“A good friend of mine has invited my husband and me to her wedding in a few months’ time. The invitation, however, is not extended to my 13 month old, from whom I have never been separated for more than an hour or two. My little boy is still nursing frequently and I am not at all happy about the thought of leaving him with anyone in order to attend the wedding.
I have tried to explain to my friend why I don’t want to leave my toddler but it was clear from her reaction that she didn’t understand – she appeared hurt and offended. I really do value our longstanding friendship but equally cannot contemplate separating from my toddler at this stage. What have other mothers done in similar situations?”
Janette Busch, Christchurch – Some mothers have coped with this situation by having a friend, relative or usual babysitter close by looking after the baby (in a car, at a playground, etc) and then this person contacts the mother if the child needs her. There are often quite large gaps between the ceremony and the reception that mum can visit with the child so the actual time away need not be very long. Expect too that as long as the bride sees the mother at the ceremony and the reception at least once she will have no idea if the mother was away for a short time.
Verity Osborn, Christchurch – I have been in a similar situation with a good friend and her wedding. My little girl was 10 months old at the time and also a very frequent feeder. My friend had been a very good friend to me over the years but had not had children and did not quite understand my need as a mum. I met a compromise by attending the wedding with my parents in tow as my husband was a full time university student and could not assist because of exams.
I attended the ceremony while my little girl slept in the buggy and my parents took her for a walk in the surrounding suburbs and park. I then fed her and spent some time with them before being dropped at the reception where I had a celebratory drink and some nibbles and went back to my parents who patiently waited nearby at the ready. I managed an hour or so at the reception before the wee one had just had her fill for the day.
My friend was happy to see me there and appreciated the effort I made. I felt I had made the effort for my friend and my little one was not compromised. Not the ultimate way to attend a wedding but it was the just the way it had to be at that time in my life. My parents were very obliging and realised the situation I was in and wanted to help for a few hours of one day.
Anita Edwards, Upper Hutt – For me there would have been two options and of course hindsight makes it really easy to say now! My kids are now five and ten years old. I am a long term breastfeeder and the five year old is still having a two minute suck at night (bar the odd night I am at a meeting).
I would have to think whether our friendship had a future, not just a past, she may understand once she has kids or she still may not.
I suffered long term post natal depression with both my children, so my early on experiences of not leaving them are somewhat skewed from that. I think that it would have been good for both me and my oldest (I got a bit more relaxed with my second child), if I had gone out occasionally and left him with people I trusted. With my PND the trouble was that I didn’t trust anyone (not even my husband!). Once, for my husband’s work function, we hired a room at the same hotel and my brother babysat for us, so I knew I could pop back easily if needed and not be missed from the event.
It’s a really tough call and if you do choose to leave your baby with someone, he won’t be damaged from the experience even if he cries for a bit and is upset, but find someone that you trust who will follow the timeframe you choose for how long to leave it till they contact you. And maybe have a few practise tries, it does get easier and the time apart from my kids always makes me appreciate them even more. Good luck with your decision, you aren’t alone in not wanting to leave your child.
Catherine Butler, Martinborough – This can be a tough one. So often, before we have children ourselves, we really don’t even begin to understand how important a part of our lives they can become, and how sometimes a seemingly independent toddler really still needs his Mum very close, to check in with for those regular feeds.
We’ve been to a few weddings with our now two year old. Fortunately she was invited and was able to be a part of the day quite happily and slept in my arms/her buggy for a lot of it, even sitting quietly at the top table for one. So if you do get the chance to broach the subject with your friend, try to find out why she doesn’t want your little one there. I know I was sort of anti-kids at my own wedding many years ago. I was afraid of having loads of screaming toddlers running round the place on my “special day”. Maybe you could reassure her of your little one’s behaviour if that is the case.
Another idea, if your friend is determined, is to have a relation or friend your little one knows well (or even your husband if there is nobody else you would feel happy leaving him with) mind him someplace nearby (e.g. hotel room) and you can go and meet them throughout the day to give him a little feed. More recently we attended a wedding and my parents were able to come along and stay in the hotel (bit pricey, I know) and minded my little girl for the church part. We checked in with her throughout the day when she wanted to, and I nursed her to sleep in their hotel room that evening and went downstairs to continue dancing.
I appreciate this is a really difficult situation; you don’t want to offend a good friend, and yet leaving your son for a whole day-night would seem catastrophic to him. This would ideally be something your friend would come to understand, and you could come to an agreement with her as to how you could manage to attend the wedding and have your son with you (or nearby).
I really hope you can work it out. I’d also recommend wearing an outfit you can feed easily in eg, a two piece, or dress with loose top you can strategically drape a wrap or scarf over.
Alicia Poroa, Christchurch – It can be challenging when faced with the differing needs of those we care about. I experienced a similar situation with a cousins’ wedding and I did go along with my two littlies, but this was after I expressed that I could not leave the children with anyone and come to the wedding. They decided they would rather have me at the wedding, than not and allowed the children to attend. I expressed to my family my fear of leaving the children and the anxiety that I would face if I did leave them. I also acknowledged some of the concerns that my cousin could have regarding having the children attend. An example of some concerns could be the cost of extra catering, children affecting the ambience of the wedding, that you may not enjoy yourself and the seating plans.
