This won't be a very amusing post. If you are here for comedy, check out this old post about my dad trying to kill my newborn with pointy garage sale purchases. That was hilarious! This post is about how my long-awaited reunion with my 20 month-old daughter after I returned from a two week business trip did not play out as poetically as I imagined in my head.
I got home Tuesday afternoon while Mazzy was napping. I'm not dumb enough to wake her upon arrival but apparently, I am dumb enough to run into her room the second I hear the slightest hint of stirring.
Mazzy was lying on her stomach with her eyes closed, making noises like she was waking prematurally. I sat on the floor by her crib and gently rubbed her back. I'm not sure if my intention was to coax her back to sleep or get her to wake up and jump into my arms.
It doesn't really matter because neither happened.
Mazzy half opened her eyes and saw me. She started crying and smiling at the same time as if she was grumpy but happy to see me. Then she stood up abruptly.
"Want Daddy!" she whined, looking past me.
My heart sank but I picked her up and tried to look her in the eye.
"Hi, baby— I'm home!"
"Yes, sweetie. I missed you!"
"I missed you," she echoed. My heart swelled as I felt her coming back to me.
Then I tried to sit down with her in the rocker.
"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" she screamed, her arms flailing until I stood back up.
Still crying, she pointed at the door. I brought her into the living room where I attempted to sit with her on the couch.
"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" she screamed even louder.
I stood back up. Held on to her as tightly as I could. "It's ok, babe. I'm here," I repeated as I rocked gently back and forth.
We stood there awhile, her crying getting louder, then quieting, then louder again.
Mazzy's not a light little thing anymore (this was made even more apparent by my two-week-toddler-holding-hiatus) and my arms started to tire. I attempted to sit on the floor.
I asked her if she wanted something to eat and she stopped crying to point at a plastic container of melon on the kitchen counter.
I carried her over, reached into the container and picked out a cube.
"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" she screamed again but continued to point at the melon. I thought maybe she wanted me to feed her the melon with a fork.
"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" Her agitation was increasing by the second. Maybe she wanted me to put some melon in a bowl?
"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" She flipped the bowl out of my hands on to the floor. I bent down, still holding her, to clean it up.
"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" she cried as she her feet came loose and her hands flapped furiously.
I lifted her back up— her body squirming, her legs kicking at me and her arms flailing in every direction. It seemed like she wanted to break free but also not touch the floor.
I was at a loss.
Suddenly, we locked eyes for the first time since I got home. This is it, I thought, we will be able to communicate like we did before my trip.
"Babe, tell me what you want me to do" I said as calmly as I could.
With that, she raised both her arms over her head and came down with all her might on my forehead— an open palm slapped above each eye. (Remember "Scare the Bear"? THAT.)
I was stunned.
I don't think anyone has ever hit me that hard in my life. (And Mazzy gave me a black eye once so that's saying something.)
"No, Mazzy! You do not hit!" I yelled, shocked at the sound of my own voice.
I put her down on the floor.
FULL ON TANTRUM. Stamping, pounding, screaming, kicking, crying.
When she was done (I distracted her with pretzels like any good mother would), she wanted to play the hug game in the hall.
But it was ruined. She seemed a little crazy dropping all that negative energy and running full speed at me with a huge smile moments later.
And then the kicker.
"HUG ILANA!" she shouted.
Not Mom. ILANA. Like I was a visiting aunt.
If anybody is selecting "Make The Working Mom Feel Guilty" teams, Mazzy should be their first pick, that's for damn sure.
UPDATE: I wrote this post six days ago, the day after I got home. That wasn't the only time Mazzy hit me, threw a tantrum, called me Ilana or asked for Daddy. It got much worse before it got better. She made me earn back her trust BIG TIME. Which is a hard thing to do while I'm also trying to set limits and not indulge her just because I'm feeling guilty.
I have always wanted to be a working mom. So this is how it goes sometimes, I guess.
For now, I think she is on my side again.
Oh, this is heart-breaking because I know from what you speak. Every time I go out of town I have full on meltdowns from both of my girls for at least two days. My two-year old even took a wooden stool and tried beating down a door. That was fun. I hate mommy guilt. But at least she likes you now:)
Oh man. That is so hard. I imagine it will get easier as she gets older, right? I left my kids for a week to see my Mom in the hospital and they are 5 and 3 and it was fine when I got home. Hope you don’t have to travel like that too often.
