Is it possible that my daughter is already acting extra needy, in anticipation of her baby brother’s arrival?

I don’t know how she would know to feel this way already, I mean not much has changed. I have mentioned a few times that she can NOT kick my stomach because of baby brother and in a few isolated instances I mentioned that I couldn’t do something because I was getting too big.

Maybe those little comments are sinking in and she’s realizing that things are about to change, fundamentally. Maybe it’s just a developmental stage she’s going through right now. Maybe it’s transitioning from nine days of vacation (and 24/7 mommy time) to going back to school to switching rooms, all with potty training in the background. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Or maybe she can just see my ever growing stomach and knows, deep inside, that shit is about to change.

All I do know is my daughter is being extra clingy lately. She needs me all the time, to do things she used to be able to do by herself. And it’s exhausting.

I want to be there for her. I want to give her what she wants, but I worry that if I give her what she wants, she’ll just keep asking for more. It’s hard to determine what she wants and what she needs. She is a master manipulator and I think most of the time, her own understanding of why she is asking for something is out of focus. If she’s not sure of her own motives how can I be?

On vacation I stayed in Isa’s room until she fell asleep for both naps and bedtime. Now she wants me to stay in her room for longer and longer before she sleeps. She drags bedtime out for HOURS. She has started waiting until after we’ve done our whole routine–when the lights have been out, I’ve sung our three lullabies and sat in her bedroom for ten minutes–to decide that she needs to do a number two. After a week of that, now she says she needs to go to the bathroom three or four times in thirty minutes. We had to start saying that she needs to wait ten minutes before she can try to go again, because otherwise she’ll just spend an hour on the potty with abundant reading materials, producing nothing. Oh, and most nights she also needs a snack.

During the rest of the day she won’t get on the potty without a long, protracted power struggle and she only uses it 3-4 times a day and yet at bedtime, she has to go that many times in an hour.

And I worry that all this bedtime drama is because I indulged her so much on vacation. Of course she’s going to want me to hang out in her room until she falls asleep, but if that takes two hours, I can’t do it. And I worry that if I stay with her before nap time, it will make nap time at school harder. She already struggles to sleep at school, I don’t want to make it more difficult by giving in to her demands that “no, you do NOT leave.”

I never know what to do when my daughter wants more from me. I never know if I should just give her what she wants, even if it feels impossible for me to accomodate, or if I should hold fast to the boundaries we have established. Sometimes it feels like I if I give her more she’ll just keep asking until there is literally nothing left to give. And I’m not sure if it makes more sense to give her more right now so that she can have some “mommy time” stored away in her reserve tank or if indulging her now will just make her baby brother’s arrival that much more difficult.

And most of the time I feel like a shitty mom that I don’t have answers to any of these questions, solutions to these problems, that I don’t inherently know how to respond. I literally have NO IDEA what I should be doing with this new I-need-mommy-now-and-always-attitude. I worry that ultimately I am not giving my daughter what she wants because giving her more leaves less for me, less energy, less time. When bedtime drags on for 2+ hours, I get almost no time for myself at the end of my day. But maybe I’m not supposed to? Maybe that is what motherhood is all about? I know that is what it’s going to be like in three months, maybe I’m being as intensely protective of my own space right now out of fear of what’s to come. Maybe Isa and I are doing the exact same thing, and driving each other crazy doing it.

I know this is just a phase. I know it will change, for better or worse, at some point, probably soon. I know this is what motherhood is all about, undulation, oscillation, change. I just wish I had a better idea of how to deal with it all, I wish I knew what I was trying to accomplish and had strategies to achieve those goals. As it is I feel like I’m just flailing, making decisions based in the moment, usually out of frustration and annoyance and not… I don’t know… love?

How do you know when to give more and when to set boundaries? Do you ever find yourself making decisions based on your own wellbeing, over your child(ren)’s?

