Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Tuesday
Nov132012

Even A Walk In The Park Is No Walk In The Park

This boy, this wondrous little guy. He is a ray of sunshine, a warm summer breeze, a breath of fresh air. Whatever mother naturish-type loveliness you want to compare him to, he is it. Except for, as you're about to read, a walk in the park. Not that. But seriously though, the kid is pure joy. As sweet as they come. A cuddly, lovey, exciting, rambunctious, funny boy. Life would have no meaning if he didn't streak between the couch and TV, his little mullet flapping in the breeze as he circles the downstairs for the twentieth time during my millionth viewing of Dateline ID or Snapped or Forensic Files or whatever the hell I happen to be watching.



There's just one little problem that, well, actually turns out to be a pretty big problem. The kid, he doesn't like to be away from us. Ever. No never, not ever.

Serves me right, I guess. Before his birth I declared that I was going to find a way to work from home so I could be with my kids all the time and now the kid wants to be with me and his dad all the time, ALL THE TIME. Be careful what you wish for, suckas!

Violet goes to pre-school for four hours every morning and now that Henry is fast approaching two I figured he's old enough now that I could drop him off at a babysitter's down the road for a couple hours in the morning at the same time she's gone so I could at least take a shower without him peeping in every three minutes to assure himself that, yes, mom is still there. It would work out perfectly as my friend Shawna and her sister both take their toddlers there every day so Henry would have some ready made little pals to raise toddler hell with.

Nothing doing. The first day he cried the entire three hours he was there. I'm not exaggerating either. Kid did not stop crying the entire time. Next day I stayed and played with him and the other kids for a half hour or so to show him that See, it's not so bad here. Look, a train!

He played all right but the minute I got up to leave the kid threw a bigger fit than Mariah Carey on the set of American Idol when someone gets her lunch order wrong. Screaming, foot stomping, angry pointy fingers, tears... The works.

His babysitter, the angelic and long-suffering Cindy, assured me that she's seen this all before, that from about eighteen months or so kids can be a little wacky and that he'll eventually adjust. So I kept taking him there although I felt terrible for Cindy every time I dropped him off because the kid would wrap his body around any part of me he could get his little mitts on and would not let go. But even though I was free for the first time in years, I couldn't even get any work done so certain was I that he was in full Mariah mode which made me feel bad for Cindy and also made my stomach hurt that my Henry boy was so upset.

Even Cindy seemed surprised by his ability to maintain a full scream-cry for hours on end. And so I decided to wait a few months before sticking him with a babysitter. Maybe, as Cindy said, this period between eighteen months and two years is a tender one and the kid just wants his mom and dad. This means that we are never, no never away from Henry and although I love the child dearly any parent knows that the key to being a good parent is some time off.

He's still napping twice a day, mostly, which is good. It means he naps when he's with me in the mornings while Serge works and then he naps again with Serge while I work. But still. It would be nice to be able to have several uninterrupted hours of work time or, hell, just a nice shower where I can shave my legs in peace. Is that asking for too much? Is it?

About two months ago, at my wit's end, I started going back to the YMCA because they have a little child watch center there directly next to the workout room so I thought, just maybe, because he can see me the entire time, Henry might make it through the hour they allow you to dump your kid.

The first two or three weeks he screamed non-stop. It was so bad that I wouldn't even really work out. I'd just loiter around for twenty minutes, hoping he'd stop crying. He didn't. Him, me - tears all around! I was about to give up (even though the patient girls there urged me to keep at it and assured me they haven't yet met a kid they couldn't break of wanting his mama) when I thought I'd give the exercise bike a few feet from the door to the child watch room a try. Now, I hate cycling. It just ain't my thing. Feels like my butt is trying to eat those tiny seats. But I plopped my big ass on that little seat and cycled my brains out that day because it was so close to the child watch that Henry approved the distance as acceptable and actually became interested - FOR SEVERAL SECONDS IN A ROW - in something besides my proximity to him. He actually investigated some of the toys in the play area, you guys. A breakthrough!

