You know that unpleasant feeling every Sunday evening knowing that tomorrow would be Monday? That mixture of anxiety, panic and trepidation that would ultimately result in not being able to enjoy a good dinner on a Sunday night. This comes very close to what I feel during evenings when I know I’m working away from my toddler the next day.
Yes, I admit that I still experience maternal separation anxiety despite more than half a year of being back to work. This construct that describes a mother’s experience of sadness, worry, and even guilt during a short-term and temporary separation from the little one has been my “Sunday evening” plague the past months thus far.
I’ve been told by those around that I seem to express more unease than my child. I don’t disagree. I acknowledge that while my child’s separation anxiety is developmentally appropriate and in fact a major milestone for his age, mine on the other hand is a setback for both our progression since I look for any reason to get him to cling to me, the way I expect him to. I am the needier one it looks like.
For this reason, I read forums and articles on the topic as a self-help measure to make it easier. Otherwise if I don’t do something about this, then there’s no moving forward. The following are condensed pointers gleaned from all that reading. These help me cope with my apprehensions and I hope it may do the same for others who are undergoing a similar phase.
Accepting the emotions.
I had to acknowledge the fact that what I am experiencing is totally normal. All moms go through this juncture. Mothers are hardwired to be overprotective. Our brains tend to go into overdrive that leads to excessive worrying which then manifests into stress. So the goal is to effectively manage the paranoia and catastrophic thinking so both mother and child can ultimately be healthily independent on our own.
Recognizing the anxiety and putting a name to the feelings means you are starting to conquer these.
Sharing these emotions and sharing my “playbook”.
I found that verbalizing what I am feeling to my partner and my friends can be effectively validating. Simply voicing out my issues as opposed to keeping them bottled in lessens the anxiousness.
Sharing also means telling your playbook or how you go about your daily routine. Listing the major or even minor things that involve the care of the child makes me feel assured that he will be alright when he is being tended by others. So expectations like the number of naps he takes, allowable screen time duration, food preferences and the likes are communicated. Knowing that his day will be approached similarly gives me that added comfort.
I went back to work on part-time basis, still am. After a year of being each other’s world, it just did not seem right that both our lives will dramatically change overnight. I started small to build both our confidence and gradually lessen our mutual interdependence.
This is working very well for my little one as I see that he thrives in the care of others, especially with the grandparents.
Writing it down.
Same thing with sharing these feelings, writing them down–putting these into words outside my mind, feels like giving them space outside my brain. Not having these feelings fully reside inside means lesser chances of having negative and irrational thinking patterns.
Good old-fashioned acceptance, again.
Worrying is inevitable. As my doctor told me pre-birth, you never stop worrying about your babies until they turn 21. I doubt I will stop worrying, ever.
So since it’s going to be second nature, there’s no other way but to move forward. Don’t discount the feeling, ride the wave. And sail on with ease.
We have to recognize that maternal separation anxiety may root from some underlying issues and past traumas. My biggest takeaway when I experienced a personal trauma was that it’s perfectly okay to seek professional help. The hesitance stems from a cultural stigma against mental health. Breaking away from this unhelpful perception liberates one from the holds that restricts opportunities of bettering oneself emotionally.
Seeking therapeutic support for mild to extreme cases can help one navigate these experiences better so ultimately, one can have power over these anxieties.
These are but a few of the things that personally help me deal better with the separation anxiety I experience when being away from my child. I don’t deny the fact that I still get obsessive at times. This means asking my husband photos every hour or so when he is the one in charge of our kid for the day. I think I am allowed this pass.
Note: This has been in my drafts for a couple of months now. Pre-posting, it finally happened. That day when the grandfolks picked my baby and he waved bye at me with his pudgy hands then blew me a kiss. He’s grown! It’s really true what they say. They grow right before our eyes. So every moment should be savoured, the calm and the turbulence alike.