Say 'Bye Bye'

My 14 month old son, E, is soon finishing his time with his wonderful metapelet (caregiver), whom he's been with since he was 5 and 1/2 months old. She has truly been an extraordinary caretaker, constantly showering him with love and attention and generally "mothering" him, rather than just "babysitting" him. He smiles and gets excited when we approach her door and now he even smiles when we park the car near her house. M and I have remarked to each other numerous times about how happy we were to have found her.

I'm really going to be sad to finish with her at the end of the summer and I can tell she feels the same way. I've really appreciated the security of knowing I was bringing him each morning to someone who truly loved him in addition to simply having the mornings to do my work instead of smooshing it into naptime and bedtime. Basically, I loved being able to share my parenting duties with another mother.

I thought of this delicate and close relationship we have with the metapelet when I read this book review a few months back on The book is called Mothers and Others by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

These paragraphs in particular resonated with me:

In the course of writing "Mother Nature," [previous book] I realized there was no way that mothers in the Pleistocene could have reared their young without alloparental assistance. At that point, I had been working on the demographic implications of shared care, and how it meant that mothers could breed after shorter intervals and produce more young that were likely to survive. So I concluded that humans must have evolved as cooperative breeders. Although people had been thinking about various permutations of this hypothesis for a while -- it started out as "mothers must have had help from their mates," and then in the '90s people started to say that it was help from siblings or grandmothers -- "Mother Nature" was really the first book to come out and say it: We could not have evolved except as cooperative breeders.

... What I'm saying is that human mothers are unusual in how much support they need. I'm also trying to expand the concept of what children need to include other people as well as mothers. Mothers need a lot of social support, and having more than one caretaker is very, very useful. When parents are getting divorced and the father and the mother are fighting over custody, that's so selfish. There's no way a child can really have too many allomothers. Even if the mother is mad at the father, she should want him involved. Children develop best in secure social environments, and security includes turning to lots of different people and knowing they are there for you. And since daycare is here to stay, we need to think a lot harder about how to make it better by incorporating attachment theory, making it small-scale and having consistent and responsive caretakers. But these aren't brilliant points. These are just obvious.

An "allomother" is basically a child's caretaker other than a mother.

My three children have all been in some type of childcare since very young ages and I think they have all thrived and benefitted from from their relationships with their allomothers. I agree with Hrdy that the key to excellent childcare is "consistent and responsive caretakers" and I've been lucky so far in finding these kinds of caregivers.


Baila said...

When my oldest daughter was born we had a Russian woman care for her until she was two, when we moved out of Brooklyn. I sobbed like a baby saying good-bye to her, thinking we would never find such an amazing caregiver. Then we found Margaret, a woman from Barbados, who loved my children so much that she called them hers (in a good way, not a freakish, stalking way). We still call her and she plans on coming to Israel to see "her children".

My kids were lucky to have both these women help me raise them when they were young. Sometimes I wish they were still here to help with their pre-teen and teen years.

Post a Comment