I just read an article about a new book that has people excited and happy, and some excited and upset!
The book’s author discusses the neurological importance of mothers being with their children, most critically, for the first three years of life. (Thank you for the head’s up Shanna!)
The book is, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, by Erica Komisar.
The Wall Street Journal article is mostly about the political reactions people are having to the science it reports and what it means for the conflict that many women feel about the demands of motherhood and the choice of simultaneously pursuing a career.
I would like to simply say that over a dozen years ago, I sat in a research class
and heard researchers report on the work they were doing then. One I remember in particular, was a project in which researchers were looking at stress responses in baby monkeys. Samples of the babies saliva were taken and tested for levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in different situations regarding the relationship between the mother and baby.
The scientists reported that monkey mothers who could calm and regulate their emotions, served as a calming and protective neurological and hormonal influence on their babies. When something in the environment was threatening or just new and unknown to the babies, the mothers would pull the babies close to them and the little monkeys stress response (measured by the level of cortisol in the saliva) calmed down quickly.
On the other hand, monkey mothers who had missed that calming influence in their infancy, did not instinctively know how to calm their babies and their own stress hormones were being kicked up in novel situations.
At the end of their presentation, the researchers were very careful to say that studies with monkeys can’t be generalized to human mothers and babies.
The memories of this conference were going through my mind as I read the WSJ article where Dr. Komisar reports on the cortisol levels in human babies and their response to their mothers. And now with human trials, it looks as if the mothers do serve as a central nervous system for their babies as they are developing.
The major take away, as I see it, particularly for anyone who is already committed to being at home with their children, is the fact that not only is it vital to be physically present for our children but emotionally well and present too.
Life is full of change and diverse situations that can try even the most stable parents! Mothers who are single or struggle financially, or experience any number of life changes can have increased loads of strain and stress. I don’t think it is realistic to think that any of us will always do right by our children in every situation. But the point here is to understand the why of doing our best to work things out to favor the healthy growth of our children. None of us are perfect, but having the ideal as a guide can help us to keep our priorities clearer and inform our most important decisions.
I remember an acquaintance whose husband announced that he was leaving the family and completely stunned her and their small children with his decision. She said she quickly felt grateful to have kept up her teaching certification current so that she could return to work to support her children, now as a single mother. She felt that being self-sufficient was the right thing to do. But when she prayed about the option of leaving her little people during the day, the prompting she felt was that she needed to accept assistance from her church and stay with her kids for the time being. As I read this article, I thought about her courageous decision to humble herself and follow the feeling that her children still needed her full attention, no matter how she thought others might perceive her choice.
We are all living with change and constant choices and no two situations are the same. Thankfully, we can pray for guidance and assistance when it comes to our biggest priorities and do our best to be available to our children because we understand that they need us.
If you need help in being present, not just physically, but also emotionally, don’t wait, find a way to get that help. Generations will be blessed for your efforts to be the healthiest version of yourself that you can possibly be. If you have kids, and you are struggling with your own emotional health, now is the time to get well!
It’s actually self-care that is vital to the functioning of your family. Absolutely vital.
If you think health coaching could be the support you need, please contact me! If you feel that a therapist is in order, please reach out to one today!
I’m cheering for your family’s success!