Most parents face a great deal of anxiety and stress to find a suitable Childcare for their children. Separation anxieties (both mother and child) and dealing with the guilt of not being able to care for their own children are common anxieties experienced by working mothers.
Signs and Symptoms
When you find yourself going over the precise order and timing of the daytime and nap routine with the caregiver for your child as you go back to work, or find that you keep looking at your phone when you are at work, or cry after leaving them with the caregivers, you may be struggling with separation anxieties.
I remember when I first had to put my son with my mom so that my husband and I could go on a date. I found myself going over the precise order and timing of his bedtime routine with my mom: “Bath, PJs in the bedroom, please use pampers brand diapers, on the music ‘Sleep sound with Jesus’ on repeat mode, dim the light, fan on medium, milk feed then put him on the bed.” We reviewed the steps and said goodbye. My mom even had to chase me away!
While I was at the bus stop, I called her: “Mom I forgot, his moisturizer is on the table. Remember to dim the light when you feed him.” My husband and mom both groaned. When I was out for dinner, my eyes were constantly on the phone.
During the movie, I checked it every few minutes and text my mom to see if he was all right. I was anxious leaving my precious child whom I had spent months caring for him as the main caregiver, even though it was just for a short span of 3 hours.
Does this sound familiar?
Separation anxiety is a natural part of development for babies, kids and also parents. It can be especially more challenging in the first year of their lives especially when we worry more about their safety, feeding and sleep routines. And even more intense for stay-at-home parents or mothers who have just completed their maternity leaves as they return to the workforce.
Things parents worry about…
Parents would worry if the teachers are genuinely caring, if they are capable of attending to their child if he or she cries, if they can provide adequate attention to him or her in the midst of the other children at the centre etc. When our child struggles with separation anxieties as we leave them at the centres, we would worry if our child will become an insecure person thinking that his parents have abandoned him with strangers.
Guilt is also another common but unhealthy emotion for parents. When I became a mom, guilt is one accessory that I always struggle to remove. I would feel guilt for not doing enough for my child and needing to put him into a playgroup at such a young age (18 months) as I felt that I was incapable of managing two kids on my own at home. Many working mothers also feel guilt about not being able to care for their children on their own, or spend enough quality time with them.
In fact, feeling guilt over being away from your child can be unhealthy for any parents. It discourages parents from dealing with other pressing issues like dealing with our independence and the need for space to work on your marriage, engage in your hobbies and so on. We can feel guilt and take steps to work positively on our flaws and move on. Do not let guilt take root and affect our identity as a person and a mom.
So what can you do if you find yourself struggling with separation? Here are four ways to help you soothe your nerves.
#1 Acknowledge your emotions
Reflect on why you feel uncomfortable being away from your child and if the emotions are valid. Talk to someone whom you trust and look up to, who can help you process your emotions and identify the thoughts that are false or unhealthy.
#2 Know that separation is an important part of growing up
It will help us and our child to grow to be emotionally independent and to practice what you have taught them at home.
#3 Know that having some separation is healthy
In fact, leaving our kids with other caregivers may help our children to boost their feeling of community and be comfortable with our family and friends. It is healthy for parents to have extra help to care for our children, so that we (husband and wife) can also have space for couple time.
If leaving your baby makes you feel miserable, don’t force it. But as they grow up, it is important to start getting yourself occupied with your own hobbies such as a lunch with a friend, or date nights with your husband. Self-care is as important as taking care of your child. When we care more for ourselves, we will find ourselves rejuvenated with more energy to care for our children too.
#4 Know that other caregivers do things differently
One of the fears about leaving your child with another caregiver is the fear that no one else can understand him or know how to settle him when he fusses. Although that is true, it is also true that children are surprisingly adaptive. You may be surprise that they will soon love their teachers at the childcare and demands to go to school.
Give yourself and your child time and space to adapt. Trust the teachers to care for your child by depositing them and leave knowing that they are in good hands. Staying behind may only hinder the teachers from doing their job and helping your child to adjust independently.
How did you manage to overcome your separation anxiety? Share them with us in the comment box below!
By Yvonne Chee
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