Julie Cole: The Baby Machine


When Someone Else's Mother Dies

How it launched my childhood separation anxiety

When I was a child, we had a neighbour who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was a mother of four and died at the age of 42, only slightly older than I am now.

While she was sick, I saw her kids (my little friends) take part in caregiving. One minute we were skipping outside, the next they had to go give their mother her meds. On hot summer nights, when all the houses on the court would have their windows wide open in hopes of catching a cross breeze, I could sometimes hear my sick neighbour crying. I never knew if she was crying in pain, crying because she knew she was dying, or because she would miss her kids when she was gone. I didn’t know her reasons for crying. There were so many.

My neighbour’s illness was difficult on me because it launched a period of separation anxiety from my mother that was probably the most stressful time of my life. My mom has good instincts and common sense so was able to be sympathetic, while also going through the long process of teaching me that I was, in fact, OK when she was not around.

When I entered into this parenting gig, I really didn’t want my kids to ever experience serious separation anxiety. Some friends suggested daycare as a great way to make kids resilient and independent. I gave it a short part-time go once - and we weren’t a great fit, me and daycare. When friends tell me about going on holidays and dropping babies or kids off at resort daycares – well, that’s enough to send me into a tailspin. I’m jealous of my friends who can do the resort daycare drop off then hit the beach or ski slopes. Mark my words – I know daycare is great for kids (even the holiday resort ones), but we all have our issues. Let me have mine.

So, within some of my comfort zone boundaries, I have done my best to prevent a repeat in separation anxiety history. I felt success when my three biggies were desperate to go to sleep-away camp last summer. They left for camp and never looked back. But, what goes around comes around and my Little Lady #3 is going through a longish phase of not wanting to stray too far from my side. When heading off for a conference recently, I had to fully strategize when and how I was going to tell her about my absence. My mother smiles and makes comments about apples not falling far from trees.

Were you a mama’s girl/boy? How has that affected your parenting? Are your kiddos leg clingers or do they tell you not to hit yourself with the door on the way out?