Dec 16, 2011  •  In Aerin, Claire, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal, Relationships

My Apparent Lack of Separation Anxiety

Most of the moms I know can’t bear to be apart from their children. They tell stories of the bucketfuls of tears that were shed the first time they left their babies with a sitter, nanny, or at a daycare. They talk about how they refuse to spend more than an x amount of time away from their children. (I even know one mom who has not spent even an hour away from her daughter for over 3 years!) Some even speak out about the physical pain that is felt when they are away from their children.

I am not one of those moms.

Again, I cannot help but wonder if something is wrong with me, or if I am missing that part of most women which makes them nurturing, loving providers for their offspring.

The very first time that I spent some time apart from Claire was when she was just two months old. J and I left her with his parents while we went out to dinner and watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

I remember that all throughout dinner, I had an unsettling feeling I just could not shake off…and that’s when I realized that I wasn’t experiencing the tremendous separation anxiety that had been described to me by other moms. I wasn’t even worried about her — admittedly, because I knew that J’s parents would take good care of her — and if anything, I felt…

Relief.

There, I said it. The very first time that I went out without my daughter, I felt good. I felt freedom. I felt all the things that only a selfish mother — and surely only a horrible, uncaring person — would feel.

It was only when I returned home and saw the little booger that I realized how much I had missed her.

And I lavished her with extra attention and affection as a result.


Like the title of this book says, I will always return home to my children.
(image source

Is this admission of guilt — and what I did to make up for it — what sets me apart from the truly horrible mothers? Or is that just wishful thinking and I really am a bad mother?

Am I just not cut out for motherhood and doing irreparable harm to my children? 

Despite the guilt, I continued to go out sans Claire when I could. J and I used to drive up to my parents’ house at least once a month so that my mother could have her fix of spending time with her beloved granddaughter, while we could run errands, dine out, or catch a movie.

And now, we’re even talking about going away for a romantic weekend in January or February while his parents watch the girls, taking full advantage of their being here before their return to Hong Kong in March.

If anything, I think that these times away from my daughters have made me a better, more sane mother, and J agrees.

Obviously this isn’t something that works for all families. But like all parenting decisions, you have to do what’s best for your own unique, individual family.

Are there other moms out there who never felt the separation anxiety that is described by other moms?

28 Responses to “My Apparent Lack of Separation Anxiety”

  1. Holly:

    I also do not have separation anxiety from my two month old son. The first time I left him with my parents was to go to a doctor’s appointment and they kept looking at me, waiting for me to cry or look sad as I walked out the door. I wasn’t sad at all, I also felt relief- freedom! I also worried that this made me look like a bad mom- especially to my parents who I think were very surprised I was not sad to say goodbye. But just like in any job, everyone needs a break from their baby once in a while, whether they are happy about it or not!

    • Oooh I almost forgot about the six-week post-partum doctor visit! I went to that alone while my in-laws watched Claire, so technically that was my very first time away from her. I didn’t get sad then either — in fact, I think I took my time and even stopped by Starbucks on my way back!

  2. Stacey:

    I honestly think a part of it comes from who you are leaving your child with. I expected it to be worse the first time I left my son. He was about 3 months old, my husband and I went to his companies Christmas party and left our son with my mom. Something we do regularly. I think she raised me and I made it, so my son will be fine :).

    I also agree with you, we all need time to be away from our child/children. They need to be away from us as well. Did you want to spend every moment of your life with your parents? So enjoy your trip, you’re a great mom, or you wouldn’t be worried about it!

    • I didn’t even think about whether that would make a difference or not! When we still had a part-time nanny, I don’t think I felt sad or worried the first time I left her alone with her either….but then again, I knew that she was an experienced and trustworthy person.

      And I completely agree that our children need some time away from us as well. :-)

  3. Tiffany:

    I have not experienced that kind of separation anxiety either! I needed a break and some “mommy time” once my daughter was a few weeks old so it was nice to have some time to myself to go for a mani/pedi or shopping, lunch, whatever. I took my first overnight work trip last week and did totally fine. I know she’s ok and I’ll see her soon. I wonder if it gets harder when they really know you’re gone? My daughter is only 4 months and still doesn’t really identify strangers from family/friends.

  4. I have a 3 year old. And no I do not have separation anxiety at all. My parents live close and they ask to have him for the weekend sometimes. It feels a little strange when he is not in the house, but that is the closest I get to feeling anxiety. No guilt for feeling relief. You are not just a mother you are a wife and a person too. You have to take care of that part of you so the mother can do her job. BTW adore your blog.