8 responses

  1. E, Matthew is waking up before 5 each morning and the only solution for us all to keep sleeping is for me to get in bed with him. So i do it! YES, I’m giving in and establishing a bad habit, but we all need the sleep and I enjoy it. Yes, we’ll need to deal with this soon, but now is not the time and that’s ok!

    I think Isa is being needy because of the coddling while on vacation… And that’s ok. You were gone a long time and established a new habit. We did the same thing when we moved Matthew to the big bed. We can undo it later. 😉

  2. I completely hear you on the dragging out bedtime. It finally got to the point that Gus was asking for extra hugs, not because he wanted the hugs, but because he only wanted to stay up late. It tore me up inside, that here I was, telling my sweet rainbow that I couldn’t give him hugs. What if something happened in his sleep and the last thing I said to him before he died was no more hugs???

    Being Type 1 diabetic, I sometimes HAVE to put my well being over Gus’. If my blood sugar is low during bedtime, I have to go test and drink juice. There are times when he wants to come with, or cries/complains that I’m leaving the room, but like with anything else—the more it happens the more he knows what to expect.

    There have also been times when he was being VERY stubborn at nap time, I was getting frustrated, so I left, played a game on my phone, then went back in to try again to calm him down for naptime.

    For us, a lot of times, boundaries are more strongly enforced when we have constraints (time, money, safety, health). We’re reaffirm bedtime boundaries, because if we don’t Gus is a bear in the mornings. We’re going to reaffirm no standing on the couch because we don’t want him to fall and hurt himself. We put a limit on hugs when leaving daycare because I need to be to work on-time. But, if there are no pressing issues, of course I don’t care if we have a picnic breakfast on the weekend and he stays in his jammies until 10am.

  3. Set a timer when the bedtime routine starts, for however long you want your bedtime routine to be. When the timer goes off, then it’s light out no more games. That way you can blame the timer as the end game, not mommy. “I’m so sorry I’d love to sit with you longer but the timer says my time is up. Love you!” And then if there is crying after that, you’ve put in some good quality time and there is no need to feel guilty. This is good to set up before the baby comes…and you can set the timer for shorter as time goes on. It’s worked for 3 of my 4 kids 🙂

  4. The bedtime routine that went on forever also appeared at our home right after a lengthy vacation. It sucked so much energy out of us parents and robbed our 3.5 year old of precious sleep, so we had to do something. Now, once she’s in bed, we take turns lying down next to her for five minutes, looking at pictures & videos on the phone. When the timer goes off, we say goodnight and she gets two “callbacks” – one from each of us if we’re both home, or two from whichever parent is available. She gets to decide when to have us return to her room – she’s in control, but after two callbacks, that’s it. It’s worked like magic over the last month or so, and we’ve totally reclaimed our evenings.

  5. I really like Jillian’s answer. I’ve done some damage establishing bad habits and tried very hard to break them, but hubs isn’t as good at maintaining. We both need to be on the same page. Here’s hoping you can find a solution that works for both of you 🙂

  6. She’s 3, right? So is Oz. And he’s exactly the same way even with no new sibling on the horizon. I know I cave to his demands for Mommy waaaay more than I think I should… I know he manipulates me… it’s hard to resist. I’m bracing myself for weaning (it should tell you something that he is STILL NURSING… he says “mama I just want to nurse!” and somehow I keep giving in) but I’m so ready to be done.
    The timer works pretty well for us too.

  7. I think you’re absolutely right. What I mean is, YES she is likely responding to all of the things you mentioned. She knows something is up and something bigger is coming, not to mention all of the changes that have already happened. So I think some of these “needy” behaviors are perfectly fine and understandable. If you want to curb some of it, I’d suggest sitting some limits on snacks, etc, and taking away the fun stuff in the bathroom after a certain time of night.

    Good luck!!

  8. We decided after about a month of excess bedtime demands that we would put limits on stories and gave her a star chart where she earned a star each morning if she followed the bedtime routine and didn’t get out extra times (to go potty 14 times, to demand more stories, etc). We also decided that we have to put ourselves and our well-being first because we do nobody any good at all if we are sick/exhausted/etc.

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