We’ve had a bit of a babysitter crisis at our house the past month or two. I know that I operate as a much more patient and loving mommy when I’ve had a couple hours every day to catch up on my e-mail, edit photos, and read a book or some blog posts for awhile. I had become accustomed to having that time but all of a sudden I have gone without it. Our favorite babysitter has been super busy (and I hear about it every day… “how many days until Ms. C comes over?”) and my daughter just didn’t mesh with another one that we had been using frequently. Add to that a busy and traveling hubby and the fact that my daughter has been sleeping with me (another story entirely!) and I’ve had very little time apart from her to refill my well of self-care and quiet.
We have been outside quite a bit in the backyard or the park, we’ve been at friends’ houses, or we’ve been playing “store” or “house” all the freakin’ time. I’ve said quite often, “just give me a few minutes to sit… go play by yourself.” I asked her last night as we were falling asleep and she inched closer and closer to me, “Am I really so great that you need to be with me every second of the day?” I guess so.
Coincidentally, we have noticed some testing behavior lately… deliberate defiant behavior after being instructed to stop doing something. Putting paint on the wall; rubbing lipstick on my pants… anything just to get some attention.
It is said that “what you resist persists.” So I am asking myself how I am contributing to this. Is she reacting to something I am doing? Could I be more present in my interaction with her? The paint on the wall… she was asking me to paint with her and I was trying to do something else (after a morning of already not getting my attention due to having friends over). The lipstick… she’d just spent time at the park playing with daddy with me mostly talking to a friend separate from her, even though she wanted to play with me; and more of the same.
When I find reserves of patience and energy and am focused on her, my daughter’s behavior is stellar. She is sweet, generous, and cooperative. This past month’s change in behavior is probably due to my exhaustion and my attempt to separate from her before she is ready. She is asking for my attention and care and I am shifting away. This behavior is how she expresses her need.
So the basic question: how can I get through this phase, take care of my need for time alone, AND give her what she needs? I am trying to surrender to her needs for now, while still protecting myself by getting sleep at night and maximizing the alone time I do have. I have changed my mental script: rather than be a drudge, I tell myself that we are lucky to play together all day like we do. I am going to stop believing that something needs to be fixed and just accept it and see what happens. I am trying to stop focusing on when I can get a break and start focusing on simply being in the moment.
I have also been applying the advice of giving her my undivided attention for a half hour or so and then watching as she goes off to play alone, her tank full after just that short time. I get to decide if I am going to be worn out or delighted and I will choose delighted.