Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

Dear Mamas,
I hope you can help. I have a 13 month old and I work part time. When I am gone, she is with Daddy or Grandma. When I come home after work, she’s been with daddy all day, she gets whiny! If she barely bumps her head, she cries and becmes overly sensitive. my husband often says she didn’t cry all day and the moment I walk in the door the whining begins.This usually only happens when I get home from work for an hour or so. Is she doing this for my attention because I was gone that day? Any words of advice?
Scratching My Head

Dear Scratching My Head,

Oh yeah, I remember that one well. What can I tell ya? The girl adores her mommy! And even though I’m sure your mother-in-law and husband are doing a bang-up job with her while you’re gone, sounds like you are her primary caregiver, and simply put, they are NOT you. So when she sees you walk in the door after several hours away, she’s bound to feel relief and utter joy. Normal, normal, normal.

But your instincts are right. Good call on that one! She does want, and need, your immediate attention. “Give me a minute,” doesn’t really work for a 13 month old. She needs for you to stop, pick her up, look her in the eyes, give her a huge smile and gently say “hello” with lots of hugs and kisses to go along with it.

Tell her, “Mommy’s home,” and ask her about her day. Keep holding her as you say hi to hubby and grandma and keep checking in with her through eye contact, smiles and stroking her hair. Don’t put her down for several minutes and then when you do, be available to pick her up again if she puts her arms up or starts to fuss. Basically she needs to know that you are BACK, haven’t forgotten about her, and are sticking around.

It would be great if you could get her pacifier, blankie or whatever she uses for a comfort item and sit down and look at a book with her for a few minutes with nobody else talking to you. This kind of concentrated but short term attention will reassure her and help her adjust to the changing of the guards.

I know it’s easy to feel guilty about leaving her to work part-time and to interpret her fussiness as evidence that you shouldn’t have gone in the first place. But let me reassure you that this behavior is nothing out of the ordinary and nothing to lose sleep over.

She is safe and with her own family while you’re away and that’s a win-win for everyone. You get to earn some money for the family and take a break from the incessant demands of Baby Boot Camp and she gets to develop one-on-one relationships with two other V.I.P.’s with no interference (however well-intentioned) from “The Boss.” Being alone with and taken care of by Daddy or Grandma gives her two other loving, responsible, committed family members to count on. And believe me, this is a very good thing!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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One response to “Want Some Cheese With That Whine?”

  1. Paige

    Thank you so much for the response! You guys are AWESOME!

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