Working Mama Mondays: Ouch

I didn’t intend on publishing a Working Mama Mondays post today but after this afternoon I felt I should.

Today I experienced that which all working mom’s hope they won’t experience but probably will.

Today my daughter cried and writhed and yelled when my sister-in-law left. And then she hit and scratched at my face in anger.

Today my daughter basically communicated to me that she wants my SIL instead of me. Or at least in that moment she did.

I guess I knew it could happen but truly I didn’t really think it would. I suppose I thought she was too young to express those things. Honestly, I didn’t worry too much about it because I didn’t think my daughter would actually prefer my SIL over me. I knew they were close, I was thankful that they got along so well, but I always assumed she’d prefer me over her. I mean, I am her mother. I sincerely thought that at almost one years old, I would remain my daughter’s everything. Now I’m quite sure that I’m not.

A few weeks ago I would have assumed it was just a random outburst. Today I’m convinced it was a sincere expression of my daughter’s feelings.

In the past weeks I’ve learned that my daughter is capable of much more, emotionally and physically, than I gave her credit for. Lately I’ve spent more time observing her and am cognizant of how much she sees and understands. I recognize what her reactions mean and I’m more in tuned with what she’s trying to “tell me”.

Today she was trying to tell me that she was sad her Tía was leaving (tía means “aunt” in Spanish and it’s the word we use for Isa’s true aunts – my sister and my SIL) and she felt compelled to take it out on me. I know that the hard smacks to my face and the violent squeezing of my cheeks and mouth were not random physical acts but purposeful communications of anger and disappointment.

My daughter wanted, at that moment, her Tía more than she wanted me. To say it was devastating would be a severe understatement.

I have to admit, I spent a few moments wallowing in the painful injustice of it all. I writhed against the unfairness of having to work and being forced away from my daughter all day. I sadly reminded myself that it was good for my daughter to have a deep connection with her care taker, who loves her very much not just as a nanny but as an aunt. I gave myself a second to not give a shit about whether or not it was okay, screaming in my head that it just plain sucked. And then I stopped all the back and forth and I took responsibility for my emotions. I did so begrudgingly at first and then with a quiet measure of acceptance.

It hurts for my daughter to want her Tía over me. I can accept that without trying to run from it. I am accepting that right now, as I type this. And I know my daughter loves me and I know I will always be her mother. I know that my head can and will assure me that everything is going to be alright and that my heart will fail miserably at hearing this. I know this and I will accept it.

And I will accept that this sucks and take responsibility for the way it makes me feel.

Oh my. I’m glad today was a Mindful Working Mama Monday, otherwise I’d be in some deep emotional dog doo.

26 responses

    • Thanks. It was a difficult situation but I suppose it comes with the territory. It’s like when you get home from being away and you want your kids to have had fun but do you want them to have had more fun than when you’re there? I don’t know. These are difficult questions indeed.

  1. One reason I am so scared of going back to work. I left D with my MIL for a couple of days and went for a college reunion. I got similar welcome and it tore me apart for a few hours. Sigh….But this is a part of being a Working mama…Sooner then later I will be workinf fulltime, and face this very situation. 😦

    • If that happened to me after I was gone for a long time I’d freak out! Having said that I’m going away for two weekends in a row this summer and I want Isa to be happy while I’m away. There is a part of me that recognizes I’m almost as scared that she’ll be totally fine without me as I am that she’ll miss me and be unhappy while I’m away. Motherhood is a very selfless thing, and I’m not so great at being selfless. I have a lot to learn I suppose.

  2. I am so sorry that happened. It happened to me whenever my MIL would visit for a few short hours when they were one: my daughter would scream for her when she left. It’s a painful feeling. I would try to convince myself how important it is that she have other relations, but it really just hurt my feelings. I have seen you two together and I know she thinks you are her world. Hugs.

    • It is important for them to have other relationships and as I wrote to Tara, I’m glad that I can leave Isa with someone and know she will be happy, whether I’m at work or visiting friends up north 😉 ! That is a gift in and of itself. Still, can’t she just have fun while I’m away but still always be SUPER psyched to see me!? Is that too much to ask! Probably….

  3. Ugh, that does suck. In all honesty, I wish this would happen to me. The boys are so rarely without me that I’ve only had this happen twice that I can remember and both times it was right before I returned, not when I left (they missed me and wanted me back). Not that I want them to want someone more than me, but I want them to know that there are other people out there (their Dad for one) that can take care of them as well as I can and who love them as much.

    • When I first read the beginning of your comment I was like, WHAT!? No you don’t wish it would happen to you! but then I kept reading and I was like, oh yeah, I see where she is coming from. Isa has always been really good with others, taking a bottle at a young age and spending hours with my in-laws when I was finishing grad school right after she was born. I remember feeling immense gratitude for that because I felt a certain sense of freedom that I needed at the time. I still need that and it would be really hard if Isa only wanted me all the time. So I don understand where you’re coming from. I hope the boys become more comfortable with their Dad and with others so you can have some time for yourself.

  4. i was fired once as a babysitter (in my teens) for creating too deep a connection with one of the kids… I never blamed the mom – I think she was right

    just remember that in the end, you’re her mom and she will love you more than anything, whether you can spend all your time with her or now

    • Wow, that is really intense. I created some pretty deep connections with the kids I babysat for but I was never fired. Maybe I didn’t have a relationship with them like you did with your babysitting kids. I’m sorry that happened but I’m glad you understood why the mom did that. Still, it seems really intense to me. And I will remember that I’m her mom. Even now, as a 31 year old in a wonderful relationship, my mom is still my mom and I still respond differently to her than to anyone else.

