Karabo Mokoena
Content producer
7 minute read
8 May 2019
6:00 pm

Maternal separation anxiety

Karabo Mokoena

Parenthood presents us with a new reality that we have never been confronted with.We walk into a hospital as single individuals and we walk out with a plus one. We stay with the little ones for four to five months and one day we have to go back to work and this gives any parent some form of anxiety.

This, of course, excludes the mom that is desperate to go back to work even after a month of giving birth.

I always emphasize how different our journeys as parents are, although we experience very
similar things. So there is no, and can never be a, one size fits all approach to parenting.
When my daughter turned 4 1/2 months we hired a nanny who has become my right-hand woman.

I decided to attend an event one weekend, which was going to mark the first time I would be away from my daughter, leaving her in the care of someone that is not related to me. I got into the car, and as it backed out the driveway, I cried like a baby because I felt like I was leaving my child with a total stranger. I have no idea who this woman really is. Can I really trust her with my child? My nanny proved to be a real G though.

She kept sending me unsolicited updates and pictures which helped me relax and not fret about the baby is doing, or whether or not she is coping with her. Sage journals describe maternal separation anxiety as feelings of anxiety that mothers experience when they are separated from their children, particularly when they are still in their infancy. Separation anxiety is a known reality for both moms and babies and it is very natural so my first point of encouragement is this you are not going crazy and don’t beat yourself up about it it’s all part of the journey.

I have come to realize and understand that moms deal with the emotions that come with parenting
way different from dads. I could say that does the very logical about things. So they don’t get as overwhelmed as a mom but they have to go to work they’re not disengaged from the process which we just feel things are much stronger than they do plus our hormones are still all over the place after birth.

As a mom, your newly found mission is to ensure that your child is protected, and we are consumed by guilt when we feel like we are not in a position to do the protecting ourselves.
This is why it is so easy for us to be overcome by those feelings of fear and anxiety when we leave our tiny humans with grandparents or their nannies.

Below are a few pointers on how to cope with maternal separation anxiety.

-Remember who you were before you became a mother
This is an important point that helped me a lot. I had a conversation with one mom that I look up to a lot while the baby was young and I was feeling overwhelmed. She suggested I go out without the baby. The baby was too young, and I thought it would be barbaric to go out when the baby is this small, and I haven’t fully recovered. The “rule” is that I am meant to be indoors for three full months before I can even think of stepping foot out the house. I decided to be a google mom and break the rules, so I went out to see my friends. This was an important reminder of my parenting journey.

I came back home a happy girl, and I felt more capable to stay up at night. Sleep deprivation did not seem so bad anymore. Now, I feel less guilty about having to leave without her because my need for freedom needs to be met. If you are happy with being an employee, then do not allow guilt to make you feel otherwise about it. Remain a happy employee even after childbirth because that is who you are outside of being a mommy. A happy mommy is a happy home.

-Acknowledge your feelings.
I realized that I struggled with my anxiety because I was fighting it. The moment I realized that I was afraid and emotional every time I leave the house was the moment I realized that I need to change my perspective on the idea of leaving the house. I am now slightly at peace knowing that I am doing it for her. It does not completely rid me of the fear, but I cope much better. At the end of the day, the baby’s protection has a lot to do with our ability to provide for them materialistically, and money is required for this.

-Your nanny will never replace you.
My biggest fear about keeping away from my daughter was thinking she would forget me. I would
think that she would confuse my nanny as her mommy because she was with her for most parts of the day. This confusion is impossible, I learned. Even if your kids don’t recognize your face as yet, they can recognize your scent. That is the powerful bond that exists between mom and baby. An eight or nine-hour absence will never change that.

-Remain a part of the journey
My emotions heightened at the thought of missing my daughter’s developmental milestones. A lot
happens when mom and dad are not around during the day. So, if your nanny does not have a good
quality phone, maybe purchase one for them. This will help capture as much useful footage as
possible, and she can send it to you and make your day while you are at the office. The nanny can also keep a development journal to jot down the date and the milestone. This way, you can always know what the baby is up to, even when you are not around.

-Don’t fret on unnecessary things
I know it does not feel like it, but chances are, you don’t really need your nanny or the baby’s
caretaker to let you know every time the baby pees or send you pictures of the poop for self-
inspection. It will drive you mad when you don’t hear anything from the menu for over two hours.
Then you start thinking of the worst; “what if the many ran away with my baby, or what if she hurt the baby and is afraid to tell me about it”. My husband’s former colleague was this kind of mom after the birth of her daughter. She checked in every chance she got, and she demanded pictures all day round.

-Don’t be too hard on yourself
We are moms, superheroes, and if there is one thing that our children know is that we love them.
We should therefore not allow the bulk of our workday to be consumed by mom-guilt. It causes a
misalignment in your energy, and instead of focusing your energy on feeling for being away, find
creative ways to navigate this new world. Maybe get into a morning and afternoon routine with the baby. Breastfeed her/him in the morning, and own the night bath and sleep routine, if possible.

-Make your own mommy rules
The world has created a box that is supposed to fit in parenting, and some people choose not to be in that box. Your kids don’t have to walk before they turn 1, or have their first baby tooth at 4 months. Some moms want to be outside the box, like a colleague that could not stay at home for more than two months during her maternity. She was bored out of her mind and was ready to go back to work, which she did. I was not a mom at that time, and I was shocked when she came back to work because the mommy box says she needs to be at home for longer than that. So, create your own rules and don’t allow external societal expectations to tell you that you are a terrible human being for leaving your child at home with the nanny while you live your own life.

-Learn to trust others with your child/children
It is natural for any parent to be unsure when hiring a new nanny, even after interviewing them and running solid background checks. We strongly believe that we are the only people in the world capable of taking care of our kids. We need to get to a place where we trust the people we leave our children with without feeling a need to install cameras or check up on them every now and then.

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