Much has been written about a child’s separation anxiety when away from their mother, however all mothers go through Separation anxiety(of varying degrees) when separated from their child/ children. As a mother there is a constant stress a.k.a ‘Mummy Guilt’ of leaving your baby even if it is to run errands or to head to work or simply to catch up with your friends. There are additional challenges of raising a child in a nuclear family without a Nanny or where close family is overseas or interstate. This adds on additional pressure on the parents and amps up that ‘Mummy Guilt’ (Parent Guilt) a few notches.
Anxiety definitely stems from the attachment-detachment syndrome. The attachment that children develop with their Mother or Father in their first two years, determine their attachment patterns, thoughts and expectations as an adult in the future.(Reference)
Part of developing a secure relationship with your child should include short term separation which is absolutely necessary for both the mother and the child.
It is hard for parents to say goodbye to their children especially so in the first year of the child’s life. Stress triggers for a Mother could include, worrying about her child’s feed times, sleep schedules, any sleep regressions that the child may be going through at the time and also ‘FOMO’ on the child’s milestones if one is away for a longer duration.
I experienced Separation Anxiety for the first time when I took my son who was 10 months at the time to his Child Care Centre for the 3rd time. I had to take him to his room and then slowly engage him with toys, and other babies in the room and make a quick exit from the room. This was Rey’s 3rd induction but the last two had me present in the room for the entire duration.
The minute I left the room I could hear Rey crying and screaming, wanting his Mum to return back. I walked out of the Child Care Centre without looking back as I knew if I did I would not be able to leave at all. I walked for about 20 minutes, tears streaming down my face and heart wrenching. I reached home only to see my son’s toys and clothes making that Separation Anxiety far worse. All my son’s milestones, from his birth to all the time I spent with my son for those 10 months came back to me in a flash. I had to be strong in my resolve because I was getting back to work in a week and Rey had to learn to cope without his Mum. Three weeks later Rey was totally settled and absolutely loved going to Child Care and he still does. However as a Mother I still get the same Separation Anxiety on the 3 days I work each week. I still dread the Child Care Drop Offs.
Over the last 8 months of returning back to work, I have realised that though the Mummy Guilt will not go away but it does get a tad bit better over a period of time.
Here are 5 Reasons why Short Term Separation is great for both Mother and Child
♥ Routine– Getting back to work for the Mums and Child Care for the child brings in a sense of routine. Regular waking, sleeping, eating and playing schedules at Child care are essential for children’s development. Similarly getting back to work schedules is great for Mothers v.s crazy timelines with a child under 2 at home. For stay at home mums, regular short term separation such as visit to the mall, taking up a hobby or going to the gym on a regular basis becomes a routine which is essential for the Mum and Child. ‘Me Time’ helps Mums de-stress and catch up on some R & R.
♥ Secure Relationships– For a Child separation from their Mother for a short duration can help them to develop independent relationships with other care givers such a Grandparents or relatives. Similarly if a child goes to Child care then they develop secure relationships with Child Care educators. This attachment-detachment concept is crucial for secure relationship development between a Mother and child. As much as us Mums would love to have our child in our care all the time, it is equally important for a child to learn to be independent starting from a young age.
♥ Socialisation– Mums need to socialise and have some ‘Me time’. I personally feel going to work 3 days a week is actually a break from my usual routine at home with Rey. It lets me enjoy my work even more. Going out with your friends, getting your nails done or simply going to the Gym is important because it helps Mums deviate their minds from their usual routines. For the child, socialisation with other children at Child Care at a young age is a great start to confidence building and developing friendships and personality development.
♥ Setting and Leading by Example– Children learn a lot by observation. By showing them at a young age, that as a Mother you are going to work, earning a living and helping secure the future of your family. Similarly if you are a stay at home mum you are juggling a constant to do list of duties, along with managing your home and family and prioritising your child, you are setting an example. This will help them determine the importance of employment and family life balance as a child and as an adult in the future.
♥ Makes the time spent together sweeter– Children thrive in a routine. They understand that their parents head to work and will pick them up from Child care/ Grandparents’s place after work/ regular errand duties. They look forward to spending the evening with you as much as you look forward to spending the evening with them. As much as I dislike the Child Care drop offs in the morning, I cannot wait for 5 pm on the clock (on work days) because I rush to pick Rey from Child Care. The expression on his face when he sees me there, is priceless. That sparkle in his eye and that big cuddle makes that Separation Anxiety worth it.
So Mums do not be afraid of Short-Term Separation from your Child. Whether you are a working Mum or a stay at home Mum, you better start thinking about yourself and ditch that Mummy Guilt. My dear Mums, it is OK to take a break and chill with your friends, get that haircut you have been wanting for months, have a glass of that wine. Give yourself a pat on your back as you are doing a fantastic job in raising your child and leading by example.