Sometimes when folks learn we co-sleep with our kids, they suggest, not too subtly, that we do so in order to meet *our* needs, not those of our kids. While there is something incredibly special about cuddling our kids in the middle of the night, after five years of co-sleeping, I assure you that Ann and I dream of one day reclaiming our bed. It’s not for our needs that we co-sleep. It is, rather, for our children’s need for attachment.
But what of our needs as parents? What of our needs for occasional separation? And, perhaps most confusing for me, what do we make of situations where we aren’t sure who is most concerned about separation—us or our children?
I have been home full time with my kids for four years—since Olivia was born and her prematurity and brain injury necessitated either Ann or I quit our jobs. Ann and I both loved our jobs and felt invigorated by them. We felt competent and capable as working-outside-the-home attachment-parenting moms. For a variety of reasons, I was the one who became the SAHP. It was not an easy adjustment for me. I work hard at it and believe I do a good job.
Yet, I continue to deeply miss teaching and working with adolescents. (I was a teacher then a principal of an alternative high school for at-risk teens.) I am honored to witness my own children’s first steps and their daily changes, but I also miss engaging with the energy of teenagers, of facilitating insightful discussions and witnessing children transform into young adults.
I know that choosing to be a SAHP was the right choice for Olivia. There is no question that her consistent therapy appointments, doctor appointments, access to school-based intervention programs, practicing what we learned from her OTs, PTs, and speech pathologists, as well as creating a safe, secure attachment has helped make her progress possible.
The decision to become a SAHP was made nearly four years. Now, my eldest at home, Sophia, is in school all day. And Walker, who will turn two this summer, will thrive and maintain her attachment and sense of security in the world whether I am home with her or not. (Although I am confident that Walker benefits from our attachment parenting, she is the most mellow, easy ‘Zen’ Baby and I joke that she could be raised by cats.)
So if I return to working outside the home, both of my middle children will continue to blossom. But will Olivia?
I don’t know.
Olivia will be four this summer. Next year, she will continue attending her special needs pre-school. If I return to work, will she transition to a caregiver and develop new strength and confidence in that relationship? Will there be new gifts in that for Olivia? Or will she do okay, but not as well as if I continue to be at home during the day? Will I ever really know the answers?
Staying home, in addition to the medical and therapy expenses, means the financial well-being of our family is involved in this decision as well. But, as we did when Olivia was born, we will choose our children’s well-being over our financial well being.
But won’t our children’s well-being be enhanced by having two parents who feel balanced in their lives, rather than one who yearns to feel that way again? Am I attempting to make a decision that will either be good for Olivia but not for me, or vice versa? Or am I attempting to determine what path will lead to harmony for our family as a whole, balancing out each member’s needs as best we can?
I have an interview for a teaching position next week.
At the moment, I swing back and forth on a pendulum hoping one minute I am offered this position, and the next hoping I am not.
Next month, I’ll let you know where I jump off the pendulum and land.
– Diana Robinson