A working mom’s lament

My sweet girl seems to be going through some separation anxiety. When I drop her off in the mornings lately, she doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want me to leave, wants to nurse, and if I make a move for the door, protests. I stay, bond, nurse and play and grandma plays, engages, distracts and refocuses until I can leave without it being an ordeal.
When I pick her up at the end of the day: mama mama, but then, sorry, not so interested. It’s all about grandma, who is the only person who can read her a story, pick her up, put on her clothes, etc. Eventually she’s ready to come with me, and once we leave, all is well. We talk, play, nurse, read books, cuddle, and bond.

But, next day, repeat. And I don’t like it. I still don’t know everything behind it, but I do know that regardless of how I try to interpret it, I don’t think it’s really that great for baby. She’s having to say good-bye and detach from loved ones and security twice daily, 4 days a week. Yes, she is constantly with a loving family member and in an attached relationship. But, she is having to switch the focus of her security back and forth all the time.

I can imagine the two sides of the discussion on how to deal with this: it’s good for her to learn detachment so push on through and ignore her protests; you are causing psychological damage by leaving your child so quit work now.

And at the same time: I work. We are not now in a position for me to abandon work. And even if we were: I enjoy working. Aside from the money, I like the challenge. I am having more and more opportunities to learn and grow. I can see that I’ll be able to put my PhD to some use in developing curricula on engaging diversity and equity-related topics. I have increased contact with more faculty and higher level administration. It is fun and rewarding.

Also hard to concentrate. I feel badly about leaving my daughter. If she needs me, I will abandon work to go and get her.

Short-term it’s clear to me what to do. I think, maybe. Take some time off or vacation days to bond with my girl. When I”m with her, evenings and weekends: be much more present and engaged. When I’m at work: buckle down, get caught up and get ahead so that when I need time for family, I can take it guilt-free. On that note, tomorrow is going to be a day of incredibly fast-paced and effective catch-up on assorted projects.

Long-term, not as clear. I think I feel currently that I will want to continue working, even while I want more time with baby. I simply do not know how to integrate these two desires. If we can change our financial situation around soon, I possibly could consider leaving my job. But … really??? Give up a good job at one of the key institutions in this area that I would want to work for? Just as things are getting going?

And on the other side: children are young only once. Their entire futures are being formed by the experiences they have in the first years. What could be more valuable than focusing on these years?

And back again: she’s in loving, nurturing care constantly, plus my job pays for her food and shelter.

Thoughts on which side should win out?

In other news: last night she woke up 6 or 7 times between 9 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. That averages a bit over 1.5 hour sleep stretches. I have realized that I still mainly sleep in 1 – 2 hour stretches, with the occasional 3 thrown in. I’m amazed that I’m upright.

And also, her vocabulary and comprehension are astounding to me. While nursing today, I told her, “If you want to nurse on the other side, just say “other side.” She pops off the breast and says “uzhuh … ite” WOW!!! Not only repeating me, but knowing what I was asking! Then she opened up a book, turned to the last page, lifted the flap and read (okay, maybe remembered, but still!) “me!” And kept on walking around, experimenting with saying “me” (mih, mee, mu, etc.) and returning to lift the flap and read it again. Another new word today: duck.

On that note: time for bed if I want to be productive tomorrow.


  1. Oh I totally feel you. Its so hard to be caught in that position. All I can say is to take life as it comes, Be thoughtful and flexible and you will do whats right.
    I was challenged each day I left Marcel at his day home, and it was so sad, and now that I am at home I am happy to be here with my boys but I have pangs that I have let my Master’s degree and professional work slide and that I’ll never return properly to architecture. It sounds like you are doing the best you can for the situation you are in. When the situation changes, you can re-evaluate. I try to remind myself that nothing is forever, you can always rebuild, and to live conscientiously in each moment is the very best we can do.

    There are benefits, challenges and lessons to learn in every situation. In this situation your daughter is learning that she is OK to be without you sometimes. In other situations she learns that you will always be there for her. She has a whole life of love from you to live. And you have a whole life be there for her.

    🙂 those are some of the things I tell myself anyways. Love to you. Angie.

    • Thanks for this feedback, Angie. I’m very appreciative of the work you do – creative, professional and mothering – and it is helpful to hear your thoughts on the struggles of trying to fit everything in. Great advice to live fully and lovingly in the situation we’re in. It reminds me that right now, this IS the situation I’m in – so why not approach it from a positive perspective?Love back to you!

  2. I am in your exact debacle. I give birth to my new baby girl on Tuesday, and the “unquiet” side of my mind is already wondering how to deal with the separation in 3 months. As usual, I can only identify but don’t have answers….I just wait for your insights:). I loved what your friend Angie wrote.

    • Oh Allison, I feel for you. And I know you’ll do what you need to do and continue to give your girls all the love you have. The world isn’t set up very well that it forces us to make these choices – work, children; career, nurturing a family. All are important. You will do what most moms do: the best you can.

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