If you’re taking a minute to read this with your baby safely nearby, odds are a sense of mom guilt might be creeping in. But wait! Before you put the phone down and rush toward your baby, let this clip from Jeannie Mai Jenkins’ show, Hello Hunnay, be a lesson in why it can sometimes be a good thing to step back (physically and/or metaphorically) from your child.
In the video, Jenkins stares straight-faced at her 1-year-old daughter, Monaco, who is sitting safely in her car seat. Dr. Cyndie Hatcher, MD, (AKA Dr. Cyndie), a pediatrician in Boston who Jenkins has worked with before, explains what happens as Monaco realizes her mom is not playing with her.
“She’s giving those playful cues like she did before. She’s kicking her feet, she’s smiling, she’s waiting for, ‘Hey mom, do what you did before. We were playing, right?'”
As Jenkins continues to not engage, baby Monaco — who is probably still relishing in the fun of being her mom’s adorable plus one to the Miss Universe pageant — starts to get agitated. You can see her face turn into a pout, and she makes a sad little coo.
Though we don’t see it in the video, Dr. Cyndie explains that once Jenkins started playing with Monaco again, the baby “joined back into that emotional connection.”
“Right back into it!” Jenkins agreed.
It’s as if that staring phase didn’t happen.
“And that’s what we call ‘repair,'” Dr. Cyndie said. “This is an example of everyday life. You are going to have to be unresponsive to your child at some point. You’ve got to respond to an email, you have to wash the dishes, you have to take care of another child.”
Those things are inevitable and necessary — no parent can have their full attention on their baby every minute — but what isn’t necessary, Dr. Cyndie says, is the mom guilt that so often comes with it.
“We know just from this experiment that when you repair, it’s almost as if that short period of not being responsive didn’t happen,” she said. “So we don’t have to feel bad for doing the things that we have to do.”
(Let’s state for the record here that this is assuming your baby is physically safe!)
The flip side to that, of course, is that long periods of not being responsive and not doing “the repair” can be detrimental to a child’s development. If a child is withdrawn from their caregiver for extended periods of time, they won’t learn to self-nurture and understand that the caregiver’s attention will return.
“They’ll have trust issues as adults,” Jenkins stage whispered.
“So, I’ve always thought I’m pretty good with being ‘present.’,” Jenkins captioned the post. “But it wasn’t until I became a mom that I really realized what being PRESENT meant…As a working mom, there are many times where I gotta tune out…And coming back, I feel the guilt every time I do. Monaco is teaching me what being ‘in the moment’ really means and how I can improve my human connection with everyone This experiment also taught me how I can make up the time with Monaco when mommy has to step away. Hope this helps Mommy’s out there.”
Ditto! If you’ve made it this far, we hope you can breathe a sigh of relief. And if you’ve made it this far into 2023 without a set new year’s resolution (no judgment, you’ve got a lot on your plate, mama!), perhaps you can take this as your sign to leave some of the mom guilt back in 2022. You wouldn’t be the only one. Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson told SheKnows she’s trying to do the same!
‘Life After Birth’ is a celebration of the postpartum experience — and through breathtaking photos and touching personal stories from parents, it sheds light on the entire spectrum of what that actually entails.
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