Did you think separation anxiety only happens to children? Surprisingly, it can happen to adults too. You won’t realize this until you have a baby of your own and have to go back to work. Many women told me that maternal separation anxiety is quite difficult. But, I was a fool for denying it would ever happen to me.
I remember dropping off my son at daycare for the first time and being asked if I was going to cry. I confidently said no, kissed my son, and left him in good hands. After arriving at work, my mind began racing: will they forget to take him out of the car seat? Why didn’t I tell them he isn’t good at tummy time? They wouldn’t feed him solids without my permission, right? I picked up my phone and called them right away informing them of everything I could remember. The teacher laughed. I laughed too but as soon as I ended the call, I couldn’t hold my tears back.
If you are feeling anxious, I am here to help you! Here is everything you need to know about maternal separation anxiety including 10 tips to overcome it.
What is maternal separation anxiety?
Maternal separation anxiety refers to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and worry that mothers experience when they are separated from their babies for short periods of time. Many mothers are aware that children feel anxiety when separated from them. But, they are unaware of the fact that it can also happen to them.
What causes maternal separation anxiety?
Maternal separation anxiety is triggered by
- Fear that your child will no longer need you
- Having problems with anxiety or depression in the past
- Birth trauma
- Postpartum Depression
- Thinking that your child may get hurt
What are the symptoms of maternal separation anxiety?
Some mothers barely show symptoms, while others show a high percentage of the following symptoms.
- Feelings of Worry, Guilt, and Anxiety
- Inability to Focus
- Heart Palpitation
- Catastrophic Thinking
- Shortness of Breath
Should I feel bad for feeling maternal separation anxiety?
NO! Many women have these feelings and you should never feel ashamed. It is quite normal to feel attached, and maternal separation anxiety can be managed by following a few positive steps.
What would happen if I don’t do anything about it?
Without treating major symptoms, you may begin showing these feelings to your children and create an unhealthy attachment to them. This can also cause depression. So, seeking help and treating it is very important.
Ten Tips To Overcome Maternal Separation Anxiety
1) Recognize the Feelings of Maternal Separation Anxiety
Many women usually feel odd or feel like something is off. They might think it is postpartum depression, but feelings of maternal separation anxiety are quite different. It feels like you are constantly worried and you begin thinking about the worst things that can happen to your child. According to the Mayo Clinic, almost 90% of new moms are worried about their babies. Recognizing these feelings and admitting that you have maternal separation anxiety is the first step to treating it.
2) Talk About It
You are not alone! Many mothers have maternal separation anxiety, and they will be open to sharing their feelings if you do first. Talking can help you feel like you are not the only one who is feeling this way. You may learn techniques from other moms on how to deal with it.
Remember, it is very important not to show these feelings to your child. This may cause the child to have separation anxiety too which will cause things to become much harder.
3) Address Your Fears
Maternal separation anxiety can be caused by fears like being afraid that your child will forget you. It is important to realize that your children will never forget you as long as you are present in their lives. Also, it is healthy for them to bond with other people. If you do have catastrophic thoughts, remember that your child has you and others who will protect them.
4) Do Your Research
If you need to be separated from your child, make sure you leave them with someone you trust. I left my son with teachers who I have personally worked with. So, I know who they are and that they were great at what they do. Leave your child at a reliable daycare or with a reliable person. This will ease some of the stress and worry. Check out this post on 8 Warnings Signs That You Hired a Bad Babysitter.
5) Keep Your Mind Occupied
If you can’t stop thinking about your child, get busy. I used to call my son’s daycare three times a day just to make sure he is okay. Realizing that this was too much, I kept myself busy at work. Whenever I was worried, I would walk up to a teacher or a student and start talking. You can do the same, and trust me it will help you out.
6) Spend Time With Your Child
Family quality time is important. When you get home, spend time with your child. This will remind your child of the strong bond between you both. Also, it will remove the guilt you feel for leaving your child. Spending quality time would help create a positive relationship and remind you that you both will be okay.
7) Start Slow
You should not leave your child for long periods of time suddenly. Ease into it. This will help you and your child cope. For example, go to the grocery store without your child first. See how you do. For the first weeks of childcare, spend time with your child at daycare first. Then leave them for longer periods of time.
8) Adapt / Change Things You Can
Don’t hesitate to change your schedule a bit. You can ask your employer to let you leave early to see your child or to work part-time. Pick your child up from daycare whenever you feel overwhelmed and in the beginning when you are both coping. You can ask the daycare or your child’s caregiver to send a few pictures of your child.
9) Seek Professional Help
There is nothing wrong with asking for professional help. If you believe none of the previous steps can help you, then seeking therapy is a step towards treatment. They may teach you how to relax, meditate and overcome these feelings.
Medications to help ease these feelings can be given to you. They will help you with anxiety and worry. But, please ask your doctor before using any type of medication.
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