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The Necessity of Sleepovers

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Similar to Taylor, we also had a date night on Saturday—we went out to dinner with my best friend and her husband to celebrate their anniversary. But unlike Taylor, these have been happening more frequently for us lately—probably around the time Preston turned 18 months we began allowing ourselves the luxury of more nights out, either together or separately. I’m a big proponent of spending time “just us” once in a while, ya know, to act like married people. I’m also a proponent of spending quality girl time with friends, because without those friendships I would go insane. But on the occasion my husband and I go out together, sometimes we have Preston sleep out at my parents’ house, and this past Saturday he had his first sleepover at our cousins’ house (they’re more like an aunt and uncle to us). Despite my overly neurotic reservations (Would he sleep through the night? Would he have separation anxiety?), and the obsessive-compulsive notes I left for them, he did amazingly well. Perfect, actually.

If we go out together during the week, like we did a couple weeks ago when we made a last-minute decision to see Chelsea Handler at Chicago Theatre (stand-up comics that bring your laughter to a cackle are a great date-night activity), we have our nanny stay late. But for those nights, we have to pay her the hourly rate we normally give her ($13), which makes for an expensive night out. It’s obviously cheaper when we go out separately and take shifts, as we did last week: I had a dinner date on Tuesday with Nurse K, whom I wrote about last week. And on Thursday, Jay went to the Bulls-Heat game with his nephew Max, and I got to have Preston all to myself (see photo).

However, I would love to find a babysitter I can trust, who’s less than $13 an hour but has her own transportation, so my husband and I can enjoy more nights out together. When we go out on weekends, it’s obviously much cheaper for us to have him spend the night at a family member’s house. My parents or brother and sister-in-law are usually more than happy to have him—or, rather, beg us for him to spend the night. And now that he did so well at our cousins’ house, I’m thrilled to add them into the family rotation!

We’re very lucky we have a lot of close family nearby, and we’re also lucky Preston is such a likable little guy—everyone wants a piece of him. All my worries went out the window on Saturday as soon as he willingly went down for his nap at their house, in a pack-n-play, with no muss and not a bit of fuss. (I often have a harder time putting him down for a nap in his own crib.) It doesn’t hurt that they happen to be incredible parents themselves, with three grown kids, and are two of the warmest people you’ve ever met. The sleepover didn’t come about because we had plans on Saturday; they actually asked us if they could have a sleepover with Preston, and it just so happens we had plans that night! How nice is that?

I love that Preston is amenable to sleeping out, and adores his family as much as we do—if you’re comfortable doing sleepovers, I recommend starting them early. I realize now that he likes the change of scenery and stimulation, and after Saturday I’m totally comfortable doing even more of them. But obviously sleepovers are a little less convenient for us than just having a sitter for the night (you'd think he was going away for a week with amount of stuff we schlep)—we spend a lot of time driving to and from the suburbs on weekends, stuck in maddening traffic, which is one of the reasons we’re considering a move one day to be closer to our family, since we spend so much of our time with them on weekends as it is. Sunday we were up and out early to get him because we had a big day planned, so it’s not like we really got to sleep in just because he slept out. (Though an extra hour and the time to actually get ready without a toddler hanging onto me were rather nice luxuries, I’ll admit.)

I need to find a sitter I can trust, someone who is around $10 an hour (which seems to be the going rate for nighttime sitters around here). We’ve had our housekeeper’s 16-year-old daughter sit for us before, but I’m never totally at ease with it. At 16, do they know CPR? Do they know what to do in an emergency? I didn’t know CPR until I became a mom. There’s a teacher from the daycare/school he attended earlier this year that offered to sit for $10; I need to dig up her number. My husband the homebody is more than willing to stay in and hang with Preston while I go out, but those date nights or couples outtings are necessary sometimes (yes, I’m one of those people who actually likes spending time with my husband), and sleepovers won’t always be our most feasible option.

Do you let your little ones have sleepovers at family member’s houses? (I highly recommend it!) How often do you go out with vs. without your husband? I know how lucky we are to have people in our lives who will not only take Preston for the night (or a few nights, as my parents did when we went to Vegas a couple months ago), but they actually want to have sleepovers with him, because he’s just that fun to have around.