Typically, when we think about separation anxiety we think about the child. We think about the tears, tantrums and the vice-like grip they have on your leg making it impossible to leave. It is understandable why the child does not want you to leave, it represents change in their routine or change in the norm of what they have become accustomed to. However, children are single-threaded. What I mean by that is that once they have adjusted to the “new” environment they are completely in that new moment. This is evident when you come to pick your child up. You may have left them crying for you, but now they do not want to leave because they are enjoying the situation they are in.
I could write pages and pages about separation anxiety from the perspective of the child, but what about from the perspective of the parent? There are books and articles written about how to help your toddler cope, but what about you? Chances are you experience similar emotions, tears and possibly tantruming back in your car that you don’t want to go to work. But there is one special feeling reserved only for parents – GUILT.
Separation anxiety for the parent is often deeply rooted in feelings of guilt. It’s as if before leaving the hospital with our newborn baby, we sign a subconscious contract that we will never allow our child to leave our side. Never leave our side? In such black and white terms, it sounds a little extreme right?
Earlier this week, my husband was feeling some of this guilt while packing for a business trip. He and I have had this conversation many times before with each of us being on each side of the conversation. We have always supported each other with the confirmation that these trips are only a couple of days. In the grand scheme of years, they are minimal. There will be opportunities when he returns to spend quality time with the kids. They will pick right back up where they left off. They will have exciting stories to share with him and he with them. This is real life. It’s mobile and ever-changing and learning to go with that flow is one of the most important lessons we can ever teach our children.
Our children are only young for a few years and we should truly cherish, enjoy and make the most of that time. It is also during this time we are providing them with an example of what it means to be an adult. Sometimes that means going away for a few days to honor your commitment to your work in order to earn money for your family. Sometimes it means giving yourself a break from it all to recharge your battery, whether on a weekend girls trip or an afternoon at the spa. This is all just a normal part of life, so yourself a favor and leave the guilt at home. The time we spend with our kids is matters, but the time we spend away from them matters too.