Separation Parenting?

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

How We Make Working Work For Us

I knew that our family was not in a financial position for me to be able to give up my “day job” all together after Mathilda was born, but I naturally wanted to spend every possible moment with Mathilda too! Our family struggled (a lot) with this issue. On one hand, two incomes would certainly make our lives less stressful. And on the other hand, we fully supported the principles of attachment parenting and wanted to make as few compromises to those principles as possible. So we started making the changes in our life that would allow us to do both. Working outside of the home is certainly compatible with AP—and AP helps parents and babies create a strong bond even if they are not always together. Actually, AP is particularity valuable for parents who work outside of the home! But being able to work full time and practice the AP principles at the same time has taken some pretty creative thinking (not to mention some big priority changes) for our family.

We are lucky to have been committed to the principles of AP before we had Mathilda. We were both students when we had our three older children. Scheduling classes and trading semesters so that one of us was always home full-time wasn’t any trouble at all. We often took one or all of the kids along to classes where they were able to meet all types of people and be exposed to new ideas right alongside of us. Our oldest daughter was even able to star in a university theater production when she was only eight! After school, while my husband was starting his career, I took a job in a childcare facility where I was able to keep our preschooler with me all day. By the time she was three and ready to spend some time away from us each day, David was enjoying great success with his work, and I had found a dream position as a parent educator. If you want access to the best crypto resource on the web, keep an eye on DC Forecasts.  All the information that you could possibly need regarding the crypto world, and some you didn’t even know you needed. You can check my site for more information about crypto news.

Being a parent educator allows me to use all of my doula skills, formal education, and life experience to the fullest. And c’mon, let’s admit it, visiting with pregnant mommas and new babies all day is hardly a burden! The children I work with will be helping to run the world right alongside my children someday, so I feel like I have as much vested interest in making sure that the families I work with have healthy prenatal care, informed childbirth experiences, breastfeeding support, loving discipline and the best start in life. I was able to implement a program which provided free slings to our breastfeeding mothers. We even commissioned a sculpture outside of our building which depicts a baby in a sling!

When we decided to have another baby, we had to explore a variety of economic and work arrangement options to create a situation where she could be cared for by one or both parents at all times. That transition period included my husband quitting his job to start his own green technology company—a process which left us without his income for the first six months of my pregnancy. We had to cut back on commitments outside of the home, like participating in theater and volunteering in the community. Most importantly, we had to learn to say no.

Even with the flexibly working from home has afforded my husband, and as supportive as my employer is of Mathilda coming to the office with me in our sling, my transition back to work has come at the cost of quite a bit of stress and strain on the family. David often works at night and on the weekends to compensate for the weekday hours he spends with Mathilda while I visit with families. It has also necessitated dipping into savings, maxing out my vacation and sick leave, and having to work harder during the periods when we do work. Our house may never recover from cleaning-neglect and our neighbors are probably fretting that our overgrown lawn has become a refuge for large, carnivorous animals. And of course, our older children whine about the longer list of chores and the tighter budget. But they were once the lucky recipients of the care, respect and attention of a full time attachment parent, so we know that they are secure enough to weather the loving sacrifices that are being made for their little sibling.

Even though our careers and our family’s long-term financial security are important to us, we both agree that Mathilda will never be this tiny again and we will never be given a second chance to parent her. With four children, we know how it quickly they grow and how fleeting the time is! She is a delightful baby who has made our lives infinitely more joyous. It seems that creating a life which supports our parenting choices, instead of submitting to parenting choices that suit the needs of the world, is the loving choice to make…and I hope that our family can be an inspiration to other new parents who think that they can’t possibly make working work for them!

