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Can You Work and Still Bond with Your Child?

By Meredith Carroll |

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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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Can You Work and Still Bond with Your Child?

  1. ALittleShort says:

    As a child of a working mom and dad, I prefer that sooooo much more. I learned to be self sufficient, and that can not be replaced. I was getting myself ready for school around age 7 and walking with my brothers to the bus stop around that time too. Oh and when the bus dropped me off back at home, I walked home then too, where me and my brothers would be alone for an hour or two before our parents made an appearance. Now all three of us are not living at home, we all pay our own rents, and are all self sufficient adults. And here is the kicker, we all three love each other and we love our parents, and they love us. And I know this because they tell us.
    The home schooled kids that grew up across the street from us…two are married, and one is divorced, and at one time or another, all three have had to back and live at home, yes even with their wives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against home schooling by any means, its just interesting that you have a stay at home mom who had three kids, and they have all come back home to live at one time or another.

  2. Leo's Mom says:

    The premise of this piece is idiotic. The answer is yes – duh! A dad is never asked this question. Common sense, people. Just love your kids and do your best.

  3. ALittleShort says:

    @Leo’s Mom: Well said.

  4. Meredith Carroll says:

    That’s an great perspective, @ALittleShort. Thanks for reading and sharing it.

  5. Rosana says:

    As a working mom I do not feel guilty for working. It is something I have to do for my family. The only time it kills me is when I have to wake them up to get them ready or when I have to pick them up because they are sick. At those times, I just wish I was staying at home with them so they could sleep until they want or I could take care of them as soon as they become sick. However, it conforts me that both are social butterflies. They love being with people in general, not only kids. Another sign that lets me know they are happy, is that they barely throw tantrums and I do not have to deal with the general problems other parents have to face. We can take them out to eat, to weddings, even on planes, without problems.

  6. Meredith Carroll says:

    Sounds like a good situation, Rosana. Thanks for posting.

  7. Linda, the original one says:

    DUH. @@.

  8. Liz says:

    I not only do not feel guilty for working, I feel proud that I’m working and going to graduate school (online). When I’m with my daughter, I am 100% with her, and she knows it. I think my hard work and education will serve as an example for her that a woman can have all the things she wants.

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