Ever since my 10-month-old daughter was born, I’ve received lots of advice from others, as all new mums do. Some of it’s been helpful, some useless, and a lot of it, just plain annoying. The biggest criticism I tend to receive is that I’m too “attached” to her. At first, this really bugged me, but I’ve learned to embrace the accusation and just respond, “Yup, I am.”
It started when she was a newborn, and family members and friends would tell me I should put her down more, not hold her as much. My husband and I don’t subscribe to the “attachment” parenting movement and we don’t co-sleep. I breastfeed and I admit I let my daughter nap on my chest a lot as a newborn. When other people told me I was holding her too much, I would often question myself. One friend pushed me particularly hard to leave her in another room for day-naps and try harder for a “schedule.”
Now, I cringe thinking about those afternoons when I tried desperately to get my then-3-month-old to nap in her crib. Why was I doing it? Not because I enjoyed watching my baby’s face crumble into tears as I attempted to lower her gently down. Not because I needed the break all that much: Let’s face it, with a new baby, I wasn’t getting much done around the house even when my daughter did rest.
I was doing it because the people around me were telling me I was too attached to her, and that she needed some space to grow. They were wrong, and I wish I could take back the moments that I let their advice seep in. Luckily, I always snapped out of it within a day or two of the criticism.
When she was about 6-weeks-old, I wrote a post on my personal blog about my daughter, explaining that despite the exhaustion and stress of the newborn phase, I was endlessly smitten and thrilled about being a mum. The post went viral, garnering lots of sweet comments from attached parents and nervous parents-to-be the world over.
I also received horrifying criticism from seemingly every corner of the States and beyond; articles were written in national publications about what a loser and a sap I was. I was accused for judging other parents for doing or thinking other than I did. None of their cruel words were lost on me; I dipped into a severe depression for weeks after absorbing it all. What kind of a mother was I to be so blindly, wholly in love with my girl? What did this say about me as a person? Was it all a lie? Was I just pathetic, hormonal, fake?
With the support of my husband and in the company of a few mom-friends who understood how I felt, I got past the scrutiny and started to dig myself out of the sad hole. I stopped questioning my parenting choices and my feelings, and just moved forward with our daily life. The bulk of my daily life, of course, wrapped right around my baby girl, but I stopped apologising.
Now that my daughter is not nursing as often and is becoming a robust and free-spirited almost-toddler, my husband and I have started going out more and doing things with our friends and/or as a couple. We even have plans to leave her for an overnight when she’s about a year old, and we’re looking forward to the time to ourselves (and the opportunity to sleep in!). But, still, I’ve received pressure for the past several months from friends and family members who think I should be leaving her in longer stretches, and for less momentous occasions. But when I’m away from my daughter, I miss her… and for that, I’m just not sorry.
Go ahead and call me attached if you want to. My daughter is the proudest and most precious part of my life. My own mother, while she let me go off and explore the world and date whomever I chose and attend college six hours away, is still attached. She misses me when we go a day without seeing each other on FaceTime. A couple weeks without a visit hurts her heart, and you know what? That makes me feel awesome. I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my life, but I always knew that when the world was through with me, my mum could never have enough. What an amazing feeling!
Wherever my daughter goes and whatever she does in the world, she’ll need to prove herself. She’ll be challenged, and yes, she’ll grow from those experiences. She’ll face adversity and struggles, as well as wonderful things that also have nothing to do with me. But the best thing I can hope for my daughter is that she has a solid, confident start. That when she is the only one of our tribe in a room full of strangers, or up on stage, or walking into her first job interview, her mama is right there in her pocket, in her heart.
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