Letting Go Slowly
I’m Diane Moca, founder of MomSub, the app that delivers super affordable, trusted, neighborhood childcare through a community of moms helping moms.
I want to help you find more calm, confidence and clarity in your life by reducing your stress, mom guilt and self criticism through help and inspiration from others.
For many of us, the motherhood journey is constantly evolving, and it seems like just when we have it figured out, something changes or someone tells us we need to change. That can be jolting when we’re not ready to let go as our kids reach certain milestones from weaning a baby to giving a teenager the car keys.
One of the things that contributed to my stress was my tendency to be a helicopter parent. Now I think hovering has gotten a bad wrap. It isn’t all negative, especially when kids are very young, and our attentiveness to their needs helps them grow a healthy sense of confidence that the world is a safe place. When we welcome a baby into our life, it can help our own stress to hover around our little one and reassure ourselves they are okay and we are there for them -- whether it’s soothing them when they’re fussy or even just watching them breath in and out while sleeping in their crib.
But what about those times you have to pull away? I was so worried about how I was going to wean each of my babies, because I loved nursing them. I didn’t want to give up that awesome bond, but I also didn’t want to be nursing when they were 3 years old. Nothing wrong with that; I know a mom who did that. But it wasn’t for me. All that worrying was for nothing, because each of them started pushing away from me during that one nightly feeding I was hanging on to when they were about 14 months old. I tempered my sadness by remembering that I wanted to move to that next stage, but it wasn’t easy. You’re allowed to grieve something as simple as knowing you will not ever feed your baby from your body again.
It was much harder to cope with the next stage of getting them to fall asleep on their own. With my son, I kept rocking him to sleep in the chair where I nursed him, even after he stopped latching on. I finally realized as he was approaching 2 years old we couldn’t rock him to sleep for the rest of his life, so we took that next step to suddenly stop.
To this day I remember his nightly screams of “rocking chair, rocking chair” over and over coming through the baby monitor for what seemed like hours every night. One night we were about to give in, just like Jamie and Paul in “Mad About You,” and all of a sudden the crying stopped. He had fallen asleep without the rocking chair. I had let go. And I was so sad about it, that we had put him through that misery, even though all the books I read told me that it was good for his independence and self soothing skills that he learn to fall asleep without us.
One of those books that I always turned to whenever I felt like something I was doing wasn’t working anymore was “Touchpoints” by Berry Brazleton. Everytime I turned to this book, the next chapter exactly described the dilemma I was facing. It was a great resource for learning to let go during all different milestones in our parenting journey.
And there were a lot of them. My son ran into preschool on his first day without looking back. I didn’t even get a goodbye hug. My daughter cried and wouldn’t let go as I handed her off to the staff every day for a month. I put her in preschool a year younger than my son was when he entered. I always questioned if I signed her up too early.
But my kids didn’t go to daycare, and some moms have to face that transition when their children are young babies. That is a huge step in learning to let go. For some moms, it’s easy peazy. They do their research, find a daycare that they trust, and know that it’s a safe and nurturing place for their little ones while they work. For others, it’s excruciating. They hate that drop off and think about their kids all day long, feeling guilty they are away from them. Some have to work and others know themselves well enough to recognize they need to have their own interests away from family. But it doesn’t make it any easier. None of these feelings are wrong. They are different ways that we cope. Some of the moms who suffer the guilt may look at the moms who don’t and wonder why they can’t let it go.
Stop comparing. We all cope with these stages differently, and one of the best ways to get through it is to realize what works for you may be totally different than what the experts say, what your friends do, or how your partner reacts. I was just talking to my assistant Liz about how she is so much more understanding about calling out her child as sick when he needs a mental health day than I was, because I didn’t understand the impact anxiety could have on a kid. It was easy for me to let go of my nurturing when it came to education; I felt they were only too sick for school when they had a physical ailment. I’ve since learned that an emotional problem is just as valid of a reason to take a day off, and we’ll talk about that more in our discussion in a few minutes.
The point is that there is no right way or wrong way to let go. There are certain guidelines we should follow about leaving our kids home alone. We shouldn’t leave our 5 and 7 year old children alone in our home or a car. But what about a 10-year-old?
I just talked to a mom yesterday who is still nervous when she leaves her 11-year-old home to take care of himself and his 5-year-old sister for a few minutes while she runs to the store. She certainly won’t leave him longer than that, but she will learn to let go eventually.
My suggestion is not to let anyone else to convince you that you have to hurry up those milestones. Take those next steps when you are comfortable, even if that’s much later than your friends. Your true friends won’t judge you, and neither will our MomSub community. We are a no-judge zone!
I had to learn to trust my 11-year-old son to watch over his 9-year-old girl sister on a bus full of 8th grade boys when my two kids were invited to join a junior high chess team years before they even attended the school. It was because I taught them to play chess and encouraged them to find opportunities to compete at a higher level that they got on the team at all. But when I found out I couldn’t accompany my little girl, I was completely freaked out. I either had to learn to let go fast or renege on my promise to let her join the team. I spent a lot of nervous days wondering who was taking her to the bathroom during these junior high school chess tournaments, but I got through it and so did she. And the team earned 4 championships out of 5 years my daughter was on the team. Sorry to brag, but I still remember those days so fondly. So I am super glad I learned to let go enough, so she could experience those events.
I was aware of my tendency to be a helicopter parent, especially when my daughter wanted to go a mall with just her friends when she was 12. It made me too nervous, so I would stay in the mall and kind of tag along behind them without being noticed -- like I was a private investigator. Finally I realized this was silly, and I decided to research when others let their kids go to the mall alone. I ended up interviewing a host of other moms coping with the same issue and writing an article for Chicago Parent magazine on helicopter moms learning to back off.
After that experience of asking a lot of questions of other moms who had a similar parenting style that I did but had learned to adjust, I had a much easier time when my kids each got their driver’s license and were ready to drive by themselves and eventually even get their own car -- so they can leave whenever they want! Talk about scary! It wasn’t as bad as I thought, because I got comfortable with the fact that they were good drivers, and I had to accept that even though the world was full of bad drivers, my kids had learned enough techniques to avoid those dangers whenever possible.
And that’s what letting go is often about. Trusting your kids and trusting the rest of the world. If you view the world as generally a good place, it’s a little easier to let go. If you trust that you have been a good parent guiding them to good choices, it’s a little easier to back off.
If you trust the adults around your children, like the teachers and chaperones on school trips that take your kids to other states and even other countries, it’s easier to get excited with them as they plan for those events without being consumed by worry.
I still worry about my kids, even though they are 20 and 18 years old, but it’s different as they hit different stages. When they become an adult, that is the ultimate test of letting go, or so I thought. Because my daughter has been struggling with mental illness and attempted suicide, I have been overly consumed for her safety checking her phone location and walking in when she’s sleeping to watch her breath, just like I did when she was a baby. I will learn to back off as she continues on her road to recovery. It’s a slow process, and that’s okay.
That’s why we understand here at MomSub that it takes some time to trust others to watch your children. Joining MomSub to find another mom in your community to watch or drive your kids is the same as researching childcare options or dropping them off for a playdate. That’s why we verify the identity of all of our MomSub members and have designed the app to do background checks on all of them -- something that SitterCity and Care.com do not do with the nannies on their site. Many people are surprised by that, so we are going a step further to ensure that you can let go without worry.
Visit us at https://www.momsub.com/