Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cluck, cluck...

As I mentioned here I went to Rome last week. It was the first time I left my children, let’s just say it was a learning experience. Really, you learn a lot about yourself when you do something new. I learned a few things about what kind of mother I am. In Italian I’ve often been called a “mamma chioccia” a mother hen. It’s not as common in English (or rather, I never really heard it used), but in Italian it describes a mother who is always around her children, always paying attention to them, on top of them. It’s generally used in a pejorative manner. In a country infamous for it’s mama’s boys and the overbearing mother figure it says a lot about me, or what people think of me.

On my end though, I’ve never thought of myself as an overbearing mother, I let them experience a variety of things, I’ve given them some freedom – though they’re one and a half and three and a half years old how much freedom do they even need? I send them to daycare in the mornings because organizing play dates here is ridiculously difficult and I feel they need to be with other children their age at least some of the time so it’s not like they’re under my protective wing 24/7; although, even if they were, I see nothing wrong with it considering their age. I’ve travelled with them, I’ve upended their routine when necessary, I’ve let them fall and fight and get their scrapes and bruises. Of course I’ve cringed and held my breath and forcibly kept myself from intervening at times, but I assume that’s only natural.
So I never thought of myself as a mother hen, because I never agreed with the negative undertone, I love them, I do my best with them, why should this be bad?

When I left last week I was comfortable that they would be taken care of. The Nanny knows and loves them, and is perfectly aware of and comfortable with their routine, the husband was there to oversee any problems so I left knowing that they were going to be fine.

And yet… I realize what I’m about to say may sound ridiculous to some, but I’m hoping someone, somewhere will understand. You know that feeling like you forgot something important, something vital and your heart starts pounding as you think “oh, shit, where did I put it?” that’s what I felt like the entire time I was gone. It physically hurt to be away from them. I kept looking for them, even though I knew they weren’t there.

I spent two days listening to people tell me to lighten up, that the kids were fine, that I should enjoy my “freedom”, and I did, in a way. Obviously, it was much easier getting everything done, zipping around Rome, in and out of taxis no car seats or strollers to speak of, no diaper bags, juice boxes, crackers or sippy cups of water, no unscheduled, urgent bathroom breaks, no tantrums, no 1,461 whys a minute… all of this felt wonderful of course. Being able to sit in a bar and talk to my sister for an hour, no interruptions, have a drink with no guilt, smoke a rare cigarette, all blissful. I almost felt like an adult free to mingle amongst other adults! I went out to dinner, no worries, not checking the phone every five minutes expecting something to come up to make me go home, I slept all night with no calls for water, binkys, milk or kisses…

No kisses…
I hate and love their neediness. I often think back wistfully to the freedom I’ve lost, but the attachment I feel for them, my own neediness towards them is too strong. The constant, unyielding ache of the distance from them just doesn’t make it worth it.
I guess I still need to sever that umbilical cord but it’s too soon for me. I’m the one with separation anxiety when we’re apart, they miss me, sure, but they’re children they’re supposed to, they’re allowed to, for some reason people think it strange when I express how much I miss them. 

So I guess I am a mother hen… but I refuse to accept the negative undertone.
My children are healthy and happy and I’m happier with them than without them so I guess that if I end up raising a mama’s boy and girl then I’ll just pay for their therapy later. And I won’t apologize for it.


  1. I don't think you're at all crazy to miss your kids when they're gone, especially when it's longer than a day or so. I think in the States, the "mother hen" thing is referred to as "helicopter parents"; always hovering. I think the fact you weren't checking your phone every few minutes and weren't freaking out about them shows you're not really a mother hen (in the pejorative sense).

    A few thoughts do occur to me (and please don't take this as criticism, or even advice - I don't have an opinion one way or the other about this, I'm just putting thoughts out there). Upon reading this post, your words reminded me of something my husband's mother once said to me, and it was something like, "Having children is one long process of preparing for your child to leave you." To me, that sounds like it's not just about preparing children to stand on their own, but also about preparing yourself. So maybe it's not just about the end result being a "mama's boy" or whether your child will need therapy, but maybe it's also important for you to not, as you say, let the neediness for them get too strong. Of course, they're young yet so this isn't something you need to worry about immediately, I don't think. But maybe it's important not to let an emotional hole develop inside yourself where you NEED the children to fill it. Maybe it's important to maintain a strong sense of your own identity so the ache isn't so bad when they go. Anyway, it's just a thought. I'm not sure if it makes sense to you. Hope it helps though!

  2. I think all parents do what they think best for their kids, so who are we to judge, even if we have a different opinion? What I can say is I physically hurt when I am away from my little ones and I always think I see them running around from the corners of my eyes in situations where they would normally be with me (not in the office for example). Does that happen to you too?

  3. I understand. But it's good for all of you. When I leave the Minis it's a mixture of relief and panic. I'm always afraid something will happen to them if I'm not there. Which is hilarious considering how much time I'm not with them. But just being 5 minutes away is different than 3 hours. But I hope you had fun!!

  4. I feel this way when I am away from the kids. I'm usually good for 3 days, then I'm ready to come home. I guess I'm a mother hen too, in hiding;)

  5. It makes perfect sense, and thanks for writing it. It's true, as parents we do need to prepare ourselves for our children to leave us just as much as we need to prepare them. Sigh. Thankfully, as you said, I don't need to worry about it yet!

  6. I did have fun, my mind just wasn't simply free enough to enjoy it fully. But it's true, I can be gone all day for work and not miss them the same way because I'm close by, knowing I can get in the car and see them in fifteen minutes makes it easier. Also, there's no guilt factor, if I'm working I can't be with them but it's not like I'm out having fun without them. 
    It's times like these that I realize how twisted my mind is!

  7. I'm thinking three days is the bare minimum amount of time you need to recuperate what with all the twins in your house. You're perfectly justified! Oh, and sorry I made you out your mother hen-ness!

  8. Alcira Molina-AliJune 24, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    This cluck-clucking is surely a very good sign of your love and devotion.
    I would've probably been fine for a day or two -- I crave being a grown up more than ever these days -- but then the kiddo jones would've begun. 
    hugs, Alcira

  9. So one does build resistance as they age? Good to know!