Mothers Have Needs Too!

Allison Gilbert, LMFT, Santa Cruz Counselor Lic: MFC 24087

The Job of Nurturing Children

As a student of psychology, I learned the difference between nature and nurture.  A child comes into this life with a certain temperament - that is his nature and how his personality shows itself.  Then there is another side to the formation of a child's personality and this side is in the hands of his parents.  The environment he is born into can have an effect on him.  The question is, what kind of environment does a child need?  I knew, as a therapist, that my children would need a specific type of nurturing environment, and that I would need to learn how to provide that for them.

I believe that nurturing a child is a job.  It's a job that we take on sometimes with no support and no guidance.  It's also a job many women do before morning coffee, running out the door for work, and then again later between dinnertime and bedtime.  I didn't think that I could do this job very well that way.  I knew my children deserved more than that and would do better in life knowing that I would be there for them during the years when they most needed me.  I didn't want to be focused on running off to another job.  I could always go back to my career, but I could never redo my children's early years.  So I made the commitment to stay home and get the support and guidance I needed to do the job well. 

Family and Home Network was one of the major supports I used to help me with the commitment that I made to my children. These ideas helped me to keep my commitments to my own children's needs.  Family and Home Network developed the workbook I use to pass these teachings onto other mothers through my 6 week workshop, "Motherhood: Nurturing the Work of Heart".  Scroll down and you'll find some of the teachings I received from Family and Home Network copied below the two fun links for kids.


Family Policy & Children's Needs

From Family & Home Network

For over two decades (1984-2006) Family and Home Network published the monthly journal Welcome Home, winner of several Parents' Choice awards for Excellence in Parenting Materials. Currently, the organization's work includes ongoing parent support, public policy analysis and advocacy, and is supported by membership donations. Back issues of Welcome Home as well as FAHN books and other materials are for sale online:

"Dr. Greenspan is one of our nation's leading child psychiatrists, and the author of many books about chldren's developmental and emotional growth.  In The Secure Child, he explains how children's sense of security is 'mostly founded on their relationships with their parents and family.'  He emphasizes that mothers and fathers must spend many hours a day with their children 'nuturing closeness and intimacy, exploring and accepting feelings, and setting examples of patience, tolerance, and cooperation."  © Cathy Myers, May '02 Welcome Home; article entitled, "A Book to Look For"

"Recent studies of the brain have underscored the critical importance of the emotional and physical environment to infants, and a child's irreplaceable ties to mother. As excited as we are about infant brain development, we must remember that it is the emotional development of the infant that forms the foundation upon which all later achievements are based... The infant's emotional security, the ability to feel safe and nurtured enough to begin to explore the world, is what's important. For the infant, a mother is the environment -- pre-natally and post-natally. As a society, we are uncomfortable accepting this -- but it is a biological fact. An infant is soothed by the mother's smell and voice. The warm mutual cocoon of security between the mother and the child allows and inspires the flowering of everything else in the child's personality. This is not an overstatement. Intellectual skills are more resilient and can be compensated for -- there is more plasticity. Emotional development is very difficult to compensate for later. An infant can recover from a deprived intellectual environment much easier than she can recover from emotional abandonment or neglect. It is critical that we protect the budding parent-child relationship." © From,"Pre to Three: Policy Implications of Child Brain Development" June 5, '97; Testimony by Diane Fisher, Ph.D., clinical psychologist  to Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families.

 "In the first three years, every child needs one or two primary caregivers who remain in a steady, intimate relationship with that child."
    "We can't expect the consistency and intimacy of ongoing love unless we've had that experience with someone in our lives…This basic feature of caring relationships between a baby and a caregiver who really knows her over the long haul is responsible for a surprisingly large number of vital mental capacities."
    "…we believe that in the first two years of life full-time daycare is a difficult context in which to provide the ongoing, nurturing care by one or a few caregivers that the child requires."  Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Stanley I Greenspan from their book, The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn and Flourish; quoted from Wholehearted Family Policies by Catherine H. Myers and Heidi L. Brennan

"A distinctive and creative new report, 'Hardwired To Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities,' …Released September 2003,…sponsored by the YMCA of the USA, Dartmouth Medical School and the Institute for American Values…[was]prepared by the Commission on Children at Risk: 33 prominent and innovative neuroscientists, children's doctors, and social scientists who study civil society, as well as youth service professionals.  In addition to acknowledging the litany of negative symptoms seen in children, the report places greater emphasis on how we as a society are thinking about these problems.  It claims that we are putting most of our problem-solving emphasis on medications, psychotherapies, and special programs for 'at risk' children, while ignoring a much larger problem: broad environmental conditions that are significant contributors to children's suffering today.  The report claims, 'In large measure, what's causing this crisis of American childhood is a lack of connectedness.  We mean two kinds of connectedness--close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning." Wholehearted Family Policies by Catherine H. Myers and Heidi L. Brennan; report can be found at