Energized by that visit I did the same thing again the next day. Dropped him off and backed away slowly, under his watchful gaze, until I hopped on the exercise bike and pedaled furiously before he had a chance to realize what was going down. He stood there blinking in surprise and just when he made the cry face I waved frantically and shouted HI HENRY! LOOK AT ME! WHEEE! HIIII HENRY!!!

He stood at the door uncertainly, fingers clutching the child safety gate attached to the frame, watching me intently, sniffling forlornly and waving every thirty seconds. I'd dutifully wave back even though that damn bike made me feel like puking and it was all I could do to stay upright on the motherhumper.

Ultimately, a few sobs escaped and Henry cried a little bit too but had no full-on breakdown except the one time I had to pee and he couldn't see me for a minute. I could hear him howling for me from the toilet and bolted into his line of sight as quickly as possible, because I hate the rest of the gym to have to suffer my kid's wrath.

After a week of this behavior he eventually stopped crying altogether and began to show some serious interest in the toys stacked on shelves all around the room. But every two minutes or so he'd run back to the door to make sure I was still on the exercise bike.

That's when I made my big move. During the minute or so that he was examining a truck I hopped off the dreaded exercise bike and climbed on a treadmill farther away but still within his line of sight. The next time he came running to check on me I watched panic fill his sweet face so I flapped my arms and yelled "Henry! Henry! Right here! Mama's right here." He saw me and, amazingly, seemed cool with my new location.

That day I managed thirty minutes on the treadmill while Henry played in the child watch room and checked on me every three minutes. At the completion of my workout I felt a near physical relief - almost like something popping in my chest. I realized how stressed I've been under this constant parenthood cycle with no break. That thirty minutes when both my kids were under the care of others, when all I had to do was focus on myself, felt so luxurious, so amazingly freeing.

No wonder I've been batshit crazy lately. I need a fucking break, man. We need a break. Serge is in the same boat.

Our grand dreams of family members here helping us with childcare were long ago dashed and although we have a babysitter down the street it's kind of a once a week deal. It can get expensive to pay a sitter, shell out for a movie or dinner etc... I'm looking for more of a daily scenario that affords us both a couple child-free hours to work or do what we want to do but with the Henry attachment thing it's been difficult. Actually, difficult feels like too mild a word for what's been going on. A 3-year-old and a 1-year old. It's no walk in the park. Shit, ever walked in the park with two toddlers? Even a walk in the park is no walk in the park.

I think I've had a kind of war mentality. Just hunker down in the foxhole and tough this shit out... But I'm starting to crack. The fact that those thirty child-free minutes at the gym felt so unbelievably luxurious (even though my kid was standing ten feet away waving every sixty seconds) is proof that I've got to make something happen in the way of getting Henry accustomed to being babysat. I figured with the great strides I'd made with Henry at the Y he might do well at Cindy's but yesterday proved to be more of the same: Two and a half hours of intense crying. Basically, I just don't know what to do. Maybe he'd eventually calm down if I dropped him at Cindy's regularly but that's so not cool to dump a screaming maniac on a babysitter who has four or five other kids to deal with.

The kid really is just a peach. Truly. I mean, look!



It's just this little attachment thing. I can't say I blame him. We've both been home for his entire life. He doesn't know any different. Unfortunately, in my desire to be there for my kids I guess I'm there a little too much? But tons of kids are with stay at home moms and dads full-time and don't act like this, right? So what am I doing wrong? Anybody ever dealt with a similar situation? Got any ideas? I'm all ears.

*Just noticed Serge wrote his perception of Henry's anxiety over here. Huh. Funny we're both thinking and writing about it. Prolly because it's driving us bonkers and, okay yeah, kinda sweet too.