  5. Yes yes yes! Oh I am so happy to see someone voicing what I have secretly berated myself about for 20 months now. My heart doesn’t “break when he cries” (I do certainly feel sad for him when he is in pain ) and I enjoy my time away from him. In fact, it’s the time away from him that helps me enter appreciate the time spent with him. Our longest break has been 10 days while my in-laws cared for him and the first few days I was celebrating, the middle part was often filled with stories about how cute he is, and by the end I was watching old movies on my iPhone thought the day. But it wasn’t painful or miserable to be gone. I savored the time to just be with my husband. Which is how I know that during my 6 weeks at school, and the 10 days we have planned for a trip in Thailand, I’m going to be okay. I’ll use Skype or FaeTime to help, but I will thoroughly enjoy every moment until I return to him, at which point I will gobble him up and not want to leave his side (for about a week, then things will be back to normal :) ).

    And I am SICK of people telling me that I feel this way because of PPD. I think PPD is something else entirely.

    I am do often shocked by how similar we are in out attitudes and thoughts about parenting Jenny.

    • I too, have been secretly berating myself over this too, but only chose to write about it now. And when you say that time away from your son helps you appreciate the time you spend with him, that’s EXACTLY how I feel!

  6. I have one friend who is really super-attached to her daughter, but most of mine LOVE a sitter and a night out! Don’t worry. I don’t think enjoying adult activities from time to time makes you bad at all! It’s great that you have trusting people who can watch your kids for you, so you don’t have to worry :)

  7. Christie:

    Oh, I hear you. I’m a full-time SAHM, we have no family within driving distance, and my husband is gone for long hours due to a sucky commute. So I savor time away from my dear son, as I feel it is a sanity recharger. I’m scared that I will lose my marbles when I deliver our second child in April, though… we trade child care with friends (and only infrequently at that), but everyone else has only one kid–seems it wouldn’t be fair to saddle them with both a headstrong toddler and an infant. Anyway, you’re certainly not abnormal to feel this way!

    P.S. I also did not love breastfeeding and am actually kind of dreading it the second time around. There, I said it!

  8. Rhey:

    Thank you for these posts. I don’t have kids yet, and one of the things that scares me is that I might feel so tightly tied to my child that I couldn’t leave him/her for a few hours and just be alone. As an introvert I need my me time to be sane. I can’t imagine having a child changing that about myself.

  9. I think it’s better to be ok with leaving your daughter than it is to feel like you need to be with her every minute of every day. I really think Mom’s who are like that make it more difficult for the child to go to school when the time comes. I appreciate your honesty in this post. I’m pregnant with my first and love reading others’ stories on child rearing.

  10. Me!

    I always felt RELIEF when I could get out of the house without baby in my hands…I could just breathe and relax. I felt a little guilty when other moms would tell me how they cried the first time they left their child with someone else to go out to dinner, run errands, etc. I never cried. Actually, I felt a little bummed when I had to go back home in those early weeks.

  11. While I don’t have kids (yet!), I can pretty confidently say that I will feel the same way you do & I think that is normal, healthy & a-okay!

  12. Mary:

    I have no qualms about leaving the kid behind with the parents, the aunt, sisters or nieces. When L was only a couple of months old and we visited my parents, I would ask my sister if L could sleep with her. She didn’t mind and I got some rest. We also make sure to go out with friends, have dinner and watch a movie when we’re visiting the parents. We recently took a three day, three night trip away from L who’s almost 1.5. I had a lovely time!! While the husband definitely has separation anxiety.

    Just because I don’t think of my kid 24/7 and because I don’t call to check up on him, doesn’t mean that I’m a bad mom and that I don’t love him. I trust his caretakers enough that if there’s an issue they’ll call me.

  13. Rachel G:

    I have had no separation anxiety for the few hours at a time I’ve left my 3 month old son. I enjoy that time as my time. Just this weekend actually my dad was in town and watched my son while my husband and I went to the grocery store and did errands (we were weirdly excited about being at the grocery store alone). BUT I don’t know how well I’ll cope when I have to go back to work next week and be away from him for 10 hours at a time every weekday.

  14. Marcie:

    My mom never had separation anxiety either. She needed her brief moments away from all three of her daughters so she could be a better mom (and she was!). She also never held onto the concept that her children should never grow up; our growing up was to be celebrated, not lamented (i.e. no tears when they go to kindergarten, be glad you got them that far). So, don’t worry – you’re not missing a gene, you are just more grounded than many moms I’ve met (and that my mom’s met). Thanks for sharing all this though!

    • I wish I had a “Like” function on my commenting system, because I would “Like” your comment a million times over! Yes, I feel exactly as your mom does, that growing up should be celebrated! Major kudos to your mom!

  15. Janelle:

    My mom SHOULD have spent more time away from her 3 kids, but she felt like you do, SOOOO GUILTY that she didn’t pursue her own interests or invest in her own well-being as an individual NEARLY as much as she should have when we were little.

