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Can You Work and Still Bond with Your Child?

Mother and child

Can you properly bond with your baby and have a career?

If you’re a mom and have time to read things other than the back of the Infant Tylenol bottle, chances are you’ve caught wind of the recent heated debate over attachment parenting. Erica Jong opened up a can of worms in the Wall Street Journal last month with a piece asserting that women have essentially become prisoners to their children because of an unrealistic, round-the-clock style of parenting that’s doing more harm than good to the psyche of working moms who are literally unavailable to bond with their babies 24 hours a day.

In today’s “Science of Kids” column on Babble, Heather Turgeon moves the debate away from Jong, who said as a single mom, she simple had no choice but to grab bonding moments where she could fit them into her work schedule instead of tucking her daughter in her side pocket and taking her with her every day, and she essentially resented being told she was worse off for it. Instead, Turgeon put the focus back on the root of Jong’s issue, which is William and Martha Sears’ “The Baby Book,” but says the tome doesn’t actually assert that moms need be joined at the sling with their offspring in order for an attachment to form.

“Attachment parenting” is about expert advice and how it manifests into actions, while “attachment” is about how a child actually bonds and grows. Once you make that distinction, argues Turgeon, the focus is really on attachment and the various strategies for achieving it in your relationships. She also cites research that indicated that one way for parents to forge a healthy relationship is to try and see the feelings and point of view of their children, and recognizing when they’re doing okay on their own. “Being attuned to the cues for space are just as important as responding to the cues for our company,” writes Turgeon.

Children become attached when they feel secure and loved. While devoting every waking moment to them is one distinctive path, it’s not the only way to earn their trust and affection. Kids in daycare generally fare just as well as those who stay home instead. It’s about the quality of the interactions, not necessarily the quantity. And when the bond is formed, it doesn’t come unglued because you have to catch an earlier train the next morning to give a presentation downtown.

There’s also third side to this coin, which I’m all too familiar with moms like me who work from home avec enfant with little to no help. When I established this life for myself after my daughter was born a little over two years ago, I patted myself on the back. I thought I was brilliant for not stuffing my little girl into daycare while still maintaining and even furthering my career. But, of course, we’re all suffering as a result. My work is often hurried, my daughter’s best friends are Barney, BJ and Baby Bop, and I’m convinced there’s an ulcer the size of Texas is brewing somewhere inside me. And the reality is, my daughter adores our babysitter and makes a joyful beeline for other kids when she sees them, but at the end of the day, she still thinks I hung the moon, so I often wonder what the point of staying home has been.

What’s your take on attachment parenting? Do you feel guilty for being a working mom if it means you’re not cuddling your baby from sunrise to sunset and then sunrise again? Or do you think the end result is the same if you have to work and your children will recognize and feel your love even if you’re not there all day to whisper it in their ears?

Image: morgueFile

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