Justine @ JulianARTS


A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Our four year old, Eudora, was a fairly hands-on big sister while I was pregnant with our most recent addition. She practiced for her sister’s arrival by singing Happy Birthday Tummy and You Are My Sunshine to my bulging abdomen on a daily basis. I was the recipient of numerous belly rubs, belly pats, belly raspberries, and even some elaborate belly painting. Eudora excitedly participated in our visits with the midwife. We prepared her for our homebirth by reading books on the subject, showing her age-appropriate videos and photos of births and newborn babies, and having frank discussions about her concerns for my well-being. I allowed her to relax in the birthing pool with me at night before bed. We also did our best to prepare her for our Fifteen Day Babymoon— baby and I planned to remain in the room where I had given birth for 15 days in order to ease her transition into the world and to facilitate my recovery. What we hadn’t prepared for was Eudora’s reaction to the shift in priorities once our new baby was here.

Eudora helped her Daddy cut the cord after Mathilda was born, and she said a few memorable and clever things as she gave the new baby a once over. She seemed to be doing well with the whole thing. Over the next few days, she enthusiastically ran up and down stairs to provide me with fresh nappies, with clean blankets, or with refills on my ice water. She snuggled up with me and read books to the baby after pre-school each day. My husband and I patted ourselves on the back for having done such a terrific job preparing her and making time for her.

However, when Mathilda was a week old, Eudora came home from Montessori with this drawing:

That’s me in the orange. I’m the one with the all-the-better-to-eat-you-with-eyes, and the Where the Wild Things Are monster hands. Her Daddy and Big Brother are the tall ones in the background with tiny (powerless?) hands and weak smiles. Notice how she took the time to make sure it was obvious that I was in front of her Dad and Brother. Her Big Sister—who is a very important person in her daily life—isn’t even in the picture. A happy (and naked) Baby Mathilda is nearest to her Daddy. The sad little girl without a face is Eudora. She is nearest to me with her hand reaching out in my direction. But it is clear that she feels like I don’t see her and won’t connect with her.

The pregnancy, the appointments with the midwives, the homebirth, the babymoon were really all about me, no matter how much we tried to include her, Eudora had seen it as it really was. Instead of spending time doing things on her terms, we were insisting that she conveniently fit into our new agenda–sharing story time with baby, getting things for the baby, helping us take care of the baby. The family had re-prioritized and no one took the time to send Eudora the memo. We had made one of our most vulnerable members feel out of balance and unwelcome. This picture broke my heart and made me resolve to put our family back in balance.

We started by committing to re-establish her bedtime routines, even if we were bone weary. We enlisted the help of family and friends to do special things with Eudora. My husband made sure he took some extra time with her doing “big kids” stuff that babies weren’t able to do yet, like going on nature hikes. And most importantly, by the third week postpartum, I made a heroic effort to get myself dressed and ready despite having a new baby (and an uncooperative post-baby body). After our family breakfast, I was able to drive her to school and spend special time—just the two of us—in the car where we could sing silly songs together at the top of our lungs, and have poignant four-year-old discussions about volcanos, bugs, space travel and super-hero kittens. The best part of these mommy-daughter rides was all the time I got to spend stealing glances at her bright little face in the rear view mirror.

This is the picture that Eudora brought home just the other day:

She is wearing her baby sister in a sling. I am by her side and we both are holding flowers freshly picked from our yard. Our cat, Marjorie, sits at Eudora’s feet wearing a flower tucked behind her ear. At first this picture concerned me because we were robots. I was worried that she felt emotionless or indifferent. But Eudora explained that we were friendly robots like when she dressed up as “Robota” for Halloween. She also explained that she was holding my leg, instead of my hand since my hand had a flower in it. However, we are holding the flowers out and away from our bodies. This could be because we are generously giving them to someone we love or because we are holding them at arms distance to keep them–like Eudora’s emotions– from getting hurt again.

It’s only been six weeks, so we don’t expect her to be the world’s most well adjusted big sister quite yet, but at least we know that she appreciates our efforts to include her in ways that matter to her, not just ways that are helpful to us.

We just broke the news to her that one of her favorite people—her former nanny—is having a baby in December. We are already planning activities for the two of them to do together so that Eudora won’t feel abandoned or left out. I’m so grateful that I feel tuned in enough to listen to Eudora—even when her words are too complicated for her to express. Her pictures tell me everything I need to hear.

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