    If you feel like you need time for yourself, or to have a hobby that is NOT tied to your little girls TAKE IT! You will be giving them a great gift in the long-run. They will see you modeling how to be a multifaceted individual, and they will learn that there is more out there for a woman (even a mom!) than her immediate family.

    LOVE your blog, thanks for sharing your guilt/fear, as you can see you are not alone!

  16. Sandy:

    Love this post… I’m not a mom yet but I think I would feel the same way as you. I think it’s healthy to take a break, especially to maintain your sanity and happiness. I’ve seen extreme versions of separation anxiety and it’s not healthy to be so emotional. A baby can sense mom’s anxiety. If it’s difficult for a mom to let go it can lead to enmeshment, which can influence separation anxiety in the child.

  17. Stephanie Appel:

    Hi Jenny – I read your blog often but rarely post, mainly because I’m not a mom (yet!) and I don’t have a blog of my own… but I love following your stories. The girls are adorable, by the way!

    Anyway, I think you are completely normal. Hubby and I are TTC and the best part has been that we are growing even closer… even though I desperately want a baby, I also have a really big fear of switching from ‘wife’ to 100% ‘mother’. I’ve watched so many of my friends become completely obsessed with being moms, and it seems like their husbands and marriages are neglected. (Granted, that’s just from the outside perspective, but still…) When we do become parents, I really want to make sure we focus on still being a couple, first and foremost.

    That’s one thing I love about your blog – the loving relationship that you and J have maintained always shines through. It gives me hope!

    Don’t beat yourself up – you guys are awesome parents. :)

  18. Our wedding anniversary was just over a month after ourdaughter’s birth, and I rememberfeeling sograteful that my MIL came to babysit so we could go out to eat. I was excited to leave, and when we came home and she asked if I had been too upset, I could honestly sayno. Up until now I had been unable to leave for long stretches because of breastfeeding, but now that I’m weaning I’m looking forward to having longer breaks. I think being ok with separation is healthy for all involved. I want my child to be able to bond with more people than just Mom, you know?

  19. I love my daughter, and I love my time away from my daughter. I’ve only left her overnight once (since we live extremely far away from our families), and didn’t miss her a bit: actually I was sorry we weren’t staying longer!

    It actually didn’t occur to me that this was odd: I don’t even like to be with my husband all the time. I think insufficient bonding is more like you leave your child for really long periods, or never enjoy being with them.

    I think you are the normal one, and your friends are the ones with issues (separation anxiety should be over by age 2 or so). Don’t worry!

  20. Kate:

    Reading my mind! I have never felt separation anxiety from my daughter either. I think finding the right balance of time with your children, time by yourself and time with your spouse is the trifecta of what we should all strive for. My husband and I live in Europe- away from any family, and whenever our parents visit we always schedule a weekend away – just the two of us. It is rejuvenating and romantic and reminds us of who we are as individuals and as a couple – not just as parents. I always feel refreshed and ready to resume parenting when we return! My grandma always said – if the mother isn’t happy then the home isn’t happy. Time by myself and time with my husband helps create our happy home. So – all the power to you! Enjoy your time by yourself and with your babies!

  21. Vir:

    I dont think you are out of the norm at all, all moms need a break sometimes! I think it also depends on the situation and length of time. Working moms who leave their child every day, all day, don’t get as much time so they may feel the sting of “missing out” more than a SAHM. They may also feel bad leaving their children with someone else during the weekends for “pleasure.” I don’t have separation anxiety much except when leaving k overnight, but I do notice that I miss her more towards the end of a long work week. But if I spent all week with her I’m sure I would welcome a break!

  22. Great post- I’ll admit that they very first time I had to leave for a 3-day, 3-night business trip I shed a few tears on my way out the door, but other than that I haven’t felt any anxiety about leaving my son. I think taking time away to do things that I enjoy (in my case, this includes my work) makes me a better mom when I’m home in the evenings and on the weekends. I absolutely love spending time with my little guy, but I also love spending time with my husband out on a date and I love working in the non-profit sector. If I had to give up those other things I love I think I’d go batty, and I think it would definitely lower the quality of my overall parenting. Thanks so much for sharing Jenny!

  23. Emily:

    I feel exactly the same way! I struggled a little bit with those same kind of ideas that maybe it meant I wasn’t attached to my daughter like a mom is supposed to be, but from the beginning I just tried to repeat to myself that that was simply the way I rejuvenated. Our baby girl is incredible and perfect and all that but, oh my goodness, she is a high-needs baby! Sometimes just an entire evening after work wears me out so bad that I start falling into a minor depression just from the emotional exhaustion. But just like you mentioned, when I go out, even if it’s for a short time, I enjoy myself but I feel like something’s off a little bit, and by the time I get back home, I’m so glad to see her little face.

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