Why you NEED TO LEAVE your child (sometimes)

Ever since I had friends, who had babies, I often have seen mothers glued to their children and children glued to their mothers. I’ve seen many mothers not trusting grannies, aunties or friends when it came to babysitting. On the other hand, I’ve also heard critical comments about mothers who left for week long travel trips and similar (I myself used to be surprised to hear mommies leaving on three week long trips).
Simultaneously: Seldom have I seen people frowning when daddies were leaving for (business and/or leisure) weekends.

So here I am now, telling you, that I left my Mausezahn M (M’s nickname „Mausezahn“ literally means „mouse tooth“) with her daddy and his parents for four days in order to spend some glam time with my girl gang in Athens. And guess what? I didn’t feel bad at all – and everybody had a BLAST.


But let’s start at the beginning! For years now, my godmother Antonia had been dreaming of us girls – my mom, her best friend, me and herself – spending time with her at her favorite city Athens. She just loves the Greek vibe and dreamt of showing us around.
We just planned not to have too many plans. To stroll through the city and enjoy ourselves (we consciously tried to avoid the city trip craziness of walking 15 kilometers a day – of course we succeeded only partly 😉 ).

Ahead of the trip I got the most diverse comments about my plans. Here are my favorites:
To Athens? Oh cool! Without Marlene?
Great! And who’s gonna be with Marlene?
Oh how nice! And where is Marlene gonna stay?

My fave comment of all was when people just said nothing.

Now I guess it’s not really necessary to articulate how much this makes me shake my head.
Where is Marlene gonna stay? Well, with her dad, the other 50% of her parents. And if daddy has to work, there’s her beloved grand parents who have been looking after her already many times.

What do these questions show? They show that people expect a mother to be there 24/7 – or as I like to call it 36/7 – for her child. That everybody expects the endless love for your child to guarantee endless strength to take care of your kid. And that people never expect a father to be there as much. Never ever did I hear anybody ask a male partner who was going to look after his child when he talked about his short trip plans. But me, I received frowns again and again.


While being GONE

It’s a weird feeling, I have to admit! Pretty SCHIZOPHRENIC: You’re a constant mixture of your pre-child personality and your mom version.
On the one hand, I felt totally like myself again. Taking the time to just RELAX, STROLL, EAT, DRINK, CHAT, LAUGH – without any (buggy, feeding, playing, crying, …) constraints. Just taking care of myself again. Talking about fun and adult stuff. Taking the time to enjoy a shower. To savour delicious Greek (Fusion) kitchen. To shop. To enjoy an upscale Old Fashioned Cocktail.
I felt light as a feather.

Simultaneously I was seeing children all over Athens every 15 minutes (at least it felt like this!). And every 15 minutes I was thinking about my own daughter. What she probably was doing at this moment. If she was smaller, bigger, heavier, older or younger than the children that crossed my path. How she looked walking, eating, making fun, being angry, laughing happily, sleeping or playing.

So I was really living a double life constantly for four days. But let me tell you, my mom thoughts did not at all constrain my feeling well and recovering from that long period of not me months (I mean, it was a whole year!).


With my girls we had all been wondering about how M would react!
A first fact: She did not cry once during my trip, probably hadn’t even noticed my absence (at her ‘age’ of 12 months). Seeing her from a little distance, arriving with my suitcase smiling at her, M had the funniest, unexpected, complex reaction: She was really surprised, making one of her „hmmmmmm?!?!?“ Seemed she was thinking:“Oh it was you, who was missing!!! I knew, that there was something wrong!“
After that first reaction, I noticed, that she was pretty shy. Didn’t want to stay in my arms, returning to daddy and looking at me with a surprising bashfulness and tiny hints of snootiness. Yes, that felt weird. Yes, that hurt a little. But also yes, it lasted for 30 minutes. And after that half an hour everything was as if I had never been gone. With some important differences:
Now, daddy can also comfort her when she is upset. Before, she was totally focused on me and my hugs. 
Now, she has an even better relationship with her grandparents, having spent more time with them. 
Now, she sleeps much better through the day, since she had to adopt to other people’s rhythms. Her naps just work out better waking her up in the morning. And I have adopted my day to that rhythm ever since.

People always expect a mother to be the one and only and best caregiver for her child. Yes, that might be true partly. But it is certainly even more true because of the amount of time mothers and children spend together. And if society expects and enables mostly a mother to go on maternity leave, well it’s the mother who will become the „best“ reference person for a child. So it’s not only given by nature. It’s mostly produced by society.

AND there’s another huge difference ever since I came back: After only four days, I have much more energy, much more patience and MUCH more joy being there for Mausezahn 36/7. 

So dear mothers: Just take your time. Trust in your partner's and family's instincts. Don’t be afraid to LET GO of control over the life and activities of your child. Just enjoy some YOU TIME. And dear people without babies: Become a babysitter and spend a whole day with a baby or a toddler. And try to imagine a life doing this 36/7. I’m sure the next time you’ll hear of a mother going on a trip alone, you won’t frown. You’ll NOD.
Madame F

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(1) Comment

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