My son is nearly 14 months old. Wow, when did that happen? I’m now far enough into this parenting thing to look back and reflect a little on how we’re evolving as a family, and how William is growing a little more independent all the time. I’ve learned that everything is a process, and our latest adventure has been learning to spend a little more time apart.
Of course, when William was a newborn, we were together constantly. I was nursing around the clock and sometimes multiple days would go by when we wouldn’t even leave the house. I remember leaving him at home with my husband when he was about six weeks old, just to make a quick grocery store run. I was thrilled to be out of the house on my own, but as soon as I got in my car, I felt like half of me was missing. I remember texting my husband in the store, checking to make sure everything was okay. At this point, separation anxiety was all on my end: as long as I was around when my son was hungry, and as long as someone was holding him, he didn’t even notice I was gone.
Once he got a little older, my husband started dragging me out for date nights. I would get a lot of anxiety about leaving him alone with his grandparents – not because I didn’t trust them, just because I missed my baby so much. But I knew this was something I needed to do. It wasn’t just all about my son: I had to remember that I was married and that my relationship with my husband needed attention as well.
As the months passed, and I spent every day with my child, I loved being a stay-at-home mom. But I also started to get a bit stir-crazy. The older he got, the more “portable” William got, and we were able to run our errands together and it was usually really fun. But William is not what I would call a “low-maintenance” baby, meaning that he needs pretty much constant attention when he was awake. Of course, my son is my first priority, but it made it very difficult to do any housework or have any time to myself. Naps were the only time I got anything done. More importantly, though, William was very clingy around other people when I was there, meaning he usually didn’t let anyone hold him except my husband and me, and when we left him, he cried. It made me so sad. I knew he needed a little more practice being apart from me.
Around this time, my mom asked me if she could start keeping William on a regular basis, like for a few hours on the same day each week. She wanted quality time with him, and I think she also wanted to give me some time to get some things done. My mother-in-law then asked if she could have a day too. Now, my son spends about 3-4 hours at each grandmother’s house every week, which gives me a chance to catch up on phone calls, go grocery shopping alone, or attend doctor’s appointments. And William got better and better at being dropped off without crying. Now he doesn’t even notice when I head out the door!
Being a stay-at-home mom has been an amazing gift, but I have realized that my son also needs some time apart from me, and I have found that I am so excited to see him when I went to pick him up, and it makes me feel refreshed. Taking a little break makes me a better mom. And I think this is a step toward him becoming a little more independent as well, as he grows into his own person. Like many experiences in parenthood, it’s a little sad and painful, but ultimately the right thing to do.