Before I became a mom, I always had preconceived notions about moms, babies, and maternal relationships. When phrases such as “separation anxiety” arose, I had a general idea of the subject. Babies need their mom and it’s natural given the nine months (give or take) of growth and bonding in the womb. Separation anxiety is defined as the fear or worry of being separated from a person or attachment figure or being. This term generally refers to the relationship of parents (usually the mother) and young children.
So I eventually became a mom. Giving birth to my daughter released levels of vulnerability and strength I never knew existed. As she grew, I began to search and define my parenting style. Luckily I had the chance of spending four months home with my baby before entering her into daycare to return to work. My first day back, I worried but not excessively. My mind was all over the place. I worried about many things: her well-being, her milk supply, the quality of local daycare centers, and if I was making the right decision by returning to work. Secretly, I wondered if I worried enough. Weren’t first time moms supposed to actually cry and not “want to” cry? Wasn’t breastfeeding going to make the bond stronger, therefore separation that much more unbearable? Was I a bad mom? I missed her and loved her squishy face, but I also liked periodically running to the grocery store to wander around and getting much need mani/pedis.
Fast forward to now. Here I am, still momming, but something has changed.
My daughter and I are tied to the hip. Now, I always believed the old tale that daughters are/were “daddy’s girls.” Don’t get me wrong, Aeris loves her dad tremendously. However, I can’t seem to leave the house without my one year old throwing a fit. We’re months in now, and used to the shrieking and bawling. It’s a part of of the routine, even when she goes to visit her Nana. The pediatrician said separation anxiety was common, so I ran with it.
However, after careful thought, I realized that the phrase has been misinterpreted. When I occasionally leave home, I need me time or a girls night out. I am no stranger to anxiety and I’ve thankfully found healthy ways to cope with it. But the more I evaluate my emotions, my daughter’s emotions and actions, and “me-time” escapes, I realize how ethereal our connection is.
Some children truly worry when their parents or figure(s) of comfort and safety leave.
My child is different. She is bold. She is fiery in the most beautiful way. She is intelligent, but most of all, she is protective. After reflections and observations, I realized that she isn’t throwing tantrums because I want to drive solo to Barnes and Noble to buy yet another book. She isn’t worried about her safety or comfort, she’s worried about me.
Somehow, in those moments, where I bury my problems and play tug of war with anxiety, she sees me for who I am. Sometimes Mommy needs a hug, sometimes Mommy is sad, sometimes Mommy doesn’t have the space to have a meltdown. I believe that children truly see their parents with an unimaginable amount of transparency. When we aren’t in the best moods or the best spaces, they feel it. Separation anxiety is when children are are afraid to be away from their parents or guardians. It is when parents are afraid to leave their children in the care of someone else. It is when parents worry about dropping their kid off to school to face another bully, take a strenuous test, or stay their first night in their dorm room. Separation anxiety is when you (Dad or Mom) are having a bad day and ironically they only want you. It is a mirror. It’s my daughter’s voice saying stay, cuddle a little while longer. You need a hug mommy.