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There’s a new dynamic in our house and it’s this:

ME: Hi, Mazzy. Want to play?

MAZZY: No.

ME: Okay. (sits down on couch near where she is playing)

MAZZY: No! Go away! Leave me alone!

ME: Don’t worry, I won’t try to play with you.

MAZZY: I saidโ€” GO AWAY!

ME: Alright. See you later… (gets up to go to other room)

MAZZY: DADDY!!! Will you play with me???

This has been going on for the past couple of weeks and it’s only getting worse.

Yesterday, I was able to come home from work in the middle of the day unexpectedly, and I thought Mazzy would be so excited to see me. Instead, I walked in her room as she was waking up from her nap, she gave me this really odd half-surprised/half-pissed-off expression and then called for Ruth, our nanny.

OUCH.

I know this is all par for the course in parenthood but I thought three years old was a little early to be demonstrating such animosity towards your own mother.

I wish I was the kind of person who could just let it roll off my back, but I find myself feeling genuinely hurt.

At first, I figured it was just one or two instances of Mazzy asserting her independence, but then as the behavior continued, I started to think about how much has changed at home over the last few months.

Here are the four possible reasons my daughter is not my biggest fan at the moment:

1. I am back at work.

I went back to work about two months ago. Typically, as a freelancer, I work a few weeks full-time and then I have a few weeks off until the next project. But I have been getting consistent work and have not had any time off since I started working again. The effects of being back at work are cumulative. A couple of weeks back and all is well, but now Mazzy is beginning to realize this is more of a permanent change. I’m starting to feel the increased absence of time with her as well so we are both more sensitive when we are together. Mazzy needs to show me she is mad I am not around and at the same time, I want the time I spend with Mazzy to be that much more special.

2. Our new bedtime routine gives us even less time together.

About a month ago, I started a new bedtime routine courtesy of a sleep consultant. The consultant helped me realize that Mazzy was getting way less sleep than she needed and suggested we put her to bed earlier. After implementing the earlier bedtime, it became clear that she was right, but it also means that we cut the time we spend as a family practically in half. Mike and I usually get home from work between 5:30-6pm. The new bedtime routine dictates that Mazzy must be in bed before 7pm. At first, cutting out the extra 30-60 minutes of time together seemed worth having Mazzy wake up well-rested and in good spirits. But again, cumulatively, having that much less time with Mazzy (in addition to being back at work) has really taken a toll.

3. I’m the bad guy.

Every house has one. The parent that is more likely to say no and lay down the rules. I’m the one who won’t let Mazzy watch TV before bed. I’m the one that tells her it’s time to go to sleep. I’m the one who tells her she can’t have a cookie for breakfast. My interactions with my child, in the little time I have with her, are all about saying no and making her do things she doesn’t want to do. Someone told me yesterday that if your child likes you 100% of the time, you are probably not a very good parent. I think that’s true. But if your child hates you 100% of the time, you are probably not a very good parent either.

4. I’m always holding Harlow.

Mazzy loves Harlow dearly. Even when she refuses to give me hugs and kisses, she is always eager to give Harlow affection. Because she took to Harlow so easily and fully, I thought we had avoided a lot of the new sibling resentment I had heard about. But now I realize that although Harlow’s appearance in our lives didn’t immediately have a negative effect, Mazzy now understands her beloved little sister diverts attention from herself.ย Mike is much better with Mazzy than he is with the baby so most often, when we are all home, I am the one taking care of Harlow. I have made a big effort to always hand off the baby to Mike so I can continue to be one who puts Mazzy to bed, but lately, Mike has been working late and I have been reading books to Mazzy while Harlow sits on my lap.

In fact, when I came home from work early yesterday and walked into Mazzy’s room after her nap, I was holding Harlow. I think Mazzy needed to be held in that moment and her confused expression had to do with the fact that she was happy to see me but upset my arms were full. Then she called Ruth because she knew Ruth would be able to hold her.

So that’s where we are. Lots of problems and I’m not sure if there is an easy solution to fix them.

But I did come up with something that Mazzy seems excited about. Today at noon, instead of running downstairs from work to grab a quick bite to eat, I am picking up Mazzy from school and taking her to lunch, just the two of us.

Last night, during bedtime routine, when I told Mazzy my plan, she told me she is going to have a turkey sandwich and I will be having soup. Then she retold this to her dad this morning and again when Ruth arrived.

So perhaps she doesn’t hate me. She just needs some one-on-one Mommy/Mazzy time.