Taking Mommy Time Outs Will Ruin Your Children?
I identify as an attachment parent. By identify, I mean I do some of the "required" things to relate to it. I'm sure some who practice it religiously would tell me I am not "attachment" enough, as that seems to be common when you cross over into these lands of extremes.
This week, I opened up my email to find this article from Attachment Parenting International. As per usual, I read, because it was about Mommy Time -- something I desperately struggle with getting. I expected it to be an informative, attachment based article that highlighted the importance of keeping your own identity. The article opened with a familiar scenario -- no sleep, running low on energy, screaming kids, and wishing for that moment where you can read a book without someone telling you about their poop, or screaming for you to get a toy that is at their feet.
The idea of that peace? My husband could whisper that to me while in bed, and I would be putty in his hands. It's a totally sexy and amazing concept. Mainly because it hardly happens.
The article goes on to pose this question:
What are we encouraged to do about it? Modern parenting advice tells us to seek out, and actually insist on, that “Mommy Me-Time” away from our kids. We are told it is vital for us (it helps us to recharge and have interests outside of motherhood) and important for our babies and young children (they learn to be independent from us). But is it really such a good thing all around, and does it even work?
Are we really encouraged to take time away from our kids that often? I do think that we live in a culture where we are forcing our kids to become little adults too soon, but I don't believe that most modern, well-thought out parenting advice wants us to take time away to teach our babies to be independent. Of course, there are books that insinuate that leaving your babies is "good practice" (as if our kids are a football game or the like), but again, I argue -- are these actually well-founded, educated advice givers? Or are they just making a quick buck off of your sleep deprivation?
The author answers the question, and explains her opinion:
In my opinion, it is NO to both. What I have learned from my own experience as a mother of four, and as a parenting counselor working with many mothers in this situation, is that grappling for time apart from our kids often leads to more frustration and upset all around. It rarely recharges us enough, as promised, to feel better when we come back, and we are stuck in a vicious circle of craving more and more (and feeling frustrated when we can't get it).
She goes on to say that our absence in the early years, even as little as an hour here and there, could lead our adolescent children to believe that ignoring someone else's needs to get their own needs met will make them treat others terribly.
I won't lie, I raise my eyebrows when a new mom of less than three months is out without her child. It's weird to me -- because I could have never done that. I understand that feeling of frustration that comes with being the primary caregiver, and I know the way you cry when all you want is a 20 minute shower without hearing a cry, or being asked to do something. I understand, as stated above, the importance of being close to your children, and responding to them quickly. I believe in it, and I practice it daily.
Pardon my skepticism here but taking an hour to yourself, to make yourself feel human? That's going to make my kids turn out terribly? Sneaking out of the house to enjoy grocery shopping alone? Wanting to feel like you are more than just a set of breasts or a warm spot for sleeping? Sometimes, super mother or not, you need a break. It's not a want, it's an actual, well-founded need.
This gem comes next:
Expecting to make time for oneself with multiple young children is an unreasonable expectation. It may be possible if the children have a strong attachment to someone else, but in most cases they just want mom! I understand that moments away have value, but the more we hold on for time away -- for an hour, just an hour, to ourselves -- the less we enjoy our moments with our kids. Getting a “time-out”, even for an hour, may help in the moment, but it sure won’t fix it. It is like sticking a Band-Aid over a severed limb.
The idea that I take a stretch of time to myself is unreasonable? How? Why?
I love my kids; I love their little guts, don't doubt that. Yet, there are days where I completely understand why some animals eat their young. There are days when my skin crawls because I have been touched one too many times. There are days I twitch and wonder if I can start drinking at 2pm without feeling terribly guilty. Sometimes, I need to have some time alone. On the day it's a want, I'm fine, but when that want turns to a need, I have to act on it. For my own benefit, and for my kids.
It has nothing to do with me being selfish. It has everything to do with the fact that motherhood is a full time job. I don't get breaks or sick days. I am here, thick and thin, all the time, always on, always ready. Sometimes, I reach a limit, and I need a break, because I wasn't one of the lucky ones who lost their human nature when they gave birth. Yes, I need to be someone other than Mommy, because before Mommy, I was Danielle, and Danielle is still as important as Mommy.
That is not selfish. That is not unreasonable.
Why is it always such an all or nothing thing? Why is it that in order to be a good attachment parent, I have to stop caring for myself? I argue that showing my kids that my needs are not important is setting them up to believe that self-care is not important. Teaching boundaries to our kids is far more important that making ourselves the Mommy Martyr. When I don't take care of myself, even in the simplest ways, it shows in how I parent.