Reader Comments (28)

My idea would be to introduce him (or re-introduce him) to the babysitter scenario when Violet is also around. Does the babysitter ever do evening hours? Or maybe Violet could take a day off Preschool? Having his sister there might ease his anxiety and help him to stay with the babysitter and be relaxed about the idea that you're gone and secure in the knowledge that you will return.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDayna

You said the family thing didn't really pan out. Too bad because I bet dropping the kid off with Gramma a few times a week would have helped prepare him for the separation. You never know. My sons have been spending a couple days a week with Gramma since a few weeks old. They've never had a problem staying with Gramma, but she's really like a third parent at this point. And my oldest was pretty attached to me; I put him in daycare one day a week just to prepare him for school. First six weeks of daycare, was a sob till you puke fest. I'm sure the workers dreaded Thursdays. After a few months he actually became excited to go! Now he's a four year old who loves kindergarten. Not sure what the younger kid will be like (one day older than Henry) though he too has no problem being left at Gram's.
I guess I don't really have any advice except keep at it. I'm thinking that if you just give up and stay with him to avoid the crying, it'll make kindergarten that much harder. But you really REALLY need time away from your kids. As much as I love my boys, I also love my alone time and dates with my husband!

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Maybe, just maybe, the ideal transition would be for Cindy - if possible - or another sitter who could become a regular to come over to your house. Play with Henry while you sneak out to another room for increasing periods of time, but still checking in, like "hey looks like you're having fun playing with that, carry on..." Then when he's nice and bonded with her, you can attempt the drop off again.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM

I'm dealing with the exact same thing. Mine just turned two. I asked her pediatrician about it and he said it's normal. Something about Piaget and how they have to go through their stages or they develop neuroses later in life if you try to force them out of this before they're ready. He said they grow out of it eventually and told me that if I'm lucky enough to be able to stay home with her to just, well, stay with her until she's over it. Not exactly what I wanted to hear because I'd like a free few hours to write, but, oh well. If you come up with something that works, please please let me know. I'm going a little crazy here.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWidelawns

My oldest was very much like this. He's now a well-adjusted 13 year old. The rough patch of separation anxiety seems so long ago when I see how independent he is now! So, don't worry! It's not forever. Just keep repeating, "this, too, shall pass." It will.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb

After we came back from vacation my 20 month old had a hard time adjusting back to daycare- and would be upset everyday for a week - but he did adjust back. I know it is much different - but I feel like the consistency of going back and basically telling him - you have to do this and adjust, he did. Maybe try keeping at it for a week?

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

I found this great resource that is really useful for mothers who are expecting or breastfeeding. They answer all kinds of questions related to exposures (medications, illness, hair dye, etc.) that could potentially harm the baby. Give them a call at 800-733-4727 for free!

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

What about dropping him off every day for a week or so for and increasing the time each day? I don't know if's been years since mine have been that little and my 8 year old son is still pretty attached to me.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

My son was the same way. I would do stroller workouts and if I were too far away from the stroller he would cry, throw up, freak out etc. He is 6 now and let me tell you it gets better...when they turn 4. I got the same advice as you. I didn't follow it. I let him hang with me all the time. We never even really went on date nights. People may think this is crazy but it worked. The stress of leaving a crying sad baby is horrible. So just don't do it. Put him to be early so you can hang with your husband. Run with him in a stroller. (although I know it gets cold in your parts). My son was finally ready for preschool at 4 and there weren't any tears. My daughter was the complete opposite as well. Maybe its just a boy thing. The years flew by and Im happy I didn't leave him. I think he was more confident during those years because i just knew he needed us. anyway...those are my 2 cents :)

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentererin

Has Serge dropped him off? My children seem to do better when my husband drops them off? Sorry. My kids are 3 and 1 and I feel your pain! They are lovely, but exhausting.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeaghan

I am dealing with the same issue with my 15 month old daughter. I just returned from my year long maternity leave a couple of months ago. My older daughter was at an in home daycare and we started the younger one there a few months before I went back a couple hours once or twice a week. She screamed the entire time. Even having her sister there didn't help. Finally the sitter couldn't handle it and told me I needed to find somewhere else. We ended up moving both girls to another lady's house and she is doing much better. The key I think is the sitter's ability to persevere and keep the little one busy. The first day I dropped her off, she was whisked off in the stroller for a walk and did great. Things are still not perfect, some days she cries but we have days where she is happy. Sometimes she doesn't nap, sometimes she does but overall, things are much better.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndra

I think it's just a phase. I would wait it out a couple of months and try again. But keep going to the gym since that is working!

