Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 24, 2008, but it echoes a sentiment many Attachment Parenting parents have heard from well-meaning friends, family members and even strangers to take some time away from our infants and toddlers, without realizing that ample presence with our children may be exactly what gives us balance.
By Christina Geyer of An American Expat in Deutschland and Mamas Worldwide
I can’t count the number of times that someone has told me that I need to get out of the house without my son.
I’ve been told to get a regular babysitter or to put him in daycare, so that I can have time for myself. While I agree that moms do need time to themselves — I like to de-stress in a long bath with a book by my side once a week, and go to dinner and a movie with friends occasionally — I am happy to share my life with my 15-month-old son.
What does giving him my presence mean to me? It means allowing him to be present in my everyday life.
I am a stay-at-home mom. We are extended breastfeeding and cosleeping. We’re in playgroups — a German-speaking one and an English-speaking one. I also take him with me when I go to town, to the store, even to the doctor’s office, when possible. He joins me when I get a massage, sitting below the table, playing with blocks, smiling up at me every few minutes.
We eat at restaurants together. He doesn’t have a high chair with a tray, he sits right at the table with us, taking part in the family meal. I’m thankful that most places here in Germany, where we live, are kid-friendly. He loves to flirt with the waitresses, and he even tries to pay the bill.
By including my son in my everyday life, I feel I’m teaching him how to interact. He doesn’t act out like some children I’ve seen out, especially at restaurants. He sits and watches the faces of everyone around him. He laughs when we laugh and tries to eat like we eat. He happily eats sushi, caviar, all sorts of vegetables, octopus, mussels…all without even needing a bib. My friends invite us over to dinner so that their children will try new foods. They’ll say, “Look, the little guy likes it. Why don’t you give it a try?”
Now I know that some of this is just his easy-going personality and that we might have to peel spaghetti off the ceiling with our next child, but I think part of it is due to my, and my husband’s, willingness to share practically our whole lives with him. We love his company, and I think that this will help him to grow up loving our company as well.
6 thoughts on “What presence means to me”
Exactly Christina. By modeling the behavior, he learns it. He doesn’t need to act out for your attention, so he doesn’t. It’s great, isn’t it? 🙂
This sounds like a great way to include him in your life and teach him what life is like. He sounds like a very happy boy.
@Maria: It is!
@Scylla: He is, that’s one of the main compliments we hear from strangers.
One of the most important points of this article is how the parent feels. The author clear is enjoying this experience and loving his company–and the child feels that emotion and responds to that feeling.
If on the other hand, a parent is feeling stressed by the experience or not getting enough alone time (not every mother can get an hour bath alone every week), then her child will feel those emotions and respond accordingly.
What is right for us in this moment may not be right for us in another, or with another child as you pointed out. Certainly it might not be right for other parents.
There is not a perfect way to parent that fits every family. The best way is the one that feels right for your family situation. Rather than forcing yourself to fit into someone else’s mold, tap into your Internal Guidance System to determine what is right for you.