Since the day
my daughter was born, I have wanted to be her everything. I never let anyone else
take care of the overnight feedings, I delayed day care as long as I possibly could, and
I swooped in each and every time she cried; I was convinced that only I could soothe her.
important for me to have her know she could always count on mommy to be there.
And for the
most part, that worked to our advantage. I was never the mom willing to let her
cry it out, but it didn’t matter—she was putting herself to sleep by 3 months
and has been sleeping 13 hours a night ever since. I could play on the floor
with her for a few minutes and then get up to do laundry or clean the bathroom
and she wouldn’t fret—she knew mommy was coming right back.
I was full of
pride in raising this secure and confident little girl who had a smile for
everyone she met and who never seemed to worry that she might not be loved.
around 10 months old, something shifted. We wound up taking a few big trips in
a row, and her surroundings got a little shuffled. Suddenly, she wasn’t quite
as secure as she had been before. In fact, she began wailing anytime I left leave the room. And forget about handing her off to other people—she only
And all of a
sudden, I felt guilty. Every time she cried at the sight of a stranger or shed
tears because I put her down, I worried that I had done this to her. I feared that in my
obsessive need to be her everything, I had somehow stunted her independence.
knew that was a tad overdramatic. After all, separation anxiety is a normal stage that babies go through. According to the American
Academy of Pediatrics, these phases can start as early as 4 months and go all
the way until preschool. Anything in between is considered normal.
I worried people would think that this was my fault.
realistically, I have known babies who have suffered from separation anxiety
much worse than she has. My daughter seems relatively comfortable in our own
home, even when I leave the room. And most the time if I give her a few minutes
to warm up to new surroundings, she will go to others without too much drama, particularly if she can still have an eye on me. I have definitely seen
Then again, I
have definitely seen better.
I felt myself
starting to cringe a little every time the mommy separation tears would start.
It tore my heart out to have her suddenly sobbing every single day as I dropped
her off at day care. And I hated that she now refused to go to her aunties, the
other adults in our life who love her so. I worried that people would think this was my fault, that I was to blame for the clinginess she was now
struggle with it a little, if I’m being completely honest.
I want my
daughter to know that I will always be there for her, but I am realizing something ... I
don’t want to be her everything. Not
because I don’t love being her favorite person in the world—I absolutely do,
and there is a selfish part of me that wouldn’t mind never having to share her
again. But she would miss out on so much. I am a fiercely independent woman,
and I am realizing that I want to raise my daughter to be the same. That means I can’t be her everything, because there is so much more of this world for
her to discover.
So, yeah, the separation
anxiety phase is normal, and I am working on curbing my own stress over this
current stage. But it has also taught me that I want more for her than just me.
I want her to learn how to trust and rely on others as well, and on herself. I
want her to grow to be strong and independent, and to know that even when mommy
says “goodbye,” she is always going to come back.
I don’t have
to be her everything to show her that.
I just have to
love her, remaining consistent and stable in that love until she learns to feel
secure in her place in this world once more.
And then, watch out. Because I am pretty sure the day will come soon enough when I will
be missing the little girl attached to my hip, missing the days when she
believed I was her everything, even as I watch with pride as she spreads her wings