Attachment parenting through separation: It makes it a little better

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

(Ed note: Originally written for the carnival 2/2/11.)

I woke up in that cool, pre-dawn light today with my nose cold.  Austin is currently 18 degrees due to an arctic cold front.  I snuggled under my down comforter and stretched.  It'd been a rough night.  I'd woken up at 3, 4, 5, and now 6.  Hawk is sick.  Really, really sick.

It started two Sundays ago with swollen eyes and a pinkeye, ear-infection, and sinusitis diagnosis.  It was my week to have him and Rooster was in Kansas for a death in the family.  I parented solo, and happily; I was in total control of all his care.

This past weekend Hawk started out strong, but by Sunday he was clearly not doing well again.  Rooster returned to town and we did the switch.  Monday, I went to the house to see Hawk.  He looked like hell.  Rosy-cheeked, glassy-eyed, quiet.  Later that afternoon Rooster took Hawk back to the clinic and they diagnosed him with a slight infiltration of pneumonia in his right lung and now a double ear infection.

I was still hosting a friend of mine from out of town and as soon as I dropped her off at the airport I headed back to see Hawk.  Parting with him when he was so sick broke my heart.  I'm his mama.  I keep him safe and strong and well, right??  I stroke his hot cheek and tuck him in, get him his "cowd water," give him his medicine, keep track of his breathing and heart rate.  I am simply there.

But not any more.  Now I am a mile or two away, alone in my apartment texting every hour with his father.  I can't tell you how many times I've talked to Rooster about Hawk over the last few days and I'm grateful for that, but goddamn this is by far the worst feeling as a parent I've ever felt.  Not only is my baby sick (and really sick), but I am not there to comfort him.

If it wasn't for the simple bond that I've built with him through attachment parenting -- gentle, loving, and supportive -- I would lose my mother-lovin' mind right now.  Through all of this, this whole divorce/separation bullshit, I've relied heavily on my philosophies that being intuitive, meeting his needs, and believing in his strength will get us all through this.

Attachment parenting -- and the entire attachment theory in general -- posits that if you wholly meet the needs of a child they will survive when you are absent.  They will be ok.

I don't know... I feel like we're living proof that attachment parenting through separation works.  Hawk seems to have settled into his new routine a lot faster than other kids have.  Yeah, it's been hard, it's stressful, we all have our moments, but Rooster and I have learned to sink into the mild trauma of transitions and navigate them with little to no bumps along the way.  I can't speak highly enough of understanding developmental milestones and a child's cognitive abilities.  It's eye-opening and enlightening to say the least.

And this can be applied to any family, not just one who's cracked in two.  Any family can fall back on the tenets of gentle, natural parenting whenever there's a disturbance in the force, you know?  Any family can give their kid a break and look beyond the behavior to outside forces that might be causing it.

Yesterday Hawk spent the day with me so Rooster could work, but today Rooster is taking a sick day and I'll just go over to the house to relieve him for a few hours.  I'll get to be close to my baby and touch his soft cheeks and hold him close, and I'll get to fill my broken heart with his sweet baby love.

I cried a little this morning as I watched videos on my phone of Hawk dancing to Katy Perry and shouting, "Happy birthday!!" over and over.  He's so precious, so innocent.  Being apart from him is a special kind of hell that I have only had a month to get used to.  I know it'll get better, but damn...  I just thank my lucky stars that I've done it all the way I have so far.  I can't imagine my life without this connection.  It makes me feel lucky despite everything that's happening and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things's relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can't imagine parenting without her husband's sense of humor - he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can't imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs "me time" in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer's Daughter doesn't appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn't imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can't imagine parenting without her breasts; here's why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family's needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama's next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn't even know you needed (and probably don't…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn't survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it's afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren't things at all.
  • I'm No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without...Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can't imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it's not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn't easy at first, Knocked Up - Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can't live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What "stuff" does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at born.in.japan, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I'm a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship...and made life easier to boot.
  • It's Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can't imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin' Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us...
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter's perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles - come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that mother/child bond.


  1. Jessica, your strength overwhelms me, and someday, it will overwhelm your son. Right now though, it is sustaining him.

  2. Wow, this is so heartfelt and honest. Thank you for that. It sounds like you're doing an amazing job getting through this tough time, and the secure attachment with your son is evident in your words. Thank you again for sharing.

  3. This is heart-opening stuff. I'm sharing your story with a friend who is going through a similar situation as I think it will offer her hope and the feeling that she is not alone. You are so right on about the fact that the tenets of gentle, natural parenting can be applied to any family for support through the ups and downs that we all go through. Could you share the best resources you have found for gaining a greater 'understanding {of} developmental milestones and a child's cognitive abilities.'?

  4. How difficult it must be for you to be away from your son when he's sick. But how wonderful that you and your son have such a strong connection and foundation together from your time spent attachment parenting. Well done at giving both of you the strength to make it through hard times in the best possible way. Sending you lots of love and (((hugs))), Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  5. That must be tough! You sound very strong through it all, though, and your son is lucky to have such a committed, loving and ATTACHED mother! Thank you for sharing.

  6. This is an amazing post - so honest and heart felt as others have said. Thank you for sharing your strength and the strategies in your faith and connection that work for you. You're awesome and although you are struggling you are shining through with grace.

  7. I feel your pain! I left my son's father at the beginning of Dec. and moved and 8 hour drive away to be near my family. I had no "community" where I was living w/ my son (3yo) and his father.

    Needless to say, the distance is a killer when it comes to visitation w/ his dad, who of course wants equal time (yeah right!). We're still breastfeeding, too. I've kept it at no longer than a week - as I am afraid of the stress it's causing my little boy to be away from me for that long. He's never been away from me for more than 2 days before. And now this last time he was visiting daddy, he got the flu. It sucked so much to not be able to hold him and love him through it! And then to top it off, his dad has car trouble and we couldn't meet up to exchange our son when we were supposed to and it'll have been two weeks tomorrow when I finally pick him up...ugh! If I had my own car I would have driven the whole way to pick him up last week, but I've been borrowing my parents' and have already put so many miles on their car - it's 400+ round trip to meet his father half way. So...

    Boy, I sure rambled a bit there. Sorry about that! Just wanted to let you know you are not alone, and are so fortunate to be so close in distance to your son's father!

    You are doing an amazing job! Wishing you all the best in this difficult transition! :)

  8. i love the honesty with which you write, and I have to imagine that your honesty is part of what makes Hawk's journey through this as smooth as it is — that you don't kid him, but that you're there through it and with him, even when you're not physically present. I appreciate your perspective and wisdom, and I'm sorry for your sake that, like, 60% of the posts this carnival were on partners. Heh. It really sucks that you have to be apart from Hawk at all, and especially when he's sick. Thanks for sharing with us, and hope you continue to find your way through.