Lisa and Michael: Leaving baby behind
One of the most compelling reasons to include your youngster in your travels is that the alternative poses too much opportunity for worry, which is just what we seek to avoid on vacation. For example, one woman I interviewed, Lisa, who runs a catering business from her home in San Diego, described to me her recent vacation fiasco that she said would never have happened if she and her husband had just brought along their eight month-old daughter, Kaleigh, with them. While we may not all share such an experience when we leave our young child at home, her story serves simply as an illustration of what can potentially happen.
Lisa and her husband Michael, an engineer, had both taken time off from their busy work schedules to visit a resort in Phoenix, Arizona for what was intended to be a five-day vacation of sunbathing and sipping margaritas by the pool. Michael had wanted to play golf and Lisa had anticipated taking a few yoga classes, getting some massages, and catching up on her reading. They had reasoned that in order to truly relax, they would need to leave Kaleigh at home with a sitter. Wendi, their 17 year-old babysitter, who lived down the street, had previously sat with Kaleigh on a couple of evenings without any problems, so they enlisted her to stay in their house and watch their daughter for the five days.
The events that follow speak for themselves. Lisa said that as soon as they checked into the resort, while she was waiting for Michael in the lobby, she began noticing babies with their parents everywhere. She described her feelings: "I immediately began to think about how sad little Kaleigh looked as she saw us driving off in the car, and I missed her so much. I felt regretful that we hadn't taken her along, and I began to wonder how I would last the five days without her."
Lisa's discomfort was far from relieved when she called Wendi from the room and was informed that Kaleigh had barely stopped crying since they left, and that she had developed a temperature. When Lisa asked Wendi what she was doing to soothe the baby, Wendi admitted that she had tried everything and was now at a loss as to what to do. Presently, the baby was crying in her crib, while Wendi had resigned herself to watching "Showtime." Lisa was very upset and, to Michael's disappointment, felt anything but romantic that evening. Instead, she tossed and turned throughout the night worrying about Kaleigh.
The next morning, instead of going to the 8:00 a.m. yoga class, Lisa spent 25 minutes on the phone (at a cost of $45.00 at the resort's phone rates), explaining to Wendi what to do about Kaleigh's remaining fever. Afterwards, Michael tried to convince Lisa that Kaleigh would be fine, and that she should try to get to the pool and relax while he plays some golf. Lisa did sit by the pool for a few hours, but when she called home to check Kaleigh's status again at about 4:00 p.m., to her dismay, there was no answer. She called a few more times, and still Wendi did not answer the phone.
At dinner, Lisa began playing out all of the potential scenarios that could explain the unanswered phone--maybe Kaleigh needed to go to the Emergency Room, or worse yet, maybe Wendi just left Kaleigh alone in the house. After dinner, when Lisa called again, Wendi answered. Lisa said that she had distinctly heard loud music and laughter in the background which stopped immediately after she began to speak. Lisa asked Wendi if she was having a party in her house, and Wendi denied it, claiming that the noises were just the TV. When Lisa asked Wendi where she was earlier, she said that she had taken the baby for a walk.
Lisa recalls her feeling of helplessness at this time: "Maybe it was maternal intuition, but I didn't believe anything she was telling me. She told me Kaleigh was fine, but I was envisioning my baby crying in the midst of a loud, teenage party--neglected, scared, and possibly in danger. Here I was, seven hours away from my baby, and no way of comforting her when she needed me."
The next morning, Lisa convinced Michael that she wanted to leave early, which caused a fight, as Michael felt it was his only opportunity for a vacation. Lisa explained that she had not relaxed since they arrived, and she wanted to be with Kaleigh. They left mid-morning, drove the seven hours back to San Diego, and arrived home at about 5:00 p.m. where they surprised Wendi who was watching television alone in the living room with Kaleigh feverish and crying down the hall in her crib. After Wendi had left, Lisa found a dozen beer cans in her trash, and a stain of some sort on the family room rug.
Lisa summarized the effect the experience had for her: "Thank God Kaleigh was not physically harmed, but clearly she had been neglected, and obviously I would never have Wendi watch her again." Lisa explained. "But more importantly, the event caused me to question whether I could really find anyone who could take care of her adequately, while she is so young. A stranger, even a responsible one, would not love my baby, and could not then take care of her the way I would. My vacation was a disaster, and it all could have been avoided if we had just planned to take Kaleigh with us."