Personal Space for Moms

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 in Featured, Parenting | 4 comments

Personal space used to be a pretty big deal to me. In highschool, friends would tease me about how much an infringement of my personal space would bother me. I am all for cuddling, hand holding, that kind of thing, but otherwise, please, don’t touch me. Someone sitting just a little too close, bumping my arm, jostling my leg, walking too close, standing too close is just… Ugh. Overcrowded schools and all, I had two lab partners in chemistry and we had to squeeze at one table. It drove me crazy. One of my lab partners was a lefty and I’m a righty and our elbows always bumped as we wrote notes. My brother is a knee-bouncer; sitting next to him in the car drove me nuts.

And then I grew up and became a mom. {insert crazed laughter here}

Can you imagine the adjustment motherhood has been for me in the personal space department?

personal space for mom

Moms don’t get to have their own bodies. From conception, our little ones start sharing our bodies in a way that is equal parts annoying and magical. Then, wonder of wonders, they pass right through our bodies, out into the world and we begin the slow process of separation.

It doesn’t happen overnight. At first, there’s nursing. I’ve been nursing now for six years, minus a few months during each pregnancy. This means that day and night, someone is attached to me, sucking on me, crawling on me, sleeping on me, grabbing at me, sometimes even pinning me down or chasing me. (Don’t get me wrong – I love breastfeeding). Silas has also gotten to the play with his food stage: he pinches and squeezes the boob as he nurses, pulls the nipple out of his mouth, then lunges to re-latch. I know from past experience that this is coming too: sticking fingers up my nose or in my mouth repeatedly, trying to grab my tongue, while nursing. Thankfully, I’ve never allowed the nipple twiddling that most nurslings are famous for because I knew that would send me right up the wall.

And it doesn’t end with weaning. My older kids are always sitting on me, touching me, pinching me. They even try to move my arms or legs to suit their own purposes when I’m busy trying to do something (like sleep, or nurse their little brother).

But I’ll tell you a secret. For the most part, I don’t mind.

I remember my prenatal class instructor telling us about a woman who scooped up her newborn baby, covered in blood and vernix and began instinctively, to LICK him clean…like a cat. I think it’s worth mentioning that at the time I heard this story, 7 months pregnant with my first child, I thought it was bewilderingly outrageous, but now, after three kids, I kind of see where she was coming from (though, I must say I have never done it).

Because these little beings began their lives safely sheltered and cradled inside my own body, part of me views them as an extension of my own body. In my mind, I observe my interactions with Silas, the way I wrap my body around his, kissing armpits, blowing raspberries on soft belly skin, nibbling toes. I could eat him up. He’s delicious. He’s a cuddler and in the mornings, we often lay together entwined, mouths millimeters from cheeks, breathing together, feeling each other’s warmth. His neck rolls may smell like sour milk and he drools on me but I barely notice. I remember being the same with Rain and Noa. There is no too close with them. It often feels like we can’t be close enough, for long enough.

There’s another little surprise though. I feel that slowly shifting with Rain. He is six now and I can feel our personal space beginning to bubble between us. Sure, we still cuddle and hug and hold hands and kiss and fall asleep with our arms wrapped around each other, but now, when I lay down with him at bedtime, his breath in my face feels too close sometimes. Or his stinky feet and dirty toes gross me out when I trim his toe nails for him. I recoil when he squeezes my bare arm with slobbery fingers that seconds before were in his mouth as he chewed on them. The division between parent and child grows more distinct as he grows up.

Now, sometimes now, I want space again. I want a few minutes when no one is touching me. I am coming back to the personal after six years of intimately sharing my space with him. I feel myself walking that same journey slowly with Noa too and I know it will come with Silas.

How about you? Have you felt that shift happen between you and your kids? Have you ever licked your babies? And more importantly, do you ever feel like you go insane if one more person touches you?!?



  1. Yes, not quite, and absolutely! I understand exactly what you mean about the difference in personal space with our children versus with others, even with my husband, though that’s likely due to the “go insane if one more person touches me” phenomenon. I was just commenting to my husband the other day about how I feel like I can’t be close enough to Scarlet, our 5 month old. I hug her tight, I nibble her neck and sniff her baby skin and cover her in kisses and still can’t get enough of her. I wondered aloud to him if I would act differently if I didn’t nurse her. Is my continued feeling of physical connection fostered by her continued physical need of my body for nourishment? Does that simple biological connection for the purpose of sustenance make manifest this almost insatiable physical affection? I don’t know, but whatever it is, I love it.

    The shift toward separation is definitely occurring with Glynis, our 3 year old. There are moments, though, when I glimpse the baby she once was and the division dissolves. I suspect it will always be so, even when she has babies of her own.
    darlene┬┤s last post ..faux-chos

    • Yes! I often ask my 6 yo if he will still cuddle me when he is as old as daddy and he assures me that yes he will. I sure hope so! – though I’ll be glad not to have to wipe his bum and clip his toenails anymore by then ­čśë

  2. Oooh! Baby toes & ears! Always want to nibble them. And blow raspberries on those triple chins.

    But geez! When I had 4 small kids, sometimes I just didn’t want anyone touching me. And just DON’T come near my face or I’ll go ballistic.

    The bathroom. Ah! The bathroom. The only door in the house with a lock. I made a rule when I had some toddlers. (How many? Can’t remember, right now…) When I had to pee or have a 5 minute shower, I would lock the door. It was the only time I got my body to myself.

    Nobody had better bang on that door unless there was one of the three B’s: blood, bone or barf. (Don’t ask a kid if it’s an emergency. He/she will always say yes. Because he/she wants everything RIGHT NOW.)

    Now the kids are big, and they still like cuddles. (Except the 18 year old.) I feel guilty that I don’t cuddle my boy much. He was always super cuddly. But now he’s 14. And stinky. He’d get more hugs & cuddles if he bathed more.

    Two of my girls have become very clingy lately due to lots of recent changes in our lives. I’m happy we have a relationship where they still turn to me for comfort. I try very hard to be responsive. But I admit, I have to swallow my claustrophobia, and try not to panic when I can’t move my arms.

    What a tricky thing love is…
    Twitter: melaniemcintosh

  3. I didn’t know how big I was on personal space until I had children. That concept of a mother becoming “touched out” and having nothing left for her partner, wanting nobody to touch her for a while– that seemed bizarre. I find myself straddling the line. For me it’s more the burden of constantly hefting one body or another, tensing my muscles to keep from compromising theirs… that drains me. But you’re right- with every child I’ve adopted more of a difficult-to-phase stance with my parenting. The body fluids that I have to deal with- meh. They peed when they were in my womb, didn’t they? That WAS milk in my body just a little while ago, wasn’t it? An extension of my body.

    I have licked them. Nibbled them. Pulled up the hem of my shirt to wipe their noses when I had nothing else to use. They’re mine. I love them.
    Rebecka┬┤s last post ..353/365

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