It’s midnight and I’m drinking champagne with a man I just met. We clink glasses; he rubs his hand against my bare shoulder.
Just then, my 5-month-old daughter, Lucy, wakes up from a bad dream. She squeaks indignantly, and both our gazes turn to her head, nestled on my chest.
“Sounds like she needs you,” the man I was flirting with said. I step back and nod.
The moment’s over, but I’m fine with it, loving that I can still be myself and flirt as a single guest at a wedding — even if I do have an infant strapped over my Diane von Fürstenberg dress.
Recently, writer Liza Monroy penned an article for the website Jezebel detailing how she got chastised for bringing her baby to — of all events — a women’s empowerment conference where she was a guest speaker. The article triggered an avalanche of comments, with a large percentage of people saying that babies don’t belong at a work conference — and any mom who brings her child to one is acting entitled and ruining an experience for everyone else. My face burned with every negative comment I read. Because, like Monroy, I also don’t think twice about bringing my daughter everywhere — and I hate that some people judge me for that decision.
Lucy going lingerie shopping. (Photo: Anna Davies)
So far, I’ve only left Lucy three times in her life. Lucy’s father isn’t involved, my own mother died a few years ago, and although friends have offered to babysit, they have careers, spin classes and Tinder dates that don’t always match my childcare needs. I’ve been able to pick up freelance writing projects from home and work while Lucy naps, or at night, to provide for both of us, but actually enrolling her in daycare or finding a full-time nanny would decimate my income. Plus, right now, Lucy is tiny and happy to hang out in a stroller or a baby carrier, so it’s less stressful for both of us to bring her to bikini waxes, boot camp classes, and cocktail parties. And I’ve become a better parent by being with Lucy 24/7 — I’m more sensitive to her rhythms and moods, and I’m a pro at strategizing her nap schedule.
Don’t get me wrong: I turn down plenty of invitations and I don’t bring her to parties after her 8 p.m. bedtime. When Lucy and I were visiting friends in Colorado, I drew the line at bringing her into a marijuana store with my friend, who was researching the industry. And the only reason I brought her to a wedding was because my friends invited her as well — her name was on the invitation.
Anna and Lucy at yoga class. (Photo: Anna Davies)
“It’s important for parents to find a routine that works best for them,” Susan Newman, a psychologist and parenting expert, tells Yahoo Parenting. “And it’s a complicated issue. For women who are breastfeeding, it can be hard to be separated from their infants, especially in the first few months. Finding reliable and affordable childcare is also complicated, so right now, there just aren’t a lot of societal systems in place that can help moms of young infants.”
So what can new moms do? Newman suggests explaining the situation to whoever is coordinating the event you’re planning to attend, asking permission to bring your child, and explaining your reasons for doing so. It’s also a good idea to let people know what to expect — for example, that your baby will likely be sleeping — and make a backup plan in case your child isn’t cooperating. “It is unusual for babies to be in certain places,” says Newman, “so giving people a bit of education can make it less uncomfortable for both of you.”
As for me, Lucy is reaching the half-year mark and becoming more mobile, so her ability to snooze peacefully in a carrier while I’m having a pedicure is becoming limited. And it’s probably healthy for me to experience a little separation anxiety. Recently, I left her with a friend for five hours while I had a dental procedure. And Lucy was … fine. Of course, I was thrilled she had done so well under someone else’s care, but I felt a little sad that she no longer needed me as intensely as she had when she was a newborn. I realized that part of the reason I’d been bringing her everywhere had less to do with necessity and more to do with my own insecurities and fears as a new mom. I know, to be the best mom I can be, I need to leave her with a trusted person occasionally, and I’m working on that.
But in the meantime, while I still can, Lucy will be my plus one to events. Just don’t take it personally if she falls asleep.