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OUTLAW MOM: When Holding On is a Crime

By Becky Jackson

My alternative parenting choices have often elicited criticism and ridicule from the world outside my home. But the comment I hear most recently is the one that hits me right in the mother self-doubt department. It's the condescending "Sounds like you just don't want to let go."

It's an accusation I've heard before. And if holding on is a crime, then I'm guilty as charged. I confess, I have a long rap sheet of offenses. The letting go police are always on my heels, reading me my right to send my kids out into the world without me.

It all started several years ago when I was reprimanded for staying home with my daughter. Apparently, I broke some unwritten law of feminism when I declined to "let her go" to day care. But it wasn't an act of rebellion or possessiveness. My partner in crime and I just felt that it was only natural for our baby to be in her mother's care.

The second charge against me came during the same year. It was my first year of motherhood, and I was a suspect in an assisted crib break. It's true. I helped my baby escape from her crib jail and allowed her to hide out in our king size family bed. I even let two subsequent members of our gang use the same hideout, but I slumbered in fear of getting caught. It seems we were always covering our tracks and concealing evidence. When word got out that we were cosleepers, I was essentially tried and convicted by a jury of parenting peers.

I knew I had already sealed my fate when I went so far as to shun the preschool experience and keep my three and four-year-old at home. But the recent confession that I planned to homeschool my daughter instead of sending her to kindergarten, that was the last straw. Now I was a wanted mom. A well-meaning posse of family, friends, and acquaintances tried to convince me to change my ways.

"She can't stay home forever."

"Sounds like you just don't want to let go."

If they had been talking about a college kid, I might have surrendered to the attachment patrol. But who decided that the official time for letting go is five years of age?

I think this whole letting go philosophy is getting out of hand. It's a natural emotion to want to hold on to a baby, a toddler, or a young child. It even makes sense. At an age when my daughter can barely speak up for herself, let alone defend herself, my internal logic pleads with me to stick close by, to monitor the surroundings, and not to trust just anyone to take my place.

I'm advised to ignore that voice. I'm told that it's the voice of weakness, of irrational concern, and of my own selfish longings.

But am I to ignore the voices of my children too? The sound of a baby crying for her mama in the middle of the night? Or the voice of my oldest child saying she'd rather stay home with her family than go to school?

My daugher is not pulling away. She's not asking to be let go of. On the contrary, when given a choice, she'd rather go fishing with mom or dad than go to an amusement park with anyone else.

Call it emotion or logic or insecurity. Call it what you will. But my inner voice/my heart/my maternal instincts/the Holy Spirit doesn't say anything about letting go just yet. When it does, I will listen. When my daughter seems ready, I will send her out into the world on her own. But that time does not always come by the ripe old age of five.

I stand accused, but I stand by my convictions. I will continue to pour my heart and soul, my time and energy, my intelligence and creativity into nurturing my children. And if this kind of "holding on" is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

This article was first published on Suite101.com and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Copyright 2002 by Becky Jackson


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