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Motherhood and "being there"

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There’s a new-ish book out called Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood In The First Three Years Matters. Don’t get hung up on the title. The book isn’t necessarily claiming that motherhood doesn’t matter once a kid turns 4. No. Rather, they’re saying that the first three years are especially important, which we at Nightingales hope most people know. Here’s the crux of the idea:

“The more time a woman can devote to the joy and job of mothering a child in the first three years,” Komisar has said, “the better the chance her child will be emotionally secure and healthy throughout his life.”

Komisar is Erica Komisar, the veteran psychoanalyst who wrote the book.

There are some unbelievable stats Komisar has about what’s happening with motherhood these days. Consider:

For instance, Komisar writes, in just one year—from 2011 to 2012—the number of children “diagnosed with psychiatric disorders rose to a staggering 19 percent”—nearly a fifth of all children. And the number of kids hospitalized for eating disorders “has increased 119 percent in the last decade,” she notes.

There’s also this:

Komisar points to the shocking prediction of the U.S. Census from 2015: Approximately one fourth of all American kids “will be diagnosed with a mental disorder before the age of 18.”

Now, yes, mental health is a complex topic. It’s not entirely because of lack of mothering connection 0-3. But much research has shown that’s a big part of it in many situations.

Here’s where everything becomes problematic:

It’s not surprising that today’s mothers think their babies won’t miss them if they grab their briefcases and go back to a full-time job six weeks after giving birth. They believe what our culture taught them—that they can easily juggle career and motherhood; that babies thrive just as well in daycare as at home with their moms; that mothers and fathers are fungible; that when it comes to motherhood, it’s all about “quality time”—even if it comes at the end of a long workday when mothers are exhausted.

The issues Komisar brings up that become “controversial” to some are these issues, mostly around work-life balance.

Komisar is mostly saying that a lot of women have babies and don’t understand how much the babies need them. They almost just assume “Oh, I’m a mom now!” but think life will be similar in other respects.

That part is probably inaccurate. While obviously some moms go into it completely not knowing how much work it is, I think many have a general idea that it’s going to change their entire lives — for the better, largely.

The work part is fraught, and America hasn’t completely caught up there yet. And because something called “firm-size wage effect” may be holding down the male partner’s salary, many households need to be two-salary. But if the woman is back to work, 0-3 will be short of what Komisar is asking for in her book.

What’s your view? Should mothers be fully present in the early years? Or is it situational?

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