I’m sorry. I think every mother out here can relate to your story. I have to go back to work tomorrow morning after a 4 month leave with my second daughter. I spent the first 3 1/2 months trying to gain the trust back from my 5 year old. I live with the knowledge that they are both loved and even though I can’t reason with them about why I go to work, they will understand someday. Your adorable daughter is still the same little person you left for a bit, and she clearly loves and trusts you enough to be able to show you her true feelings. Does that help at all? 🙂
The aggression really threw me. But I also got an email from Baby Center or one of those sites that send the monthly- where your child is at this month- newsletter… and the 20 month old letter was all about hitting and aggression. So maybe it’s a mad at mommy/it just so happens that’s the stage Mazzy is in thing.
Or so I tell myself.
The people I was traveling with all had older kids and we determined that it is much easier for them because they can convey their love by communicating it over the phone/skype. But for a toddler, communicating love is really all about holding and hugging them.
One day Mazzy will understand that my two week trip went directly towards her very expensive preschool education. But by then, she won’t remember it anyway.
I know we’ll be fine. And there are trade-offs either way.
Oh man, ouch. Poor Ilana. I mean, Mommy. All’s well now, right?
FYI, Monkey hits me too when he’s pissed off at me. He also does the carry-me-don’t-carry-me-I-want-down-no-I-want-up-just-no thing, when he’s upset for reasons unknown to me. I need to know why so this might be a question I need to send to Dr. B!
Thank you for such an honest post about your experience. I am now in my 3rd month back at work after having my baby girl in March. Coming back to work was far more difficult than I ever anticipated. I have searched the web for posts/articles about the topic and I have not found anything that helps to lessen the guilt. I guess the guilt will always be there it’s just how we deal with it that will make the difference!
I just hope you did not take that email from Babycenter to seriously:)
That sucks. I’m planning on leaving Caitlyn for a week just before her second birthday and now I’m afraid she will react this way. I guess it’s probably a fear that you will leave again that causes this kind of reaction, but that doesn’t make it suck any less.
My two-year-old hit me on the head with his Tonka truck this morning as I was attempting to take him to the car. Last evening he yelled at his father to ‘go away!’ We’re separated so my kid goes back and forth between us and then also to daycare. Mondays (and in this case, Tuesday) are very difficult. Transitions aren’t a toddler’s forte, I guess.
I remember how hard those moments are.
It’s because she loves you, you know.
Well, that just made me cry. But don’t worry, other things that make me cry include: Google ads, singing along in the car to “I’ll Remember You” and really internalizing the lyrics, and realizing that Wendy’s messed up my order when I got back to the office.
Just know she was only so mean because she loves you so much. You’re the most important person in the world to her and she has no other way of showing it. Great, now I’m crying again. Damn you, hormones!
She really missed you. You can see it in her actions. She loves you so much that she didn’t like the changes that had to happen when you were gone.
I echo the above sentiments. I especially sympathize with your desire to not be overindulgent based on guilt – which is brilliant.
Most parents spoil in this moment out of desperation to get back into good graces. But in the long run, that’s not what Mazzy needs or wants.
She needs boundaries and limits and consistency, to see that nothing changes about your love or expectations just because you’ve been gone.
Anyway, sorry to get serious on you. And I’m glad to hear that things got better (sorry about the worse-first part, though).
DAMN being a parent is hard.
Charles and Caroline Ingalls made it look so easy…
(Except for the part where they had to kill their own dinner to feed their kids. That sucked.)
Ok that’s hard, I know from experience.
All three kids have done this to me at one point.
Even when I wasn´t a working mom.
But to make you feel better, my toddler hits me at least once a week.
She´s a girl too and well, girls really know what they want, even at an early age.
We just have kids with LOTS of character!
My boy does this to my husband for a little while if he has been out of town. I read about the tantrum though, honestly, with relief, because other kids can be as crazy as mine too. The tantrums are fierce, no?
I’m sure I”ll get emails on what a bad mother I am, and how bad my kids are:
but I stayed home with my kids and they still hit me.
Good, hard knocks to the back of the head, too.
Love to you, Ilana….I’ve heard it said the season of parenting you’re in is the one that’s the hardest…b/c it’s all we know at that time.
High Five, mama…you got us out here.
