have never left their children. My son is 2.5, and we’ve taken several overnight trips – left him twice with my in-laws, and once with my parents. He had a great time all 3 times (well, the first time he was 6 months old and probably didn’t know/care what was happening). I personally think it is a great thing for mom and dad to get a away for a night or two, and very healthy for the child to see that other people love and care about him/her. I agree that it probably is best for the first overnight to be in a comfortable home setting – but, I don’t know – I just think it is a good thing to have your kids have overnights with grandparents as long as there are no safety/health issues involved.

  84. @Rbelle – thank you so much for this! You are right on with all of it! We have tried the approach of “we just want you to ENJOY her” and it’s being received sort of blankly – I think you are right on that they just don’t know what to do with it and likewise my SIL is very dependent causing them even more confusion in our case. However you shed a compassionate light on this for me to ponder, and I appreciate someone understanding (mostly I feel like a jerk when I otherwise try to explain) – thank you!!

  85. Don’t do it if you are up at night worrying about this, your peace of mind is everything. Your husband’s pressure whilst understandable in its motives are a little misguided. “1st” for whom? Your daughter isn’t aware of this being a first; only yourselves and your ILs are. So save it for a time when you feel more comfortable; then it will be lovely for everyone and not just your MIL…Then you can enjoy the break that you as a fab mom really do deserve.

  86. @Beth, Can’t speak for anyone else (though I suspect others have similar situations as we do), but for highly sensitive kids, being away overnight (i.e. something out of the routine and away from the people they are closest to) is a big deal. Changes regarding people are a big thing for my DS. He slept badly (more than usual) for a week once before I figured out that it was because he was sad a friend in his daycare class had moved up to the next class. DS does not do well with change…especially when we’re not around. We would love to, as parents, have a night away. But it’s just not the right time yet – esp with the IL grandparents who he is much less familiar with. I was overjoyed recently when he decided to go out on his first little outing without DH or I (went dog walking with our 10 yo dog walker and her Mum). The experience was totally positive for him as he initiated it. We may take the same approach for sleepovers.But I do totally get that it’s completely fine for kids with temperaments more open to change and spending time with other people. I really think it comes down to the personality of the kid.

  87. @Kristin, it takes as long for grandparents to learn how to be grandparents as it does for parents to learn to be parents. It feels to them like it should be automatic and easy, but learning to love someone as much as they do their grandkids and NOT be the ones in charge is actually really hard to do. Parents don’t realize this, typically, so they don’t know how to help.I got lucky, my mom auto-parented my first child once, I pretty much took her head off, and she stepped back and realized that hey, she did not have a CLUE how to grandparent! And then came back to me, told me she was lost on this, and we worked it out together. Some grandparents may (like some parents) roll naturally into it, but a lot of grandparents stumble/fumble/face-plant as they go, just like most parents do!
    My mom was transparent about how hard it was, how hard to watch me do things she would never have done and bite her tongue, how hard to not just take over and ‘show me how to do it RIGHT’, and how hard to learn to watch me parent and realize that I was doing it better than she had. Because she was transparent about it, I could be transparent back that much of what I did well was because of what she had done well as foundation – without that I could not have taken it further. And we learned how to baseline the discussions to what was useful to us, and needful for the kids, without making it about each of us instead.
    Intentional grandparenting is fairly rare, IMHO. But we can make it easier by bringing the conversation above the waterline, and talking about the realities of having to learn a whole new role, while working with the relationships we already have. If the parent/grandparent relationship is not safe for that, the same conversation can be had with the spouse/partner (should anyway, but just that helps). And if that’s not safe, either, you can even have it with the child as they grow (age appropriately). (Should anyway also.)

  88. @ hedra — so glad to have you back here commenting — we’ve missed you. So, how do you start “bringing the conversation above the waterline” with a grandparent (my own mother, in this case) who does *not* bite her tongue, does *not* stand back and watch, who takes everything as a criticism (including anything I do differently from what she did as a mother), and who really, really does not take criticism well?

  89. Since it seems like the real issue here is how to assure your husband that his parents are an important part of your child’s life, maybe you need to frame your response about how the overnight will make YOU feel? Because I can say with some confidence (having just left my 17 month old for the first time for a work trip) that it is likely you will be MISERABLE. Does he want to put you through that? Knowing that you’ll be stressed out and worried? Maybe that will give him some perspective to not push this issue and wait until you feel ready to let your IL’s watch your daughter.

  90. @casablanca, for that, IF you can do it, you have to start from the common ground. How much you both always tried to do your best for the child, say, or that you listened to advice from others but then still had to make your own call on things. If you start from ‘hey, we’re just the same on this way of being’ you can often get right past the differences on the details. Not always, though. My mom is not prone to being sensitive, and she still took everything I did ‘different’ than her as implicit criticism of her approach. It took over and over (even with her) saying ‘I am doing it this way not because you did it ‘wrong’, necessarily (even if sometimes I would have said that – just skip that part!), but because I learned from you that it matters to try to do it the way that works for your family, and not doing it the way someone else did it just because it worked for them.’ I laid it on as ‘wow, you walked our entire family tree forward into the light, look at how far WE have come because of you!’ and ‘If I am a good parent it is because you taught me to think about my life and the bigger picture’. And when all else failed, ‘research and science have come a long way since then, I bet if they’d had this research then, you’d have ended up making different choices – maybe still not the same as mine, but we’re really working in different worlds, no?’ And beyond that, anytime I got complimented when she was around, I would turn the compliment to her (‘yeah, well, my mom taught me that parenting was important, so I owe that to her!’ or whatever).You can also start from the stories – what were your memories of your grandparents (or what did you think was cool about other kids’ grandparents)? What did your parents do when you first had kids, and how did you feel about it? (I used those, too)
    Or you can start from the role/job, and skip the rest for starters. Pick something you’re willing to have her OWN, and relinquish all control of it so you can really see what she can do with it. I do a weensy bit of enchantment (mostly to do with their gardens and making costumes), but I found that I didn’t actually have much heartache over the enchantment I was not going to provide (opera! botanical gardens! astronomy! fairy tea!) because staying out of the space entirely let her take it on entirely.
    It is an ongoing conversation. And yeah, sometimes it won’t work because of their own issues. You can’t fix that, but you can see if you can manage to draw the line around ‘we are the same’ somehow, so the dings that will come over time don’t show up as a line ‘between’ the two of you instead… (hard for people who are used to thinking in terms of competition or combative positions… I even suck at it regularly, and I do it professionally!)

  91. I have the complete opposite “problem”! S is going on 21 months and I’d LOVE to have someone take her overnight. The issue is her sleep, and my parents.Except for a few months when Daddy could rock her to sleep, I’ve always put her to bed, mostly on the boob. Plus, she still wakes up at least once a night, and cosleeps after that.
    My MIL lives overseas, so my parents are S’s main babysitters. But they’re very passive homebodies, and as S gets bigger and more mobile, they seem to get exhausted pretty quick (they’re not elderly or out of shape, they simply enjoy sitting… a lot!).
    I don’t want to ask if they’ll take S overnight, and they’ve never offered. I even drop the occasional hint, to no avail.
    Anyone been through something similar–wanting a night off and having no one to pass the baton to?

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