Sarah's Parenting Series: Will robots take over childcare, too?
How an endemic attention-deficiency crisis has influenced my parenting philosophy.
For those of you unfamiliar with the five love languages, they are: Touch, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Gifts, and Words. While most of us welcome any of these displays of care, each of us still has a highest frequency language in which we best receive and communicate love.
Many times the love languages are referred to in the context of a romantic or long term relationship, and serve as a tool for couples to better communicate with each other. Identifying what love language your partner speaks, and actively reminding yourself to notice when they’re using it, as well as an impetus to use it yourself, is a wonderful way to help decode often ignored signals of intended affection.
Touch is my numero uno love language.
Because it isn’t second nature to him, I remind my husband all the time, “You just need to hug me.”
What he tries to accomplish with words and advice is often most easily achieved with one of his incredible bear hugs. And touch is, likewise, how I show my love to him. When he’s tired, I love giving him a massage to show my appreciation and affection, which satiates both my language of Touch, and his language of Acts of Service.
But it goes for all relationships. When I don’t feel well, Kaya makes me drawings or poems, and brings me tea. I love her gift giving, and recognize it, along with Acts of Service, as her love language. When Kaya doesn’t feel well (even if, at the age of thirteen, she’s taller than most of my friends), I have her crawl into my lap, stroke her head, and wrap her in my arms like she’s a newborn.
And when my kind-of-still-a-newborn is wailing….I hold her. Rock her. Pat her. Sing to her. And if all of that fails, or if I don’t have the energy to try all of those things, I put her on my boob, where, more often than not, she will suckle contentedly into slumber.
If I gave you five minutes, you’d be able to find me at least thirty websites saying that’s not the right thing to do. Most of the time I have just enough in my tank to argue and debate all of their points, because I feel so deeply about the power of touch and creating a sense of security and safety with responsiveness and physical soothing.
But last week, I hit a wall, and as the sun came up, pleaded with my already up and about husband to please take the baby.
After another night of incessant suckling just to stay asleep, I was ALL.TOUCHED.OUT.
Was that even possible? Me, the bottomless pit of cuddles?
I pulled my shirt down, wrapped myself tightly in our comforter and tried to recharge the best I could in the fifteen minutes I’d bought myself, but my mind was racing. What does it mean when your numero uno love language goes mute?
It means, reasoned my rational mind, that you’ve overstepped your own boundaries. Your mental, emotional, and physical well-being have sounded off that bleating beep you hear in the elevator when one person too many attempts to hop on and take a ride.
Read: YOU’RE TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH, MAMA.
Between parenting the children, household chores, the startup business, the night job, the side hustle, and social/familial obligations, I know in my bones I’m trying to do too many things. My calendar looks like a rainbow threw up on it, with all the different color coded blocks that eat up every waking moment of every day. My husband keeps telling me to go get a haircut, and I keep running down a list of “more important things” that need to get done before that kind of a “luxury”—yet I am screaming inside for some pampering and TLC.
So here’s something about me that I’m trying to understand. I get really over the top obedient over rules and laws and signs saying things like “do not enter” but the second a blinking light tries to tell me I’m running dangerously low on fuel, I ignore it. I put on my “there’s no such thing as too much for my children” hat, and parade around righteously, when really all I want to do is curl into a ball on the floor and play dead.
Why do we try to override warnings when it comes to our health and wellness?
(Why does my uncle with gout still insist on eating tokwa?)
Is it an inherent stubbornness we all share? A pride, a denial of fallibility?
Are we, perhaps, programmed to push past limits and not accept them as truths in order to continue evolving and innovating?
Or is it a societal pressure? To feign a got-it-all-togetherness?
Has being raised Catholic made me believe that suffering and guilt are prerequisites for happiness?
Ugh. I could go on all day.
As a cheerleader for self-love and self-care (with conditions [but that’s for another article]), I would urge that people caring for children (and/or people with disabilities, long-term illness, the elderly) take the onus of defining boundaries entirely into their own hands, but find that is not realistic. Often, it is only when we’re completely depleted that we begin to think about boundaries, and by then, some sort of damage has already been done.
Preventative care versus rehabilitative care, verbalizing a need for support, creating environments in which asking for help can be joyful and not ridden with guilt or shame. Mental and emotional health conditions aren’t given as much credence as physical ailments in today’s times, but ought to. A conscious effort to fill our tanks is needed more than ever before, as the demands of life and pulling of attention increase as well. The villages we used to be raised in are shrinking, and our individual responsibilities, growing.
And so we try to train our babies to achieve autonomy younger and younger, teaching them not to be dependent on mommy or daddy, pages and pages of products available online to distract, soothe, replace human touch and presence.
One day, humanity is going to outsource childcare to robots.
I mean, I already have one to help me play ocean sounds to calm the baby, and another one to tell me if the humidity in the nursery is at undesirable levels. There are robots that read your baby’s heartbeat as they sleep, robots that entertain children when humans are unable to.
What’s my point?
I urge that we outsource all the other stuff. The rat race stuff. The keeping up with the Joneses stuff. The material success stuff. We have an energy and attention deficiency crisis on our hands, and when something’s gotta give, the first thing to be compromised is our health? Our emotional bonds, relationships, and time nurturing our children?
Not in this household.
Over my dead body.
I’m writing this as my husband naps with Juno. It might seem tiny to you, but it’s the first time in a long time I haven’t had her attached to me. Mama is taking initiative to preserve herself, so she can go back to showing love the way she knows how.
Because ain’t no robot out there gives cuddles like Mama can.