"Given the evidence that permanent emotional damage--deficient capacities for trust, empathy and affection--can be inflicted relatively easily during the very early years of life, CSPCC's [Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] concern is with ignorance of, or indifference to, the emotional needs of very young children.  CSPCC believes that most parents are willing and able to provide their infants and toddlers with the care they have been biologically programmed to need--when they receive the necessary support.  CSPCC is working toward higher status for parenting, greater support for parents with young children, increased emphasis on trust, empathy and affection in the world, and vastly improved preparation for parenthood. Wholehearted Family Policies by Catherine H. Myers and Heidi L. Brennan

"Public Agenda, a non-partisan, nonprofit opinion research and education organization founded in 1975…for their study on child care issues, Necessary Compromises (2000)…involved 815 parents who had children age 5 or under.  'For the vast majority of parents, having a parent home full-time is by far the best way to provide care for children 5 years and under…Parents also believe that children raised by a stay-at-home parent are more likely to learn strong values and considerate behavior than children in child care…Asked to say which is the 'best child care arrangement during a child's earliest years,' 70% said, 'to have one parent stay home…" Wholehearted Family Policies  by Catherine H. Myers and Heidi L. Brennan

US Bureau of Census 1999 reported that in 1975, 37% of married women with children under 6 years old were employed (it was undisclosed how many were employed and working outside or inside of the home and it is also unknown how many hours they were employed).  By 1998 that number increased to 64%.  In 1975, 31% of married women with children under the age of 2 years old were employed (again with parameters unknown) and by 1998 that number increased to 62%.  In 1997, of those mothers who were employed, 5 % of the preschoolers were being cared for by their mother at work and 95% were being cared for by someone else.

"Dr. Penelope Leach (1997) reported that, when asked what care they considered likely to be best from birth to 36 months, most infant mental health professionals privately believed that from the infant's point of view it is 'very important' for babies to have their mothers available to them 'through most of each 24 hours' for more than a year (mean age 15 months), and 'ideal' for infants to be cared for 'principally by their mothers' for durations averaging 27 months.  These were the opinions of the 450 respondents (from 56 countries) of the 902 members of the World Association for Infant Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, who answered a confidential, anonymous survey.  Leach concluded: 'Those findings suggest that there are many professionals in infant mental health who believe that children's best interests would be served by patterns of early child care diametrically opposed to those politicians promise, policy-makers aspire to provide and parents strive to find.'" © Peter S. Cook, MD psychiatrist, Oct. '04 Welcome Home; from the article entitled, "Feminism, Childcare, and Family Mental Health: Have Women Been Misled By Equality Feminism?"

"…Discriminatory Child and Dependent Care Credit is Enacted and Strengthened…By the early 1960s the 'women's liberation movement' came to mean more than equal opportunity.  It sought 'liberation' for women from the domestic sphere and the daily unpaid work of rearing children and nurturing home life…In the 1970's tax policy began to shift as an instrument in support of family income and parental care of children to a tool for supporting out-of-home childcare…Congress approved…a liberalization of income deductions to include child-care costs, labeling them 'business expenses.'  By 1976 this was replaced by a more generous Child and Dependent Care Credit.  Interestingly, according to family policy analyst Allan Carlson of the Howard Center and Family Research Council, this credit 'was seen by some tax experts in the IRS and relevant congressional committees as a way of indirectly taxing mothers at home." © Heidi Brennan, Feb. '04 Welcome Home; from the article entitled, "Framing Family Policy Debate: Child-Care Crisis or Family Tax Crisis?

"In The Whole Woman [Germaine Greer] says, 'In The Female Eunuch I argued that motherhood should not be treated as a substitute career: now I would argue that motherhood should be regarded as a genuine career option…'  She says the 'immense rewardingness of children is the best kept secret in the western world.'"  © Peter S. Cook, MD psychiatrist, Oct. '04 Welcome Home; from the article entitled, "Feminism, Childcare, and Family Mental Health: Have Women Been Misled By Equality Feminism?"

"Iris Krasnow, in her book Surrendering to Motherhood…describes her metamorphosis from high-achieving career woman to "militant mama," …A liberal feminist, Krasnow details her spiritual exploration of various New Age and other philosophies, finally rediscovering her Jewish roots as she surrenders to the enormous draw of her children, who also compete for her attention with her successful free-lance writing career... Yet, despite her happiness with these accomplishments, she tells us that the ultimate soul satisfaction comes in the absolutely mundane, unscheduled, and spontaneous engagements with her children. A talented writer, Krasnow is able to capture much of the joy and angst of motherhood in a way that can cause one to exclaim, "Yessss!" © Heidi Brennan, 1997;; "In Many Voices: Mothers and Families Challenge the Culture"

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