Friday, July 16, 2010
If I have learned anything it's that change comes whether we like it or not. It comes when we are not expecting it and it comes when we are coasting along contentedly loving the status quo.
Change can be hard but it is a necessary component for personal growth. I know this sounds trite but it is true.
Having faced a whole host of change the last fourteen months with the birth of the Mouse and now with my second week of returning to work under my belt, I have had to *try* and make peace with this change. My daughter spent the first week with her Daddy and my mother, her Oma, and has now started home care (daycare in a home setting) with a lovely woman down the street.
I am composing this post for no other reason than to convince myself to stay calm and carry on and hopefully help some other moms who are due to return soon. (Actually, I think this post is an attempt to bolster my resolve not to walk into work every day and quit my job and stay home with her forever; to transform my maternity leave what I've heard one hip mom blogger call an “eternity leave”.)
Here’s what I have discovered about major transitional periods:
1.Growth can only come with change
Bottom line: if it’s comfortable then there is no personal growth. Just like plants pushing through the earth and chicks learning to fly, if there is risk involved then you can gain growth (new skill, new perspective, greater confidence, more money, etc.). Without exposing yourself to occasional discomfort you may even regress.
Growth is a good thing right? One positive outcome of having to return to work is that I have forced time to focus on some of the things I need to in order to put myself in a position to be home more with my child. Although initially I have to be apart from her, I might not have put in the time because I felt guilty working on these projects while I was home with her. This time apart has allowed me to focus on tasks that will get me closer to my end goals in a way I am not distracted. So, when I do get to be with her I focus completely on her.
Another postive is that The Mouse learns how to be cared for and interact with other people in this world besides her family and she may even learn more advanced skills from exposure to other children. She would not get this opportunity solely from being with me, unless I managed to adopt a couple of slightly older children really quickly!
2.No matter what type of change it is human nature wants to adjust
I have been so concerned about how the Mouse would respond to my return to work. Would she feel abandoned, would she feel insecure in her world now that things shifted from being with Mummy to a strange new environment? I feared the worst. The reality is that the past couple of weeks have been the hardest on me!
Children are wonderful creatures to be around because they live more in the present. Instead of focusing on what was (her and I together all the time) she just accepts that I am gone more now. Sure she cries a little when I leave and is stuck to me when I get home but otherwise she just goes about her day. The new experiences push her forward and cause her delight so she just moves on.
The thing is humans are always seeking homeostasis, a way to return to normal so our basic drive always compel us to try and get as comfortable in a new situation as possible.
In our dyadic relationship, I am the one who is able to understand our separation so therefore it’s worse for me. Strange as it is, the more you know the more you resist the urge to change. Maybe it is over-intellectualizing or over-rationalizing that inhibits a willingness to suspend our expectations and be more emotionally flexible. Buddhists often talk about living without expectations as a path to enlightenment and toddlers just don’t cognitively see the world in the way adults do, they have expectations but not the complex ones we do so they are better able to go with the flow.*
*This is an extremely reassuring concept for any Moms out there who are facing return to work anticipatory pangs and stresses of separation and fear for how their child will handle it.
3.When you feel secure its easier to weather the changes
The main thing that has helped me through this transitional time (aside from the zillion calls to my husband every day to check on The Mouse and the gazillion pictures I carry of her everywhere I go) is that I know she feels secure wherever she goes and whatever she does because I/we worked tirelessly to create a strong attachment bond with our daughter.
I continue to breastfeed, we co-sleep, I believe in baby-wearing and I always pay close attention to her needs when it comes to separation or closeness. People call this “attachment parenting” nowadays but I think of it as a normal visceral response to caring for your child. I will continue to respect and honour where my daughter is in terms of her individual growth and support that as much as I can and not worry about where she “should” be according to the well-meaning standards of others.
We are reaping the benefits of having a secure bond with our daughter; she trusts us implicitly and knows that if she is in a situation that is uncomfortable her parents are always looking out for her even if they are not in the room. I can sense this intuitively with her (another benefit of a secure attachment!)
I know this because I feel this security myself. I am very lucky and this helps me to weather these changes. I have a very empathetic and steadfast husband, loving parents and in-laws, caring friends and I have been especially fortunate to have found a wonderful set of like-minded moms who have similar parenting styles and who are an endless fountain of compassionate support, well-times humor and guidance. I wish every new mother could have such a group of women in their lives, their presence is an invaluable source of strength to me.
I am desperately trying to posit this challenging time in positive terms. Using techniques I have learned long-ago about optimism and positive self-talk, I am trying to use this time to learn all I can while I have to go through it.
As I've just begun to learn, this too shall pass.
*Note: photo of the Mouse and I in the carefree days of maternity leave. SIGH!