Conquering Parental Separation Anxiety
Realize that separations are a part of life. It’s important for your mental health and your child’s development that you go about your life. Visit the hairdresser, have lunch with a friend, or go on a “date” with your husband. When you’re leaving your baby for the first time, try a quick outing, like a 20-minute walk in the park or a short trip to the grocery store. Minimize the anxiety by ensuring that your child has consistent, reliable care in your absence.
Introduce new caretakers gradually. It is imperative that your child get to know his caregiver before being left alone with her, whether she’s a hired babysitter, a member of your family, or a friend. There should be an element of consistency in your arrangements—try lining up the same caregiver so that you know, and are happy with, the level of care your child is receiving.
Tracy Chalmers, mother to Michael and Joshua, says that she never left her children with anyone that she didn’t know really well. “When I didn’t have a full-time housekeeper, I only went out when [my husband] was home… We only ever went out as a couple if our parents were able to babysit, or if a close friend with kids of her own would volunteer to babysit and give us time together.” Chalmers says that when she hired her housekeeper, she took a long time assessing the woman’s response to the children—best done generally when the children were on their worst behavior—as well as the children’s response to her. “If I had just one inclination that my kids didn’t like her, then I would never have left them,” she recalls.
Handle leaving matter-of-factly. Say your goodbyes and then leave without looking back. Avoid turning your goodbye into a long, drawn-out emotional time—not only will you upset your child, but you’ll upset yourself, too, and all prospects of an enjoyable time out will rapidly disappear.
Lose the guilt. Whatever you decide to do with your time, do it without guilt and in the knowledge that your child is in the care of someone you know and trust. Remind yourself that you are a person of value who deserves and requires time to “recharge,” and that doing this will make you a better parent to your baby.
Penney Jordan says that when she first decided to ask her mother to look after Emma she only took advantage of this arrangement when it was “necessary” and she needed to keep an appointment outside of the house. “I still didn’t remember about myself, really. It took a while for me to get used to the idea that I could ask my mom to babysit so I could meet a friend for coffee, sans baby, or to go out for dinner with my husband. Or, because I wanted to go for a manicure. Quite recently I made a list of all the things I wanted to do by myself and gradually worked my way through them, and it has made such a difference knowing that I am giving both Emma and myself the care and attention we deserve.”
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