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Planning a Night Out

You've finally arranged for a sitter so you can have a night on the town. You're feeling thrilled, and maybe a little guilty and anxious about leaving your baby in someone else's hands.

Try to get over it  -- for everyone's sake. Learning to date your mate again can help your whole family. "You can't be there for them if you're not there for yourself," says Ann Maloney, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University.

Your baby will be fine as long as he's well cared for, and an older child may benefit. "Your child needs a break too," she says. "Even toddlers will push you away so they can practice independence."

For babysitting confidence:

  • Go for the Familiar.Leave your child with a person he knows, such as a grandparent. If you're using a new sitter, have her come an hour early so that your baby can get used to her.
  • Start Early.Short absences, such as going out to dinner, can begin when the baby is a month old. But, if possible, don't leave for an overnight trip until your child is 18 months to 3 years old. After 3, kids really understand that you'll return.
  • Take Baby Steps.The first time, do a few errands, popping in and out. Build up to dinner, then you'll be ready for dinner and a movie.
  • Miserable? Go Home!"If all you think of is the baby, it may be too soon," says Dr. Maloney. "You might get home, find the baby asleep, and laugh at yourself. Next time, you'll probably be able to make it through."
  • Keep Your Distance.Decide before you leave how often you'll call  -- once during the evening, for instance. Be brief; if your baby is under 18 months, speak only to the sitter. Your child won't understand why he can hear Mommy's voice but not see her.
  • Plan Ahead.Provide your caregiver with your baby's routine and make sure she knows about favorite blankies or toys. And promise yourself you'll talk about something other than your kids!
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