Its an observation, an anecdote, but something I've been thinking about for some time. Maybe all this emphasis on bonding and attachment to your baby is... way overrated. On one of my anti-crunch groups someone recently was pointing out how you can bond over a bottle of formula too, as if that squashes an anti-formula argument. Well, yes, I'm sure that's true, but it just demonstrates what a big deal we make over bonding. Every one takes it as a matter of fact that of course bonding is crucial, and how crucial cannot be overstated. Sure its important, but HOW important is it really? I think it IS overstated, and overrated.
I have a friend who didn't read much of anything during pregnancy, didn't have her heart too set on any particular parenting method, didn't have a birth plan - she watched me drive myself crazy and wisely opted not to do that to herself. Wouldn't you know it, SHE was the one who got the vaginal birth, who is still breastfeeding at 10 months and for whom co-sleeping just worked in a natural no drama kind of way. She and I have the kind of relationship where we can give each other crap about these things and laugh it all off and learn from each other. She's great. She works from home and is bonded very securely to that child. But she is SO intensely bonded that when she comes to visit, she can't leave the room or Baby Jenny (I'll call her) has an absolute total meltdown. Just the sight of her mother walking away from her is enough. Poor Jenny just screams for 2 solid minutes while my friend pees. She can't even leave her with her mom or sister at home because of this extreme attachment, and it is really wearing on her. She recently had what she describes as 3 or 4 days of sheer hell trying to get her to sleep in her own crib at night. Ironically, she is now DEVOURING "Babywise" in an effort to find some sanity and balance in life.
Similar situation with a 6 month old who has just started coming to my son's home daycare a few days a week. For 6 months, she has only been with Mommy, and after seeing her with Mommy, you can see what a cutie and a delight she is, but at daycare, when Mommy leaves, she cries nearly constantly. And if a stranger enters the room and she sees or hears them, she starts up again if she had settled. Doesn't matter if you sing to her, rock her, hold her, talk to her, show her a toy, there is no soothing her. This child is in extreme anxiety and its sad to see.
I have other crunchy friends who have never ever left their kids, not even with their father, and because of their extreme attachment, they can't now. It would cause the child extreme distress, and probably the mother as well. Doesn't seem very healthy to me. So then should Mommy never leave?
I can hear the answer now. No, of course she should always be there for her child. Parenting is hard and if you don't want the job, don't have kids. This is what you signed up for. Its YOUR job to raise your kids, no one else's.
A lovely platitude, but is it realistic? Is it fair? Will that really work for YOU? In many cultures the women of childbearing age have STUFF TO DO and its the grandmothers or older siblings who take over childcare while they are out at the market or whatnot. I don't know where we got this idea that mothers absolutely have to do all the childcare, and that a good mother will not outsource this or get any help from anyone else.
I don't see these parent-child relationships as very functional, for mom or baby, really. At least not at a level I could function well at. I initially felt horrified that I turned out to be the type of mother who dropped her kid in daycare at 7 weeks, and nearly dry-eyed, went back to work, when I could have stayed home a little longer. But Parker didn't cry when I left him there, and he still doesn't cry when its time for me to leave him. He's already too busy eating his yogurt or playing and exploring. I think he actually looks forward to the change in scenery. But he's still bonded to me. He somehow knows when its time for me to pick him up and starts looking expectantly at the door, and when he sees me, I get a huge smile.
Parker is so secure and confident, and that actually comes from a healthy place of DE-tachment, rather than hyper attachment. The AP theory is the opposite though. From AP you come to think that security and confidence come from a solid foundation of attachment with the parents, and from that security, they blossom into confident little explorers of the world. But comparing my little guy to AP kids, that's very falsifiable. Sure, every kid is different, but those kids are stressed and lost without mommy around. They have no coping skills. These babies I know are young enough, they will learn and adjust, but it has been no picnic for mom to reclaim her life just a little bit. And I'm sorry, but I think its reasonable for moms to have a bit of a life. It's no sin. If you want to be a complete martyr, go for it, but that doesn't mean every mommy has to as well. There are many ways to raise kids, and right now, compared with what I see around me, mine is very emotionally healthy, even if I do work. Maybe even because I work.
I think I've ended up making all the right mistakes, in spite of myself. And with my next little one, coming this summer, I won't hesitate to hand him off to Grandma as I did with Parker and enjoy a manicure. And I won't hesitate to send him to daycare as well at 7 weeks, just like I did with his brother. I won't however, feel any guilt or regret about it though. I want him to be as calm and assured as his brother that yes, mommy is coming back, so let's go play and have fun.