What you could do in regards to the probable concerns is assure your friend that you have thought these out and ways to overcome them. For example, having your wedding guest partner (assuming you are taking someone) take your wee one out for a walk or play when it gets too much, like during the ceremony. Or having a stroller or baby wearing sling or pack for settling and showing her that you are a talented breastfeeder who can feed inconspicuously at the best of times (if that’s a concern).
I think that if you give her a chance to think it over and acknowledge her fears, the situation will mend itself with time. It could be that she has so much to think about, the stress and overload is a barrier to making a decision that works for you all. If this is an enduring friendship then you will get through it and still have your relationship. Another experience that I will share is that sometimes relationships change after having children as well. I hope you have a lovely time with your little one whatever the decision.
Joy Elliot, Upper Hutt – I see this as being similar to having to work. Try to take the emotion out of the situation and not be offended by your friend’s reaction by thinking about what options could work for both of you. This way you can respect your friend’s view and still love your toddler and yourself.
Maybe have a friend take your toddler to a park or fun place nearby and when they need feeding have your friend pop back with your son so you can feed him in a foyer or similar quiet place inside the wedding/reception venue. If it is at night this may be trickier. You may need to think about going to the wedding/reception and leaving early so everyone is happy. I hope you find a happy solution for all of you.
Rowena Harper, Hamilton – Gosh, what a terrible predicament. Although I can’t offer any advice from experience, perhaps you could tackle her wedding in two parts: the ceremony, where the odd squawk shouldn’t worry anyone (after all this is the bit that is theoretically open to the public in order to ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’) and the breakfast, with all the speeches, dinner and dancing.
Perhaps accept the invitation to the ceremony on behalf of you and your toddler (then you get to see the important teary bit), and decline the reception as you want to respect her wish to not have children attend. You could also add to the reply that as much as you would love to attend, right now, circumstances dictate that you are not able to separate from your child. If she is adamant about having no children, she will accept your compromise.
Yes, she might not understand now, but good friends get over the bad times, and hopefully one day, she will be blessed with children too and might come to understand your decision.
Karen Silvers, Christchurch – I too have not wanted to be separated from my young children and found little support or empathy from others. This also applied to my desire to meet my children’s needs at night and to breastfeed them in general. One wonderful LLL Leader once told me that not wanting to leave my young children with anyone else was entirely natural – an expression of lactation aggression seen widely in the animal kingdom. What animal would leave their offspring until they can fend for themselves?
While it has been truly wondrous to watch my young children develop relationships with other adults, it never occurred to me that they should be left alone to do this until they were able to express their needs clearly. My children are both secure, strong and healthy, and I know that I’ll never regret putting them first at such an early stage of development.
My advice is to go back to your friend and tell her exactly how you are feeling and to say that it isn’t something you can really compromise on as it would go against your strong mother instinct. Acknowledge her wish to keep her wedding day child free but see if she is willing to work out a way for you to attend some or all of the celebration. Find out exactly why she is unwilling to invite children to the wedding. For instance, she might be worried that they will disrupt the service. If this is the case, you might decide not to attend or perhaps you could agree to take your toddler out if they get noisy. Other options include having someone to care for your toddler outside the ceremony venue or leaving them with family for the duration of the ceremony, and then either bringing them to the reception or returning home to them.
All the very best with this, and remember to stay true to yourself and your parenting journey.
Michelle Bennett, Christchurch – I can totally see both sides of this situation. When I got married almost 3 years ago I asked my family and friends not to bring their children – my reasoning was that I had attended a wedding a few years ago where the children (niece & nephew of the bride) totally ran riot and diverted the attention of the guests away from the service. My friends fortunately were fine with this.
I went to a wedding six weeks after my daughter was born and although my friends did not ask me to come without my daughter, I felt that it would be hypocritical to do so. My sister came along with me and my husband and I went into the church at the last minute and my sister just walked my daughter around in the pram.. We then went home before the reception and did her bed/feed routine and Mum minded her so we could go to the reception.
It is a difficult situation for you to be placed in but even if you did what I did and attended the service you can still see your friend get married even if you feel you can’t leave your son for the evening part of the proceedings. It is her special day as much as her decision may be hurtful for you.
Julie Moyle, Dunedin – I too faced a similar situation when invited to my own brother’s wedding. It breaks my heart to this day when I think about it.
I had to do what was right for my then baby and respectfully decline the invitation. This caused a lot of stress on our family dynamics with a major breakdown however I was simply not prepared to compromise the safety and security of our son. I pleaded for an allowance for our then eight month old, as did my parents but this fell on deaf ears.
If I was faced with the dilemma again. I would have no hesitation in making the very same decision, even with the same outcome. I am pleased to say the relationship has improved, and who knows, maybe because my brother now has children of his own?