Saturday, August 20, 2011

Give yourself a break

When mum is the one who needs to untie the apron strings
There’s something wrong with me. I’m sure of it.
I have an opportunity to this week to have a night out - just for me - sans kids, sans husband (aka babysitter).
But I’m reluctant to go because I worry that my little family will fall apart without me and my conscience is having a tug of war. 
Get a grip Shannon, your husband is perfectly capable of looking after his children, and has done so many times before.
But it’s arsenic hour, and there’ll be screaming for sure.
So what if they’re all screaming, he can handle it.
But, but, but...
See, it’s a ridiculous argument. I’m with my children all the time now since I quit my office job and work from home.
I don’t know when or why my anxiety came along because only a few months ago, both my children were in long daycare at least four days a week.
I felt guilty, but I didn’t stress about it, because it was just a part of our life, and I was happy with the carers they were with.
These days I play games with them, push them on the swings, cook, clean and dress them, change nappies, and read to them every night.
And there’s the rub.

I’ve gotten so used to doing everything for them, that I have some weird sense that no one could fill my shoes.
There’s a name for this sort of phobia: maternal separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is usually an experience felt by children, but parents can become victims of this syndrome, too.
It’s not uncommon for parents, particularly mothers, to be filled with guilt at the thought of a short-term separation from their child.
Many first-time parents can’t imagine leaving their baby in the care of another person, no matter how much they may need time to themselves - even if it is to catch up on much-needed sleep.
But this intense desire to put your child above all your needs, and to protect them from the world outside, can lead to a number of problems for you, your child and your relationships.
Feeling anxious about separation from your child is normal, but if your feelings of worry, guilt or sadness are excessive, it can be detrimental to parents’ mental health which can create negative impacts on their child’s development.
It can also be worse for a parent if the child suffers from a health problem such as asthma or allergy.
The solution is to first of all realise that separations are a part of life and important for your mental health, and your child’s development, so here are my top tips: 
* When you leave your baby for the first time, go on a short outing, and then gradually extend the time. Do something for yourself such as visit the hairdresser or go on a “date” with your partner.
* Introduce new carers gradually so that your child gets to know them before being left alone with them.
* When it’s time to leave, say your goodbyes and then leave without looking back.
This is probably the hardest thing for new parents to do, but if a goodbye turns into a long, drawn-out emotional time, it will upset your child (and you) even more, and then all prospects of an enjoyable time out will disappear.
* Get rid of the guilt by reminding yourself that you deserve some quality time out to “recharge” and this will make you a better parent.


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