Hey Ilana, want some help from a viewpoint 32 years later? Apparently, when I was about Mazzy’s age, my Mom went away for two weeks to Maine (and apparently it was very meaningful for her, and very needed, it had something to do with art and wildlife.) My reaction (that my Mom likes to still bring up at times) was very similar to Mazzy’s (although I didn’t hit her… I don’t think.) Apparently I was all at once angry, crying, hateful, and yet would not let her put me down (she literally had to hold me while she peed in the airport restroom – I had a lock hold on her and would not let go. I’m still not sure how she managed that feat.) Also, she apparently had sent me a postcard, that she later found crumpled up on the floor.
And just so you know… even though my Mom still does like to bring it up, lol… we are fine, and yep, I barely remember the whole thing. And yes, I do understand that she needed to go to Maine at the time, and believe it or not I have “daughter guilt” over having hurt her feelings when she came back… so it all comes back around. lol. So one day Mazzy really will understand and at the same time not really remember what happened. (Hopefully she won’t have the daughter guilt though, I think that’s my own issue… lol.) It’s all good. 🙂
DUDE. I would have lost it. I understand why you wanted to wait to write this and I’m so glad you’re back in her good graces. Kids don’t know any better, but MY GOD if it isn’t a knife in an already bruised heart.
If it helps, mine did this to me the other night and screamed for his daddy (Except called him “MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA” loudly the entire time. Right.) and hadn’t gone ANYWHERE that day. Not even to work. I stayed home WITH HIM while HE WAS SICK.
I. Don’t. Get. It.
Feeling your pain, mama.
I’m sorry you had to “re-earn” the trust (and that you got slapped so hard.) I do have to applaud you for making an effort to stick to limits while still showering her with love; I think in the long run that’s so important.
This sorta happened to me when I got back from a week-long trip when my oldest was about 12 months. He wanted NOTHING to do with me. And he started walking while I was gone (just rip my heart out why dontcha!) and wouldn’t even walk to me. Ugh.
I hope she’s back to calling you Mommy again. Big Hugs!
Aw, poor you. Been there with the hitting, been there with the “piss off, woman, I want my daddy,” been there with the “go away/WHEREAREYOUGOING!?” attitude.
It makes a grown woman want to cry, and not just because of the fat lip.
But ultimately they remember they are our babies and all goes back to normal…
…until the next trip.
Oh, god. I am so sorry that it went like this. That’s just all-around rotten. Of course, and as you know, she would never have reacted that way if she wasn’t so upset about the Mommy change in the first place. Passionate people, and all that.
Anyway, you’re back. And it will be better. And and, you know, your name IS Ilana. Just imagine if you had returned and been called…let’s see…Jacqui. WITH AN I.
Crap … sorry.
That must have hurt like Hell.
What about that fine line thing, had she ignored you totally, would that have been worse? Instead she felt the need to make you feel bad, because clearly she wasn’t happy you were gone, plus she is a strong little soul.
Headstrong like her Mama, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
But ouch … a lot of ouch 🙁
Deep breaths, my dear – pace yourself. You stay calm, consistent, and loving, and eventually you win them back, til the next time. I’ve worked f-t, p-t, and no-time at various phases since becoming a mom 13 years ago, and each has their own exquisite brand of guilt. Every time the working guilt starts to wear on me I think, hey, I am the mother to two really smart, great girls. Do I want to show them an example whereby they have to trade in all their ambitions in return for motherhood? No way.
Finally, as my older wiser sister always says, “Parenthood is not for faint of heart.”
We really do all go through this at some point. When we were little my dad had a heart attack and my little sister was so mad that she refused to speak to my dad for a week. Good for you for setting limits though. Hard as it is, you have to.
Oh no…I’m so sorry for both you and your forehead! Glad you seem to be getting back on track with her. My heart aches for you gals!
I am nervous about leaving Claire for four days next month. Mark and I will both be away and I know it’s not the 2 WHOLE WEEKS you had away, but I am still nervous about it. She is very attached to me and I will be finding out if she is the type who holds a grudge.
God I hope not!
