A Protest Letter

“It is the tasks connected with the home that are the fundamental tasks of humanity. . . If the mother does not do her duty, there will either be no next generation, or a next generation that is worse than none at all.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States

Three times this week — and the week is not over yet — I found myself having the same discussion with three different groups of your mother and grandmothers generation. The conversation was on the ‘new generation of mummies’ and their relationship with their babies and toddlers. So what were the Cucu’s so upset about. It is the number of times one sees the maid being made to play the role that Mum should be playing, there are many roles in the child’s life that the maid can never fill.

I’m normally not one to ‘poke my nose’ into how other mothers decide to bring up their children –neither is this the article I’d planned on writing this week, but the complaints the Cucu’s had made me think that perhaps I should touch on this issue! The issue is the relationship between mother, maid and child. Mothers’ bonding with their babies just does not seem to be a priority anymore! So why is bonding — spending quality time spent with the child so important? Mothers have a great deal to do with each child’s health, education, personality, and emotional stability.

To appreciate just how important this responsibility of motherhood is, let’s really look at the definition of a mother. Add to that the importance of parental bonding and then see what experts warn about the dangers of emotionally distancing yourself from your baby.

A mother is warm, caring, nurturing. One who assists and cares for others, gives love and attention to her child. She feeds, sings, plays, rocks and changes them. So obviously then, a mother’s role is more than just giving birth to the child. That is why one writer observed: “She is the primary protector for each child’s health, education, intellect, personality, character, and emotional stability.”

Bonding is necessary to keep lines of communication open between mother and child, well into adulthood.

It is during bonding that one of a mother’s many functions that of educator of her children happen. A child’s first words and its pattern of speech are usually learned from its mother.That is the reason a person’s first language is often referred to as his mothertongue.

The bond between parent and baby grows stronger as they communicate. It is also during bonding the mother’s role of stimulating her child’s emotions happens. It has been established that during the first year or so, the infant forms an emotional attachment to an adult caregiver, and this article is encouraging this be mum and not the maid. When mum avails herself emotionally, the baby feeling securely bonded, relates better to others than do babies who do not enjoy the security of the parental bond. Such bonding with his mother, it is believed, needs to be in place by the time the child is three.

“When it comes to stimulating a child’s intelligence and curiosity, as well as developing creativity, a mother’s role is vital.” — Regional Summit on Children’s Rights, Burkina Faso, 1997.

What may happen if an infant is neglected during this critical period when his mind is highly susceptible to outside influence? Martha Farrell Erickson, who tracked 267 mothers and their children for over 20 years, expresses this opinion: “Neglect just slowly and persistently eats away at the child’s spirit until [the child] has little will to connect with others or explore the world.” So what can we do as mothers to prevent this from happening?

Children not given emotional stimulation tend to have lower than normal IQ’s and also low emotional intelligence because of physical and developmental impairments. Scientific studies do indicate that an emotionally enriching environment is vital for the young mind. Some physicians in Japan say there is an increase in the number of babies who neither cry nor smile.

Paediatrician Satoshi Yanagisawa calls them Silent Babies. Why do the babies stop expressing their emotions? Some doctors believe that the condition arises because babies are deprived of parental contact. The condition is called enforced helplessness. One theory suggests that when needs for communication is constantly ignored or misinterpreted, the infants eventually give up trying.

If a baby is not given proper stimulus at the right time, the part of his brain that makes him show empathy may not develop, suggests Dr. Bruce Perry, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital. In cases of profound emotional neglect, capacity to feel empathy may be irretrievably lost. Dr. Perry believes that in some cases substance abuse and adolescent violence can be linked to such early life experiences.

So what could be undermining the maternal instinct? I once read this:

“A MOTHER’S role has often been unappreciated and even belittled. A few decades ago, some people began to demean the role of caring for children. Their view was that it was less important than a career and was even a form of oppression. While most would find that attitude extreme, mothers are commonly made to feel that being a homemaker and caring for children is a second-class occupation. Some even feel that a woman needs a career outside the home in order to realise her full potential.”

Whatever the reason why you are may not be spending more time bonding with your child even when you are at home, I hope the article will encourage you to find and create opportunities to touch, stimulate, talk to, sing to, play with your child even more. He is a worthwhile investment!

By Jaen Kinyanjui.

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