Canadian journalist Rebecca Eckler wrote a post about leaving her 10-week-old baby to go to Mexico and ignited a new debate.
Photo: Facebook/Rebecca Eckler
Earlier this week, Canadian journalist and author Rebecca Eckler posted a blog on Mommyish.com titled, "I'm Leaving My 10-Week-Old To Go On Vacation." And of course, the Internet divided into two camps: "How could she do such a thing? What about the NEEDS OF THE BABY?" and "Who cares?"
Good Morning America caught wind of this story and seems to have decided that the comments in the original post were worth delving into. And so, Eckler’s blog post became the perfect platform for this month's mommy war.
Full disclosure: I know Rebecca Eckler. I was her editor for years when she blogged at Sweetspot.ca, and through that experience we became friendly. Rebecca writes what she knows. She writes candidly (often provocatively) about being a privileged parent, which many of us can't relate to. With a daughter from a past relationship and an infant son from her new marriage, her story doesn’t offer a linear fairy tale and that's part of the interest. But the real draw is how she's always managed to extract drama while navel-gazing. She has a way of justifying her non-traditional decisions in a post, while simultaneously expressing guilt at the choice. And readers either love it or hate it. Regardless, they read it.
Whether you adore or detest her writing, I appreciate that she brings up subjects no one wants to talk about. She openly discusses her refusal to breastfeed, for example. And while, as a pro-breastfeeder I cringed when I first read that, as a feminist, I think a woman should have a right to choose who touches her body. Same goes for Eckler’s Chatelaine article defending her wish to have a C-section over a vaginal birth. Rebecca frequently gets us fired up about a subject that needs healthy debate.
The real issue here is that people are divided about whether a mom can leave her young baby for a few days and how that might affect the infant. If you watch the Good Morning America clip, Jennifer Ashton, the OB-GYN-mom on the panel, states there’s no medical information on whether Eckler’s actions might harm the baby in the long-term. “All we know is that babies’ developmental task is to bond with their caregiver and form trust that their needs will be met… no one can tell you how much a week away will jeopardize those tasks.”
The other mom on the panel, Jill Zarin of The Real Housewives of New York, mentions that many parents don’t have a choice. “I went back to work after six weeks … it’s a little bit hypocritical. If someone … the husband/wife had to go away for work after 10 weeks, you wouldn’t even be discussing it.” In the United States, where maternity leaves pale in comparison to Canadian and international ones, I have to side with the Housewife on this one.
So here we are. No one has a 100 percent definitive answer. Here’s what I think: 10 weeks into parenting, you’re very tired. The idea of sleeping in a bed uninterrupted and eating meals without someone needing you would be very tempting. Regardless of who you are, the idea of leaving your baby to take time for yourself would be gut-wrenching. Eckler’s experience is unattainable to most, but she shouldn’t be judged too harshly for it. She left her son in the care of his grandmother and nanny, both of whom we might assume have formed a loving bond with the child. She needed a break and was vocal about it. I honestly believe the anger of many of Rebecca Eckler’s commenters comes more from a place of not loving how she presented her story, rather than the story itself.
I wish more of us would speak up when we need to take some time for ourselves in those early days of parenting. Recharging your batteries makes you a better parent. I’m not suggesting that we all take week-long sojourns to the tropics when the going gets tough, but asking a trusted friend or family member to come by so you can grab a walk and a coffee by yourself – well, that’s just common sense. If we stop treating motherhood like a sport we have to excel at, I think we’d be happier. That age-old cliché is true: When mom’s happy, everyone’s happy.
At Today's Parent, we believe that parents need to make choices that work for their individual family. This wouldn’t have worked for my family — I would have sobbed into my margarita for six days and worried that I would die in a fiery plane crash as punishment for being the kind of mom that needs to go to an all-inclusive. But that’s for my therapist to judge. I did once leave my four-month-old with my mother for an evening to go see a Duran Duran concert, so I’ve got my own vices. Glass houses, stones and all that. Isn’t it time we just gave the judging a break?