“Where’s Mommy? Mommy? MOMMY!!!!!”
“Mommy’s gone out.”
*sigh* I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s experienced this.
At a very young age, your kid decides that you’re not allowed to leave the room without them. E.V.E.R. Not to use the bathroom, not to make dinner, not to have a nice hot bath, not to blow your nose, brush your teeth, or even to clip your toenails.
But more importantly, you are not to ever leave the house for any reason, especially for some obviously unnecessary mommy time.
My daughter began this phase when she was about 10 months or so, screaming for me if I left the room. Not entirely abnormal, right? But as she got older, it got to the point where I would have to sneak out of the house, just so my husband could do bedtime.
It progressed into her noticing me try to sneak away and demanding a hundred hugs and kisses before I left, followed by tears, tantrums and finally sleep.
The guilt was excruciating.
I felt awful about leaving her, and even worse for leaving my husband to deal with what I knew would be an exhausting night for him. I felt angry that she couldn’t let go of me, to let me take care of myself. I was jealous of my husband’s ability to go out whenever he wanted, without breaking his daughter’s heart for leaving. And I felt so selfish for wanting a break.
Now at the time, I didn’t feel like I’d been over-protective of her, but I was definitely set in our routine.
I craved it. It meant that there was a set amount of time for playing, eating, and most important, for sleeping. The nap was crucial to my sanity and survival. I could eat, sleep, go online, watch crappy daytime T.V., have a shower, whatever I wanted. Whatever I needed.
Being away from the house, away from my mommy arsenal, was a big upset too. Rooting around in a suitcase for a soother, searching everywhere for a receiving blanket, hauling the gear to go to the cottage for a weekend…it was just so much easier to stay home, where I knew where everything was. Where I had control.
I realize now that while all this was normal, my anxiety about our routine may have folded my daughter into a box that I wasn’t intending to build. Insert more mom-guilt here.
But today, it’s a little different. Leaving the room isn’t an issue anymore, and we’ve changed up our bedtime rationale to “fighting” over who’s turn it is to take her to bed.
To her, it’s now a highly-coveted privilege to read her stories and cuddle up, instead of a dreaded nightmare of flailing and fighting with Daddy, while Mommy goes out to get away.
It’s easier to leave the house now, with hugs and kisses and “see you in the morning”‘s. She’s also responding to “I’ll check on you when I get back.” It validates her feelings, and reassures her that there’s nothing to worry about.
There are some new issues though, like when she tries something new. She struggles to pay attention or even participate if I’m there, but it seems as long as I’m not in the room, she does well.
She’s slowly understanding how important my “mommy time” is, and I’m so grateful. At the same time, I’m understanding that if I’m not directly involved in her “something new”. she’ll respond to the experience well.
And for now, that’s the way it will be.
And while it does make me sad sometimes, I know we’ll both be better off for it.
How have you managed this? What changes did you make to help ease them out of their attachment?