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBetts

I think someone already mentioned this... but how about leaving him with the sitter for a full 10 minutes everyday for the next few weeks and see if within those 10 minutes he will eventually calm down and remember you'll be back soon... and will maybe take an interest in toys and games at the sitters during that time.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina

I hate to write this, but it took my son forever to get over these issues. For 3 years, he was only with me, my husband, or my mom (our babysitter when I work part-time). I enrolled him in preschool when he turned 3. He cried for hours on end, day after day. We quit because it was too stressful on him and me. We re-enrolled him in a different preschool when he was 4. Everyone at the school assured me he would adjust and stop crying within a few days or weeks. They all lied. He cried or got teary-eyed for almost the entire school year. And sadly I am not kidding. Eight straight months of anxiety and tears. All he wanted was me. This year, he's 5 and in a pre-k class. He's finally happy at school when I leave him. Here's to hoping Henry isn't as tough a nut to crack as my kid was.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill

It's sad that nearby extended family can't/won't help. My mom is a godsend when it comes to helping out with the kiddos. Speaking of the extended family, I can't help but notice that Serge's brother, girlfriend, and parents have been absent on here recently after lots of blog appearances soon after you guys moved to PA. Has there been some kind of falling out?

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanie Z.

I have no tips (I have a one year old little boy who has been going to the sitters 3-4x/week since my maternity leave was up), but I just wanted to commend your efforts! The whole gym/bike thing was even exhausting to read - I would have gotten frustrated and bagged the whole thing. Hopefully he'll slowly become more and more ok with being away from you guys eventually. I agree the most frustrating thing is that he'd probably stop crying at some point if you just kept taking him to Cindy's everyday, but I'm with you, in that I would develop an ulcer just thinking about poor Cindy the whole time!

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElle

I think the idea of Cindy visiting a couple of times is a good one. But here's the thing; you and Serge have to get clear what you want to do, what you are comfortable with, and then do it. No exceptions, no backsliding. Taking him... stopping... taking him again, it makes the situation worse and he is learning that by screaming himself sick, he gets mom chained to him.

I might be inclined to leave it till January, so give it a proper break - though do keep up with the YMCA thing since that seems okay - get Cindy around socially a few times, and then designate a date in Jan and just do it. Yes, he will cry, yes he will have hysterics, then he will realise that it's fun at Cindy's and that mom always comes back for him, never lets him down and all will be well. I would also be inclined to get Serge and you to take turns in dropping and fetching him. Don't always do it yourself.

So; give it a proper break - 6-8 weeks is a good long time in a small child's life - then make your plan and stick to it!

Good luck!

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercarlie@f2s.com

Oh such hard stuff! My firstborn daughter was the same way. I still vividly remember her in her little high chair, with ketchup on her cheeks, BURSTING into tears because I dared leave her with her father for a precious evening out. Daycare was a necessity starting at 12 weeks and I was lucky to find first a sitter and then a center that could tolerate her near-constant tears. They also gave loads of individual attention and reassurance. But! Now, at 3.5 she is so independent I have to beg for a kiss when I drop her off in the morning. It was tough but we just pushed through those first hard months. Consistency and knowing she was safe, if sad, were the keys to my sanity. So, I say: it's not your fault. Just go for it, and don't give up. You guys are considerate, giving parents, but hells bells, you need more than 30 minutes to yourself.

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA.

Now that mine are 4 and 7, I can feel like it's getting easier to be a mom. My youngest OWNS me, and told me the other night that she wishes we were twins. She would lose her shit regularly when I would be so daring as to leave the room to go change the laundry, but it does change and evolve as she matures. I try to remind myself that when she's 15 I'm going to be the most annoying person on the face of the earth to her, so I will soak it up now.
Just hang in there, it will change and morph into something else.

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon @ Discovering Blog

I feel you!! My 22 month old (God, I sound pretentious using months, huh) is waaayyy attached to me. Like, dad won't do most of the time. No advice here, just empathy. Hang in there!

