Google+ Authentic Parenting: How To Install A Healthy Degree Of Separation

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How To Install A Healthy Degree Of Separation

Keeping your child close to you is very important. But one can go overboard on this matter too. It is equally important to open your children up to the world, which means gradually seperating yourself from them physically. Seperation is a matter of trust and respect. Allowing your child to venture outside the cocoon of his home and his mother's closeness means you respect the fact that your child has needs that cannot be met by you alone and to trust your child, but most often also to trust a caregiver other than yourself. Retaining your child from exploring the world and discovering different settings will result in an insecure child, afraid of what's 'out there'. A child that lacks the confidence to roam free and must always look back to his mother.
Often mothers cling onto their children out of selfishness or distrust, rather than for the benefit of the child. Again, this is a matter of respect: respecting the child for the unique being he is. Admitted, it is hard to let go. It means you will no longer be part of all aspects of your child's life. But being a parent is all about letting go - in the right amount and at the right times. I think the ultimate challenge of parenting is finding the right balance between closeness and seperation.

Being able to install a degree of separation is equally important as maintaining closeness. Creating seperation is something that should be done gradually and in a healthy manner. When either party shows signs of discomfort, steps towards separation should be ceased. Maybe the most important key to healthy seperation is to follow the child's lead.

  • As long as the child is exclusively breastfed and shows no intrest in solids, for as far as this is possible, mother and child should not be seperated. This is key to maintain on cue breastfeeding. 
  • Once solids have been introduced, it is possible to step out for short periods of time while leaving your child in someone else's care. Go easy, start with small errands not far from home, so you can always return quickly if it is to ard for you or your child. It might be a good idea to keep seperation at a minimum until your child has overcome seperation anxiety, which is mostly around nine months.
  • Especially when cosleeping, one should not leave overnight as long as the child has not nightweaned to some degree. 
  • Follow their lead: if they go towards another person and are so consumed in playing withthem, this might be a good time to benefit from a couple of stolen minutes.
  • Try to remain close the first couple of trials, for example: take a bath while leaving your child in the care  of your husband, so you can see how it goes and still be in the house.
  • A good sign that you might be able to sneak out for a couple hours is when they are able to settle themselves to sleep (for naps and at night, if you plan on staying out late) 
I cannot press enough that everything depends on the child. It would be very damaging to rush things, but it is equally damaging to retain your child when he is ready to venture out.

With my daughter, she never went out of the same room I was in until she was about seven months old. By that time, she had started on solids and we would be able to leave her with my parents or my in-laws once in a while for two hours tops. When she was nine months old, she decided she wanted to play with our cook every now and again. 
I took her everywhere until she was one year old. After that, I could go shopping for a couple of hours and she's be happily playing with my inlaws. After she started walking, I couldn't take her to do the grocery-shopping any more, so she stayed with our cook during the day.
We left her overnight for the first time when she was 19 months old - we had booked a two night romantic getaway - this was too early, since she was still feeding a couple of times a night (trial and error child, poor thing) and multiple times during the day. She is 21 months old and I think now she would be ready for a night without her parents.
This is just an example, every child is different. Just look out for your childs cues.

NOTE: I am in no way suggesting that you are a bad parent if you are working outside the house or if you have to leave overnight. I do think you should reconsider stepping out for your own amusement if your child is not ready.

Photo courtesy of Pingu1963 on Flickr 



  1. You have some great information on here.

    I breastfed my kiddos, and all three of them were deeply attached when they were little (Baby Girl still is attached, but not quite so much). People that didn't have kids or that didn't breastfeed exclusively just didn't get it, but that's okay! We have to make decisions for our families, not someone else's.

    Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

  2. Thanks for this! I agree, every child is different. I have a 1 year old. Exclusively breastfed, co-sleeper etc. I still look forward to showering alone! We have been trying out some separation, an hour here, 20 min there, etc. Honestly, and I thought I would never say this, I am looking forward to one day having a date night with my husband. I am also looking forward to my son night-weaning. I totally agree, that some separation is healthy. I enjoyed reading this, it mainly validates some of my thoughts and intuition about the matter. :)

  3. Just stopping by from SITS to wish you a very happy SITS Saturday Sharefest! Have a great weekend!

  4. Robbie, the night weaning will come on its own, just don't push. My dd started doing nights at around 18 months, by this I mean whole nights from 20.30 to 6AM. She does still have episodes where she wakes up for a quick drink, but they are getting more and more rare

  5. A friend of mine is looking forward to her week long stay at the beach while her daughter, two at this time, will be home with her husband. For a second, I was jealous. Then, I realized, it will be a very long time before I could consider staying away from my daughter for overnight (if given a choice) and the differences in this parenting style and my own explain a lot of the "concerns" this mother now has of "this" child.


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