Screams! I was simply putting groceries on the checkout belt when a kind looking woman stepped in line behind us. She gave my one-year-old the sweetest smile and wave. In return, she was greeted by a terrified, wailing, crocodile tears, breath holding, little girl. To my surprise, every mom in town happened to be in line around us, all sending me “I’m so sorry, I’ve been there,” looks. You know the ones? They are much better than the “control your child,” looks.
Separation anxiety is hard on both baby and momma. Both of my girls went through this stage around a year old, and currently my youngest is still in it. With my first I felt trapped. I worried about leaving her with anyone. The church nursery would call me after 10 minutes to come pick up my inconsolable child. I felt completely defeated! Fortunately, after a few months, she “grew out of it.” I’ll never forget the day we realized it—we dropped her off at the nursery, like every Sunday before, expecting screams. Instead, she walked over to the trainset and acted like it was no big deal. What just happened? My momma heart was so proud of her!
If you are currently in this stage, here is my survival advice.
- People either understand what you’re going through, or they don’t. Before I had kids I totally thought, “My kids will never behave like that in public!” Little did I know my child would be that exact kid. Don’t take the glares too serious. Relax and simply get through your task the best you can.
- Keep trying. Maybe your child is so attached they won’t even let you set them in the high chair at the restaurant like mine? We’ve all left somewhere thinking, “We’re never doing that again!” But the best way for your child to learn they are okay away from your arms is to continue practicing. Just like learning to breastfeed, or sleeping through the night, being away from momma will take practice too.
- Bring lots of distractions. Sometimes your child’s favorite toy isn’t enough. I keep a bag of goodies with me everywhere we go. It includes, a favorite toy, a snack, a sippy cup, something that makes noise (empty water bottle works great), and when all these options fail I use the carrier.
- Request backup. Go places with other moms. Other moms get it and when you need a reassuring look—they have a whole bunch waiting for you. Doesn’t hearing someone else’s kid scream make us feel a little more human?
- Go at your own pace. Every child is different so expecting my second child to get through the attachment stage at the same rate as my first will be frustrating if she doesn’t. We always try a little separation, whether it’s the stroller or the shopping cart, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. In order to peacefully enjoy our day, I put her back in the carrier and we finish what we’re doing.
Sure I hope she outgrows this stage before my back goes out on me—but I have faith in her and in me. Momma, you are doing great and I’m so sorry for all of the times you have or almost have reached your breaking point. Remember, your baby loves you so much and can’t stand a minute away! They aren’t crying to make your day harder, they just miss you. You are trusted, safe, and their hero. Hang in there and know that moms everywhere are going through this with you. All the while sending you reassuring looks one cry at a time.