Out of Step

I no longer feel like a good mom.

Before I did my student teaching, I loved being a stay at home mom. I found complete and utter fulfillment spending my days with my baby, meeting her needs, watching her grow, and moving through life together.

Then the end of my master’s degree approached, and though I no longer wanted to, I went back to work to complete my student teaching.

For 9 weeks I left her in the care of a nanny full time. I was afraid it would make me feel unfulfilled when I came back to being just her mom after being in the working world. But after 9 weeks was spring break. And I settled back into being her mom full time without a hitch. It felt right. It felt natural. It felt good.

Then I went back for my last 5 weeks.

And now I’m home. Permanently. This is day 7.

And this time there have been hitches.

Those last 5 weeks killed our relationship.

She still loves me and I still love her. I don’t mean our relationship in that sense.

But our rhythm. Our way of getting through the days. How we knew each other. How I knew her.

It’s gone.

She has always been a problem sleeper. I have gotten all of the advice that exists on how to deal with this. I took some and left some, and while it could make me doubt myself a little, overall I knew that I knew my child and I knew her needs and I was doing right. If I tried advice that felt wrong it inevitably wasn’t successful and I trusted myself to go back to doing what was. If I predicted something wouldn’t work but tried it, it inevitably didn’t work in the way I predicted. I knew my child.

But in those last 5 weeks, my child went from being a baby to be a toddler, in so many more ways than just mobility.

Her communication took off. Her problem solving skills took off. Her interactions took off.

She learned to interact with her nanny in a different way than I interact with her.

And now I’m left with no good sense of my daughter.

When she cries, I no longer am confident if she is truly upset or if she is trying to force a response. To some extent it doesn’t matter; I don’t want to let her cry it out. But to some extent it does. I frame my responses based on the reasons behind things. When I knew her cries were because she felt abandoned or alone I worked to remedy that instantly. No lesson would come from that kind of crying. If her cries were simple preference I wasn’t as quick.

Now we are having a sleep regression. A major one. She had been teething for weeks, but the teeth are through and now the sleep regression is only worse. At night I still have somewhat of a handle on things.

But she will. not. nap.

And I am left without a clue as what to do.

I no longer feel in tune with her. I no longer feel as if we are in step. When she refuses to sleep I am left floundering, unsure of where to go next.

Of course, you never know what to do in mothering. These are entirely other, utterly complex, little people we are caring for. I never knew before. But I was confident in my relative understanding, and I used that to move forward feeling informed.

Now that is all gone. Out the window. The rug has been pulled out from under me. And I am lurching forward unbalanced. Feeling unsure where to step.

And so feeling like I am constantly failing.

My child won’t nap. And I don’t know what to do. Do I leave her to scream, even though in the past these kinds of screams have been legitimate and she is making herself spit up again from how hard she is crying? But now when I walk in the screams stop instantly and she smiles. Does that mean they’re not legitimate? Or does it just mean she loves me?

Is she ready for one nap? Is her resistance towards taking her first nap on time and her second nap at all due to her outgrowing the need for both? Or is it that she is adjusting back to having me home every day instead of her beloved nanny? Or is it that she has figured out she can manipulate me into letting her play more? Or is it that she is over tired from not napping enough and thus not sleeping enough and so she is in extra need of both naps?

I felt out of touch with her while I was working. Many moms can be good moms while working. I was not. I was disconnected from her, just trying to get through my days.

So now, when I’m back to being with her full time, I feel as if I lost the last 15 weeks of gradual growth and change, as if my child and my understandings are 15 weeks out of date. I feel as if my child has changed, suddenly, into one who is 15 weeks older than the one I knew.

I know the changes have been gradual. But I feel like I missed them.

So I don’t know what to do.

And I hate myself for missing them.

I hate that I missed the last 1/3 of her babyhood.

I hate that there is nothing I can do to get those weeks back.

I hate that I am not the one who primarily shaped who she is now as her communication took off and those formative weeks happened.

I know that in the grand scheme of things it was not much time. I know that living in regret only makes me miss what I have now. And I fight it.

But I still hate it.

And it’s harder to fight it when I feel like that time is impacting my ability to be a good mom now.

I want the rhythm I had with my daughter back. I want our easy, beautiful, in-step life back. Maybe I would have lost it even if I was home. But I don’t think so. Not like this. And I’ll never know.

I want to learn how to be a good mother to my daughter again. And I will. I’m sure.

But for now I’m just left feeling like a failure more and more with each lurching step.


Filed under Baby Girl

3 responses to “Out of Step

  1. Listen to me, those changes and your out of syncness could have and likely would have happened even if your were home. That’s just part of the growing pains. I promise. What works Monday doesn’t work Tuesday no matter who is home for 8 hours.
    Speaking of hours. It was hours you were away. Not weeks. You didn’t miss 5 consecutive weeks, please stop punishing yourself.
    You are a fantastic mother. The amount of thought, consideration and presence you are giving your daughter is so admirable.
    You two will find your new normal but it’s a constant work in progress. You’re not failing, you are excelling.

  2. I agree with Annabelle- My son and I had major changes at that time and nothing in our schedule changed. It’s the age more than the circumstances, I think.

    Warning: sleep assvice ahead. For us, a schedule really helped with sleep and it’s what the lady pushed at our sleep consultation. We use a very simple 2-3-4 schedule. And look, I resisted the schedule for a long time, but I found that Eli doesn’t fight naps anymore since being on the schedule because it’s just become routine now. 2 hours after waking up, he gets put in his room for a nap. I lay him down awake, with a few small toys and several pacifiers, he goes to sleep when he wants. When he wakes up, he’s up for 3 hours, then the same thing. Then he wakes up, is up for 4 hours (sometimes a little less if he sleeps a long time for the second nap) and then it’s bedtime.

    The reason I mention the toys is because the toys and the floor bed were really game changers for us. It gives him freedom and independence, but I think it also taught him how to be in charge of his sleep. If he truly isn’t tired, he’ll get out of bed and play for a while. If he is tired, he still might stay up a while, but he stays in bed and lays down much more quickly. When he wakes up at night, he doesn’t cry, he will either grab a toy and play for a bit, or get comfortable and lay back down. He knows his own sleep needs now and meets them.

    It likely sounds weird and new agey, but he didn’t sleep through the night until we tried this (at 11 months) and we got it to happen without a single tear, so I’m about the biggest advocate ever.

    Whatever you do, you need to let go of the guilt. My guess is that that is the biggest barrier to feeling in rhythm right now. The more you focus on feeling like the screwed up, the bigger the problems feel. If you can let yourself feel okay with doing something that needed to get done, that gave your child the opportunity to interact with other adults and experience new things safely, then you may be able to more quickly reconnect.

  3. I don’t have any answers for you except to say that you’re not alone. I am with my son all the time, and I still feel like this sometimes. Recently, his sleep patterns have changed (again), and the same questions you were asking yourself are going through my mind each time I have to get him to sleep. I always wonder if I’m doing something wrong, but in the end, I think we have to go with our mothering instincts and trust that God gave them to us for a reason.

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