Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mom's separation anxiety

I’ve been absent from the blogsphere for the past week or so. Suddenly, there is a lot going on that is keeping me very occupied. All in a short period of time we’ve had a death in the family, an exciting professional development, an opportunity to interview for my dream job and planning a major trip.

I’m going to Siberia for three weeks soon and after much deliberation, I’ve decided to leave River home. That’s probably best for his welfare. However, I’m having my own emotional meltdown about leaving him for so long at this age. I feel deceitful in that I can’t tell him or prepare him ahead of time. I feel like each time we spend time together, I’m trying to rack up quality time for the time that I miss. I’m worried that unlike when I went out of town when he was younger, this time he’s going to remember me and miss me. I worry that he can’t verbalize his concerns, nor can he understand when people explain. I’m afraid he’ll feel abandoned and that he’ll lose trust in me.

My original plan was to take him, in which case he would have been away from Mark for three weeks. I don’t think Mark would have worried much about these things. He probably would have enjoyed the quiet time. Nor do I really think River would have suffered too much without seeing his father for a few weeks.

So does that mean I believe there is a fundamental difference between mothers and fathers and that mothers are somehow more important? Wouldn’t that go against my beliefs in feminism and co-parenting?

Perhaps there is a difference. Maybe there is some type of chemical connection that happens with birth. Maybe there is meant to be a special biological bond between mother and child. Or it might be only that in our case, I spend more hours per week with River than Mark does. While Mark does a lot with River, I am the one who is usually thinking ahead and planning for River’s needs. Maybe I’m overestimating myself, as I think mothers are prone to do, in thinking that without my planning, his world will fall apart. I know it won’t and I know that our babysitter and Mark will love and care for him.

In any case, he darn well better start walking before I go. He’s got just under a month to take that first step and I need him to do so. If I miss that big milestone, I’m really going to become a psychological case.

To add to my meltdown, I just finished watching a 20/20 show on how to survive a catastrophe. A survivor of a horrendous plane crash recounted an 18-month old seated in front of him, who had been playing peek a boo with him, and ending up dying. That boy has haunted this survivor for 20 years. I am terrified of putting River into a situation like that in which he is in danger and there is nothing I can do to save him.

I’m not a big stickler for safety. I think certain rules, like carseats, are good to strive for, but shouldn’t always be mandatory. There are some circumstances, such as a baby who nurses 2-4 hours at a shot, or going out of town when it’s not feasible to lug along the carseats, in which I think it’s reasonable to skip the seats.

I generally think the same thing about baby seats on airlines – useful, but a hassle and the odds of needing them are small. Still, when the domestic flight we took in Panama shook so much in the wind that some people screamed and the woman next to me held my hand, I realized that in case of a crash or a fall, River would be the first one to hit the ceiling and probably the most likely to be injured. It’s not possible to hold tight to an infant and to assume the safest crash landing posture. And the airplane seatbelts don’t hold a small child securely (which I’d guess is what killed the 18 month old).

So now I’m finding myself thinking that I will take a carseat along on flights when practical. If I go completely overboard, I’ll follow the advice of another passenger who survived and dress him in 100 percent natural fibers, so that in the one in a billion or so chance we go down in a fiery crash, he’ll reduce his chances of being burned.

Overall, I think I’m just going through a period of anxiety in which I recognize that nothing I do can protect him fully. The more time we spend together, the more investment I put into his growth and development, the more he becomes a person, the more frightened I become of something taking that away.

I think I need to start doing more meditation or somehow find myself some more zen. I want to be like the Buddhists and appreciate River’s presence right now, appreciate all he has already done for me and for others, and treat all joy we might receive in the future as a gift rather than an expectation. I’m trying, but it’s not happening.

Are there others out there who aren’t generally anxious about their children, but have occasional anxiety spells like this come over them? If so, how do you cope with them?

1 comment:

Cassie said...

I can absolutely relate to your anxiety, but unfortunately I don't have a solution for you. I kind of just ride those spells out, and eventually I'm okay again. My son is younger than yours, though, and I'm sure these spells will get even worse as time goes on!

I truly believe that there is a special biological bond between mother and child. My situation is the opposite of yours -- my son spends more time with my husband than with me due to our work schedules, but he still seems to prefer me over his father. I know my husband doesn't treat him badly or anything, so it must be biology; a mother's love trumps all, and I think our children know that.

Congrats on the interview -- what an amazing opportunity! Good luck!