  5. I remember this with our son … it was awful. I thought, too, about how teachers would wind up spending more time with him than I would. But someone pointed out to me that throughout his life, I will be the constant … other caregivers will come and go, but I will be the one he calls for in the middle of the night when he has a nightmare, the one he runs to when he’s fallen and hurt himself, the one he wants to share his triumph with when he does something amazing. Isa knows that you are that person, too. 🙂

    • I had never thought about how elementary teachers would spend more time with my kids than I would! But you’re right, that you will be their constant, always and that that is separates you from all the people who come and go in their lives. Next year my FIL will watch Isa in the mornings and I wonder if she’ll be mad when I pick her up. I’m sure some days she will be. But next year, when I’m working full time, I will see her as much as she’ll see her grandfather (more even) and so I’ll feel better about that. Right now she sees her tía way more than she sees me. And she and her tía get along famously, which I love, but which can be hard too. Thanks for this reminder, it really helps.

  6. Hey,

    I just wanted to say that in Dr Brazelton’s book, I think it is “Infants and Mothers”, he talks about this. He says it happens because the child feels fully comfortable with the mother, and all the day’s frustrations can be released when the mother is finally there to provide real emotional support. It isn’t because the child doesn’t love the mother, but because the mother allows the child full expression of all feelings. If I find the passage I’ll type it out in another comment. But anyway, from what I understand this phenomenon is simply the opposite of how it seems.

    • Thank you or writing this. I have read something similar and was thinking about it last night. I’m pretty sure that last night my daughter was upset that my SIL was leaving, but as my partner reminded me, she freaks out when you take anything from her. She’s basically at the stage where she knows what she wants and gets mad when she can’t have it. I think what you’re talking about comes into play with how she responded to her frustrating. With me she doesn’t bottle it up but expresses it out right. I do think you’re right though (or Brazelton is right) that she feels more comfortable expressing frustration and other negative emotions with me than with others, and it would serve me well to remember that.

  7. I have been struggling with this for well over a year now. On the totem pole of priority, I fall pretty low, as the mama.

    First it’s my husband, than it’s Nugget’s cousins, then my sister who is his care provider, then the dogs and than finally me before anyeone else.

    It hurts. Everyone keeps telling me it’s a phase and his “person-of-choice” will constantly change. I hasn’t. As a full-time working mama, it hurts daily.

    • Wow, that would be really, really hard. What does he do that makes you feel like you are on the bottom of his totem pole? Maybe he takes you for granted because he knows you will always be there, that you are his mom and he doesn’t have to treat you well to get love in return? I hope that it does change soon, because that sounds like it would be really hard.

  8. ouch is right. 😦
    but great way to put it in perspective! I remember crying when my babysitter would leave when i was a kid…but trust me, i still loved my mommy best!

    • Thanks for giving me that perspective. I never really had babysitters as a kid (not that I remember) so I don’t know how it feels to be in the kid position on this one. But hearing you say that actually means a lot. Thanks!

  9. I can understand that this must have been painful for you but my reaction is similar to Tara’s. You are lucky to have other people in Isa’s life who can she feels so close to. You are her mother and will be front and center for the long haul but it’s important (and often difficult for both mother and child) to make sure that you can also step back and allow room for others.

    ps. It’s Carlita. I am trying out my new blogging pants!

    • Oh, so excited to see your new blog! I’ll shall be over there commenting shortly and you will be added to my reader! Whoo hoo! I totally understand that it’s healthy or my daughter to have close relationships with others. I think it’s a very good thing that she has such a great relationship with my sister in law. I do. It’s just hard. And it will be hard. But I know that it’s good. I know I have to be the one to change her reaction to all of this, not my daughter. And that is my plan. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard though.

  10. Oh, E. Knife. To. The. Heart. Yes, the rational part of you is obviously is grateful to have someone so worthy of Isa’s affection present in her daily life. But sometimes the rational part of you can just take a fucking hike. It hurts. It’s totally okay to feel shitty about it. It’s important that you acknowledge that so that you can, like you said, be accountable for your reactions.

    Hang in there, friend.

    • Thank you! My rational side does need to take a fucking hike sometime. And yesterday was one of those times. I spoke to my SIL about it today. She thinks its more the transitions that are hard for Isa right now. I think she’s right, so that makes yesterday sting a little less. We are instituting a new transitional phrase. Whenever we need to leave somewhere or someone we say, “It’s time to say goodbye”. Evidently this will help her know when someone is going to leave, or we are going to leave someone or somewhere. Have I mentioned how awesome it is to have a SIL/caretaker with a Masters in Early Childhood Development? Because it effing ROCKS!

  11. Ouch :-(. I can only imagine what that feels like. Like your kid just ripped out your heart and stomped on it probably. she’s growing up, but do not take this personally. You’re so right when you say in that moment she wanted her aunt, because that’s all it is. She just didn’t want to change. but Isa knows and loves her mama and you are most definitely #1 in her book, I am sure!

    • That you for the reassurance. I know that being a mother is going to be about letting my daughter go out into the world and find her own happiness. I don’t want her to be dependent on me. It’s just going to take some getting used to, that’s all.

  12. been there, it is so hard.
    My sister watched G as well and I think her wanting someone else that was related was harder for me. But it’s all good – hard some days, but good.

    • I’m not sure if it makes it more painful that her caretaker is an aunt. On the one hand I feel like I want her to be close to her aunts and that makes me happy, on the other hand I wonder if it means more than she is so close to an aunt as opposed to a random nanny. You’re right that it’s hard some days but all in all, it’s alright.

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