As a new mother, I am getting more involved in organizations that work to further the causes I am passionate about. This evolves constantly as I become more well read and find experience in subjects related to motherhood.
One of those organizations is Haro, Sweden’s leading women’s organization with a focus on children’s needs and parents’ freedom of choice, with a critical perspective on Swedish family policy. Haro aims to put the child in focus, advocating for Swedish family policies to respect the individual needs and demands of each family. Hear hear to that!
For the most recent Haro quarterly publication, I was asked to translate a New York Daily News article by Erica Komisar, a psychoanalyst and parent coach: “Just be there: Why moms should stay with children in their early years”. I’m also reading her book “Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters”.
Just like the Gordon Neufeld course on Attachment I wrote about in a previous post, Erica Komisar’s views are completely in line with mine and it was an honor to highlight some of her work. Allow me to share just a few points:
She stresses the notion that with parenting and young children, more is more.
“The more emotionally and physically a mother can be present for a child in the first three years, the better the chance that child will be emotionally healthy and mentally well.”
It’s during this period of time before three years of age that the child’s brain is maturing (by age age 3, a child’s right brain is 85% developed) and needs are the greatest to have a firm foundation laid down with the security of a mother’s presence. This will develop the child’s ability to be resilient in the face of adversity throughout life and to be able to regulate their emotions going forward into adulthood.
In general, quality time is considered more important than quantity. However, Komisar explains how the two are actually correlated, that there can be no quality time without quantity time.
“Quality time” is a term used by busy parents who want to spend time with their children on their terms. Real quality time happens on a child’s schedule, not an adult’s, which means having to be there in great quantity.”
“Intimacy requires time. Giving up your role as a primary caregiver comes with sacrificing physical and emotional intimacy with your child. Without the daily dependency upon you, your baby cannot trust you to be there when she needs you.”
“It is this dependency on a daily basis that forges the loving and spiritual connection between a mother and child. There is nothing sweeter and more satisfying than this deep and non-transferable bond.”
Choosing motherhood requires sacrifice, especially in the stages of early childhood. What is important to take note of is that these sacrifices bring endless rewards that last a lifetime. I for one wouldn’t trade it for anything. The question is how we value the rewards on the flip side, which may bring greater financial stability, career advancements, etc. but in this scenario the sacrifice comes in the form of lost time with our loved ones when they need us most…
There are other consequences that perhaps we do not see the connection to. There is an increase in society devaluing mothering while idealizing work. This is connected to what has grown into what Komisar describes as an epidemic of troubled children who are being diagnosed and medicated earlier and earlier with ADHD, early aggression and other behavioral and social disorders.
Why is the subject of the factual consequences Komisar illustrate so taboo? When did it become politically incorrect to even discuss it?
“Too often, mothers are putting their work and their own needs ahead of their children’s. I know this issue is a very controversial one – so controversial, in fact, that few dare address it.”
What is it that halts the open mind and conversation on this subject? This is crucial not just for our own children but society at large.
People are so quick to jump to conclusions when addressing the topic of women staying at home to care for children longer than is socially accepted. The common opinion in Sweden, and the way family policy is written, on women staying home with their young is that it’s old fashioned and most definitely should not be encouraged beyond the months of maternity leave given.
“We would never want to go back to a time when women did not have the freedom to make their own life choices. However, if those choices include having children, it is important that they take responsibility for their children’s emotional as well as physical health.”
Let’s be clear, women’s rights and equality are important and must be advocated and protected. However, choosing to stay at home with our children does not in any way have to challenge that. In fact, I deem it my right to be able to care for my child instead of leaving him at too early an age for too many hours a day in an environment that cannot possibly substitute for the full attention and care of his mother.
The argument that staying at home equals going back in time to where women had no rights simply does not stand. To many, there is an acceptance to take the liberty to judge and mock those who choose to stay home with their children (well, mothers anyway) for longer than is socially accepted.
I would suggest they get their facts straight and actually get to know some of these stay-at-home-moms. I know loads of them and there is nothing ancient or submissive in their respective situations. For my sister, for example, it has been a conscious choice made by both herself and her husband. And there is absolutely NOTHING in their relationship that strips her of any freedom or equality.
As for myself, there is no husband telling me what to do, no one else to serve but my child. If I could stay at home with him until he started school, I would. If I could work from home or work part time after he starts school to be at home when he is there, I would. For as long as I am able, I will be here. At home.
As a single mother, I do not have the same alternatives as those who live in a partnership. But I will go to great lengths and sacrifice to connect with my son, especially during these first formative years, and being present to the utmost of my ability even when I have to go back to work, should that be my only alternative. My choices may be limited but what I do away from my child at this critical age in particular will only be done out of necessity.
“Today, many women see themselves as warriors in the pursuit of power, money and work equality, and have turned away from nurturing as less than meaningful work.”
To me, the “work” that I do at home caring for my child is of greater magnitude and leaves a greater mark and legacy than anything I can accomplish outside the home. The thing is, we can do both. All in due time. Komisar is a living example of this very point.
Regardless of your family situation, financial possibilities or political views, I admonish you to be open minded. For your children’s sake, read Erika Komisar’s book. At the very least, you can get some practical tips on how to be present and connect more with your child. If you want references to research to substantiate her claims, the source section is several pages long.