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

My little guy was busily play 'rail-ro' with his daddy last Saturday when I decided to finally get back to gym. I just stood up to look for my keys, when I turned around and saw him coming down the hall with his shoes in hand plaintively saying momma momma -- my husband was just laughing.

But I know it passes - my oldest only has eyes for daddy on the weekends now

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZenoobi

Why couldn't Serge watch Henry when you were at the gym? Maybe you can alternate days to have a rest until he is ready for daycare

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranon

You have expressed this very well. I think the time at the Y is a win-win, you get to work out, which will relieve stress, and he can see you while getting used to being in another environment. Soon he will become occupied and by that time you will be getting your endorphins and be stronger physically too.

I am childless by choice and cannot imagine NO time to myself. I need time away from my husband too.
Good luck. He sure is a cutie. They both are.

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnsel

I have no advice, but you are definitely not alone! Massive separation anxiety here too, i had to take my daughter out of daycare because she used to vomit everywhere from stress and scream the whole time. I used to cry all the way home after dropping her off. I tried again when she got older and it was much better. My son was a little bit better, i started him at home daycare at 14mths, just for 4 hours a day once a week but man, those were 4 sweet hours for Mumma!!! I think him having his sister with him helped. My son, now aged 5, still cries when i go out, not great big sobs, just silent little tears running down his face. I do inform him i will be home in 2 hours but he says he will miss me. Good luck with Henry!

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

My younger sibling did this at about that age. My mom did a childcare swap with another 2 child family one day a week, and we started with all of us together at each house (first everyone at our house, then everyone at their house) and then we transitioned to Mom stays a while when we were there (and then snuck off unnoticed). There was crying when she came back because he realized she'd been gone but in between, no tears. Not sure if that would help, but I think there's a chance of it. The other best thing to do is have a consistent routine to it - same days of the week, same time of day to the minute, same transition. It helped my daughter adapt (she's SO SLOW to change activities and adjust to a new schedule it makes us nuts until she gets there) to know exactly what the schedule was, and we explained each day's schedule to her in the morning while she got dressed (sometimes several times with the questions).

November 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Future PharmD

You say your "grand dreams of family members here helping us with childcare were long ago dashed". Honestly? I would swallow the bitter pill and try to make things work more amicably with ANY family members within a 25 mile radius. My sister works part time and has 2 kids and between the 2 sets of grandparents, aunts (me the best aunt) and great-aunts and great-uncles, and cousins, these kids have NEVER been in day care and really love feeling the love of family members. Since you weren't specific about why Serge's family won't help (but you have hinted that they might be racist, old school meatheads) I would suck it up. Put on a happy face, make the elderly feel like they're who V and H really want to be around. Politics aside, if people feel genuinely wanted (not taken advantage of) they will bend. Why else move to that part of the country, that particular valley? Even if it's just 2 hours, every other Thursday morning, stop by, bring them coffee and run out childless. We've seen pics of Serge's family lovin' on your kids in the past. Make it happen again.

November 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

@BonnieLee - It isn't about politics at all. Good Lord, if I thought spending time with certain relatives was ultimately in the best interest of my family - specifically my kids - then I would make that happen regardless of my personal feelings toward any particular individual. But, at some point, when an environment is so consistently unhealthy space from that environment is definitely warranted. Also, this is Serge's family and so his relationships with them are ultimately his business and I stand behind his choices 100%.

November 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

just wait, that would be my advice. let him stay super attached until he doesn't need to be. we have four kids and my oldest, Dakota, was like that. i put him in daycare and took him out because of the crying. i put him back in six months later and he was fine. between then, he did good with my mom as a babysitter, someone he knew nad felt safe with.

and Lola, my middle, she was fine as long as her brother was there when i left her with my mom, so maybe just try leaving them together somewhere a few times a week?

i'm in the same boat 24-7 hard core hunker down and cracking with Ever, who is 2 in December. ;alsdi;aowieh!!!
yueah. I couldn't afford daycare even if i wanted to do it, and my mom works SO many hours now, and my husband works works and he DOES take her, but it's not neeeaaar enough.

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

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