I went back to work in September after 3 years at home. I love working! But the combination of working and small children is not always easy: this spring has been tough due to many colds and ear infections (and sleep deprivation) but even more so due to my 2,5 year old son not wanting to go to daycare. Every parent know how it rips the heart when you just need to leave a child to somebody else’s care when they don’t want to.
But he actually likes his daycare, plays there well and has superb contact with his lovely carers (lucky for this mummy heart I trust the carers 100%!). But for some reason he first started to say in the mornings he didn’t want to go, then asking about it in the evening and saying he wanted to come with mum or at least dad if not mum, and then the mornings got worse and worse with my formerly cheerful and playful boy fighting every step of the way in the mornings. Only to run happily off to play when we actually arrived at the daycare.
Carers told me nothing had happened there and he was good during the days. He also told me he liked his friends and carers. Of course he sometimes said he missed us during the days but which 2,5 yo wouldn’t? I wondered if it was the second rounds of the terrible twos. Is it possible for that to return after several months of calm?
I needed to do something, my patience was running out in the mornings (and we all know when that happens things only get worse…), my daughter was hardly getting any attention (and responded like any 3, 5 yo would: by being super good until the moment we *really* needed to get out, and then throwing a tantrum), and something was clearly not ok with my boy.
We’ve always shared the parent responsibilities 50-50 with my husband. There is nothing I wouldn’t trust him with, and there is no need for post it notes with instructions if I’m not there (I know this is not the norm everywhere in the world but this suits us, and I realised how much I appreciate his involvement when the same son started to vomit so heavily by a gate at midnight that we were denied access to our plane home from Thailand and were rushed to a hospital instead. For a moment we were not sure if they’d allow our daughter to come immediately also to the hospital, so knowing my husband could take perfectly care of the other one was a great relief to me). But it is also great he can do it because he actually spends more time with our kids than I do: he is using his legal right to work a 30 hour week due to small children and stays home with them one day a week and I work full-time. He starts work early, so I drop our kids off at the daycare and he mostly picks them up to keep their days short. Our kids adore him.
But when thinking of the current situation (and naturally talking this over with my husband many times), the only thing we could hear was that my son wanted to spend more time with me. Maybe. I can’t stop working just like that and he can’t stay home if I’m at work. So I decided to try to do the most out of the short evenings: I’m usually home by 5pm and on daycare nights we start reading the evening story at about 7. There really isn’t a lot of time with baths and meals (and calls and email and tea and sitting down time…). On top of that my daughter usually was very quick at asking me to do crafts, write or count with her when I came home. Obviously I was happy to, and invited her brother to join us. But he rarely wanted to. Actually he quite clearly often pushed me away telling me he rather played with dad. Or indicated he wanted to play on his own. Both our kids have, as I am sure all kids do, had their phases were they prefer one parent over the other, and kids also need quiet time especially after a busy social day at the daycare, so I wasn’t thinking too much of this to start off with. But now I decided I had to try to relate to him more and not anymore wait for him to come to me.
I suggested we’d play with legos or cars, which he loves. He said he wanted to play on his own. So I started to play with the cars on my own too. Slowly he (and his sister) joined. The next night I thought of something else he might like, and just started to do that without asking him to join. But he (or they both really) eventually did. Me and my husband agreed on no phones before the bedtime of our kids but instead full on 100% presence for our family. Already after the first “intensive play evening” my son didn’t remind me of liking dad like he had often enough earlier. After a couple evenings like this the following morning wasn’t only a big negotiation even if he didn’t want to go. After 3 nights he only told me he didn’t want to go but there were no battle of wills that morning. And then I happened to have a day off arranged due to overtime, and spend the whole day together playing but also running errands. This followed with a weekend with some family time, and for a week now we haven’t had a single tantrum. Towards the end of the week he said he wanted to go to daycare. The best part is, that now he often tells both me and his dad that he likes us, asks me to play with him but too but can play also on his own, and is happy to give me huge warm cuddles quite often. There is time for facebooking and blogging after they’ve fallen asleep and on weekends, a happy cuddly boy sure is so worth the change!
Happy Mother’s Day!