Nine years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I had every expectation of being the chill, relaxed, easy going mom. The mom who had no issues leaving her baby with family, and running out the door, relishing in a few hours of freedom. But like many things in parenthood, the appearance of the invisible baby leash came completely unexpected. From the moment his tiny little body was placed in my arms, the thought of trusting any other human to take care of him completely vanished from my brain.
The invisible baby leash kept me completely tethered to him.
Which surprised everyone, especially me. I grew up with a working mom, during the 90’s. Basically a time where a “good” babysitter was a random 14 year old, referred by your neighbor, who smoked cigarettes on the patio with the boyfriend she snuck over. Why were these reckless, pubescent girls considered the gold standard? Because they were always available. They knew how to braid my hair. They were cheap. And at the end of the night, when my parents returned home, my sister and I were both alive and the house was intact.
I was never an overly maternal human being, so it shocked EVERYONE when I suddenly could not bear the thought of being more than 15 feet away from my little baby. Unless he was in the custody of my husband. The leash was incredibly short. We left my son for 90 minutes with my grandmother one time when he was 9 months old. It took me 9 months to leave him with my completely doting, sweeter than pie, grandmother. She couldn’t wait to have him alone without my overbearing anxiety hovering around.
My husband and I saw a movie. We went to a theater less than 3 miles away. Left minutes before the movie started. And promptly ran to our car in the parking lot as soon as the end of the movie looked inevitable. The leash had lengthened. But only a very little bit. And this was something I fought with internally, for months.
I felt like I should be ok leaving my baby in the care of trusted adults. Especially ones who had cared for me without any sort of blemish on their perfect babysitting records.
But I just couldn’t. I worried about everything. His safety. His happiness. His milk and egg allergies. His possible confusion at my sudden absence. All of it just gnawed at me. (I recognize now that some of this was postpartum anxiety). But for the first year or so of his life, I really thought I would never, ever be rid of the baby leash. I thought that for the next 18 years, I would be unable to untether myself. So I pushed myself to leave him with people I could trust before I was really ready. Which only caused me even more anxiety.
When I found out I was pregnant this time around, I promised myself I wouldn’t force the issue. If it took me a month or a year to feel comfortable, I wasn’t going to leave my baby with anyone until I felt truly ready. Because this time, I had hindsight and perspective in my I knew that right around the time my son started communicating with me, I suddenly felt like he could fend for himself a little bit more.
He could ask for a banana if he was hungry. He could request a FaceTime with me if he missed me. He had a stuffed animal that he loved and went everywhere with him. And he was generally happy with anyone who gave him any sort of attention.
Thankfully, I work from home, and we’ve found a great nanny who comes to our house so I can keep a close eye on my daughter. I usually go to CrossFit while she naps and the nanny makes sure the house doesn’t catch on fire, and keeps an eye on the baby monitor. But for now, that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
So this time around, when my husband asked if I thought the nanny could hang out at the house after Lila went to bed so that we could take our son to the rodeo, I didn’t have any guilt or hesitate to say “I’m not ready for that.” Because now I know, some day I will be.
Some day I will trust someone enough to protect my girl, and care for her in my absence.
Some day I will walk out the door, not worried about naps or the temperature of a bottle.
Some day I will leave, knowing that she’s going to eat too much popcorn and stay up a little past her bedtime, but that she will have the best time with grandpa and her big brother.
But that day isn’t today. And it’s probably not tomorrow. And even if it’s not for several months or another year, I know it’s coming.
So I know it isn’t something I need to force. Like everything else, the baby leash is temporary.
And for now, the baby leash is firmly intact. Which is just fine with us.