Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

QUESTION: I have two children, 5 years and 13 months. I recently decided to go back to work part time and have hired a nanny. I thought my clingy baby would have had an issue but my son who spends the least amount of time with her is the one having trouble. He is fine and actually really enjoys playing with her BUT only wants “Mommy” to pick him up from school or make his meals, to help go to the potty, give him a bath, etc. He even started waking at night again.  I often find myself frustrated that I even hired someone. I work from home and can’t get anything done. HELP!

BBB: Frankly, I am not sure for whom it is harder when a mom (or dad) goes back to work after having been home for an extended period—the children or the parent.  I do know that the working parent can be overwhelmed with feelings, and you begin to question all your decisions- Are your kids okay? Should you have gone back to work? Should you just throw in the towel? to name just a few.

Nothing is more important to you than your children’s well-being. And well-being looks different in different children. The one thing we know for sure is that it takes TIME for a child to adjust to a big change like this one. And each child’s individual temperament (along with other variables) allows for a different time table for adapting. 

Whether you work at home or away from home, you are no longer available to your five year old. He is old enough to understand that you are going back to work in a way that your 13 month old does not. And while young toddlers feel the change, they are adaptable, as long as their basic needs are being met, including the need for loving attention.  Your five year old knows that it is YOU who are missing from his life.  As a result, he wants YOU all the time. Even if Mary Poppins herself were the nanny, it is likely he would still want YOU.

The fix for this one, besides time and patience, is making sure that you give your son a lot of your home-time. If at all possible, finish your work day earlier than usual, and leave home in the morning a little later, just for the time being.  When you are with him at home, BE with him. No iphones, no ipad, no distractions, no siblings!  You need to fill up his mommy tank.

And a word about working at home.  As convenient as it might be, when you go to work behind a closed door, stay there, at work. Do not come out until it is time to be home with the kids. Often the back and forth, coming and going that work at home enables, is confusing and difficult for the child. If you go in and out, he has to separate from you over and over again.  Put a stop sign on your door when you are working. Do not come out! Do not allow anyone to enter. Be gone!  When work is over, take down the stop sign, leave the door open, and come out freely. Your son should come home to a closed door and no mommy. But when you emerge, you are there for him. 

Both your kids will adjust. I promise. And truth be told, I’ll bet there is something that actually feels good about your child wanting YOU so much, right?  Years from now you will long for these days.

Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals.  She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and Good Morning America and has been cited in Parents Magazine, Twins Magazine, Family Circle and many more.  Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far.