SO hard. There’s really nothing worse than being so happy to reunite with your child and them thumbing their nose at you. Sadly for you, your absence is probably much harder on you than her. 🙁
if this maybe will make you feel better, the only thing worse than what happened to you was when i went away and came back all “mommy’s home darlings!” and the kids were all like “whatever,” and just went about their business../
which is just to say, at least she noticed 🙂
Every time I walk in my mom’s house after work, (my mom watches my 2 year old) she briefly smiles, then realizes that we’re going home soon and shrieks, “No NO, Mama! Back work, Mama! BACK WORK!” Every day. And every day I tell her that I’ll go back tomorrow. 🙂 Chin up, Mamas!
I’ve only been gone a few days at a time but got the same welcome home 🙁
It’s heartbreaking and frustrating and draining…but what else can you do?!
Oh no. I am so sorry. How suckky and awful. 🙁 And she hit you. Hard. As if her attitude didn’t sting enough. So sorry, mama. I am glad you are back on track with one another now.
My husband used to travel a lot for his job and would be away for weeks at a time, and we always thought she managed just fine with it because it was so normal after a while. One day she just broke down in the bathroom at daycare and wouldn’t speak to anyone or come out of there until I got there. It’s better that Mazzy gets it out now than bottles it up like mine did. Now that was scary. He doesn’t travel much anymore, and we skype daily when he does.
She literally started pulling my hands off her back. But every time I put her near the ground she would lose it. It was kind of scary because I thought I was going to drop her.
I debated writing it just because I prefer to be entertaining. But it felt dishonest not to write about what happened. Usually I am able to see the humor in situations but not this time.
We left Mazzy for a week back in January and it was fine. I don’t know if the difference is that I was away for a longer period of time or the age that she is at now.
The separation must be tough since sticking to a routine is always heralded as the way to keep a toddler’s behavior in check.
Hopefully, it will get easier with time.
I know. Or at least she DID love me.
How far along are you now? Can I make you cry with a “Marley & Me” reference? How bout the last episode of Six Feet Under? Too easy?
All reports say she was just fine while I was gone. She saved all her anger for when I got back, I guess.
Thank you. The setting limits/trying to get back in her good graces is the hardest thing to reconcile. It would be very easy for me to stick her on the couch with the iPad and a bowl of dried mango and pretzels. (Her personal heaven.
I have said since month 3 that Mazzy is going to be bossy. She has TONS of character.
That’s why I decided to write the post. I didn’t want everyone thinking that Mazzy is all fun and smiles. It wouldn’t have been honest.
I read that this stage is a lot about trying out aggression. She’s hit me before but this was the first time I took it personally.
This is a rough one. I feel for you and have nothing but encouragement to send your way. Ilana, it’s a bitch this motherhood business. And having work and home to balance must be incredibly trying. I’m often frustrated having my every friggn’ moment be spent with my kids, but I’ve never envied the working mom, either. I think it takes tremendous energy to work and parent. I doubt I’d pull it off as successfully as you do.
So sorry you had a shitacular homecoming. Good thing you’re a rockstar and Mazzy’s a great kiddo. Here’s hoping it smoothes out soon!
My husband travels a lot for work. When he gets back it’s hit or miss. Either the boys are soooo in love with him or they punish him for being gone. The only consistent thing is the bribes. Hate to say it but it always works, he scores big points with the presents he brings home.
Heartbreaking. I have a 17 month old daughter who has been asking for Daddy more and more, as he’s more available to her. Feeling your pain, but also keeping it all in perspective.
I’m sorry – I know how much you missed her and were looking forward to getting home to see her. If it’s any consolation, I think what she did sounds totally normal. Vivian didn’t exactly greet me with open arms either after I came back from my 5-day girls’ getaway. There was even some aggression. And you’re right – it’s a hard thing to overlook when you’ve already missed them so much and are still feeling guilty about being gone.
Ugh. I feel that. My Boo Boo is five and I am getting struggles with her because I am HOME all the time since I got laid off. She is mad because I am here and Daddy is at work – it really does not help that he has had a lot of overtime.
Ugh. I hear you on this. When I travel, I experience similar sucky homecomings. Usually I get a nice welcome, and the aggression/tantrums/whining/generally wretched behavior comes a little later. But my kids are equal-opportunity – they do the same thing to my hubs when he goes away. Isn’t that sweet?
Hi Ilana. I just read this and I agree and disagree. Communicating with your children begins from the time they are born. The sooner the better so they learn to use their words to express themselves instead of gestures or sounds. It’s always painful being rejected by one’s own kids. They will always be our babies.