I am a first-time mother to a beautiful nine month old boy. My husband & I have been dedicated to the AP lifestyle & have forged a bond with our son that has been priceless. Currently we have only been separated from our son a total of five times, each lasting no more than three hours. We live a good distance from any family and our friends are all busy with jobs and/or children of their own so there has been little opportunity for our son to attach to anyone else. We have enrolled in many classes geared to babies his age so that he gets plenty of interaction with other babies and people. He is a social and happy baby but it has been a challenge trying to find another caregiver to look after him for a few hours a week. At four months old we hired a very experienced nanny to stay in the home with him while I did work around the house, allowing me to get a break, but still be able to breastfeed. This arrangement lasted a few months. My son greatly protested with long periods of crying until I came in or until he fell asleep exhausted. At the end, the nanny,(who had had experience working with breastfeeding AP moms working from home) felt that our son wasn’t ready to be apart from me. This was at around 4 1/2 months old until about 5 1/2 months. Now at 9months, after much searching, we found a daycare that would provide our son care that was in line with most of our standards (Waldorf inspired, healthy organic vegetarian meals, no TV, happy kids, etc.). We visited with the daycare a few times, our son felt comfortable & at ease. On his first real day, he lasted three hours out of the four until they called me to come pick him up. The daycare is willing to work with me, but they are a bit reluctant. I have been told by the daycare that AP babies are very difficult because they don’t learn to get the confidence and security from themselves but learn to only rely on the parents. Very long story short, I’m exhausted, confused & need help/advice. I need some time away from my son just to get some balance, but at the same time I want him to get what he needs too.
Dear New Mom:
Your experience of your son being very attached to you is not characteristic of Attachment Parenting, nor is it something that you have caused. It’s more a matter of your son’s temperament. He was born that way and there is not much you can do other than to meet his needs for you and the security he needs of having you close by. I feel much empathy for you because my third child and my fifth child were the same way. They were so intense, that I needed a bit of a break, but they were so opposed to substitute care that it wasn’t often worth the screaming. I would try to get breaks when I reached my tipping point of sanity and then would come back, but I knew my child was so unhappy while I left him in great care – usually my husband! I’m sorry, but some things are difficult to change in parenting and a child’s temperament is one of those things that requires acceptance. It will get better and he will accept substitute care later on as he gets older and knows that you will come back, but for now, when he is in the very normal stage of separation anxiety from ages 8 months to three years, being apart from you is very difficult. Continue to find help that can be warm and gentle to him, even for a half hour or so while you take a break. Please don’t beat yourself up that you caused this, because it’s just how some children are. Parenting is like having a box of chocolates – you get what you get and the best we can do is muddle our way through what is on our plate. Try to meet your needs for sleep, food and hobbies. That caregiver while you are in the room sounds like a great thing to give you a wee bit of a break. It will get better!
Author of the Canadian Bestseller, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for Raising Caring, Responsible Children Without Time-Out, Spanking, Punishment or Bribery” and the new DVD, “Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love.” www.attachmentparenting.ca