Changing of the Guard: Mr. Mom Edition
March 3, 2015 9:49 PM   Subscribe

How can we ease this transition from mom at home to dad at home?

I went to get a haircut today, and things started out fine. I said goodbye to everyone and Dad got him down for a nap and he slept for an hour or so. Apparently he then woke up screaming and cried hysterically until I got home (about an hour and a half); he then nursed for 10 minutes or so and fell asleep.

Dad has always been very hands-on and he's always spent lots of time with dad. He LOVES dad. I've been pumping and he (the baby!) happily breastfeeds and takes breastmilk from his sippy cup (from anyone, even when I'm home and even from me). He loves people and is happy to be handed around to relatives and friends (as long as I'm around somewhere, I guess?). Dad tried everything to calm him down... cuddles, skin to skin, wrap, bath, etc. Nothing worked =( Kiddo never took the bottle, and we don't have help nearby, so he's never really been babysat.

My only idea is to spend the next half week leaving for increasingly longer periods of time so that the idea that *mom comes back* gets drilled in. Or should I just leave for longer (say, 2 hr) periods over and over and over? They plan on meeting me for lunch near my office at first for visits and they can take walks and meet me at the train station too. What else can we do??? How long does it take a normally relaxed kid to get used to this?

At some point I'll be able to work at home a couple days a week, but not right away. I work 40/wk (inc lunch) and have flex start/home times, but I do need to GO BACK - not job share.
posted by jrobin276 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh poor dad, poor bub and you!

I've got three kids and from my experience, it will just take as long as it takes. Each child is different and just like a little one that cries as you leave them at daycare, they eventually get used to it. You just have to grit your teeth and do your best until that happens.

Going out & coming back regularly will definitely help.

Dad should try all the distractions he can think of to help baby settle while you're gone; favourite toys, ipad, neighbour's puppy, go for a drive, anything. Sometimes when my babies would cry and scream all night, they would suddenly stop if I took them outside.

There's no magic answer except to persist. When I had my first baby, I had trouble feeding her. I tried this and this and this and nothing worked so I rang my paediatrician and told her that I had tried everything. She asked me how long I tried different things for. Um, about once, then tried something else. She told me I had to try longer, so I did, and after a couple of weeks, we both got used to it.

Good luck. Going back to work can be stressful for everyone.
posted by stellathon at 10:06 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think this feels worse than it is because you had such high expectations. I mean, the kid seemed like he'd be totally easy, right?

So anyway, this may have been a one off, or it may be that the screaming persists for another few weeks. You can't tell or really do anything about it. This is where dad and kid have to make it their project to get over the hump.

What worked for mine is going somewhere else that isn't home. Forsome reason it's a lot easier to leave mommy behind (smiles!) than be left behind by her (screams!). The difference was really that abrupt.

Yes to practicing daddy & me time once a day, but maybe not more often. It's a huge stress for the kiddo.

I would advise against lunchtime meet ups - he might end up having another screaming fit when you go back to work after lunch. But your kid is different than mine, so maybe try it?

Good luck, he'll be fine! You are making the right choices.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:14 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

If the baby's been used to spending 24/7 with mom, then being left with anyone besides mom is going to be a transition. I would treat it like you were transitioning him for daycare. So leave for two hours the first day or two, through lunch the second, through naptime after that. If you can all take a walk outside and then say goodbye while dad continues on, that might be a good distraction.

How old is your baby? I found that around 9 months ours was really into me (mom) and had a lot of trouble with separation. There were several babysitting afternoons where he cried the whole time.

Play lots of peekaboo when you're home. Go into other rooms and then give lots of cuddles when you get back.

It'll take a couple weeks with a not very happy baby for dad to establish his own routine.
posted by betsybetsy at 3:55 AM on March 4, 2015

It will be fine. I agree that it will take as long as it takes. Remember, crying in the loving arms of a parent or trusted adult is not the same as abandoned.

What helped my kids a lot:

- even though it was short-term pain, the leaving parent said goodbye when possible so that it wasn't a surprise.
- we had a short ritual of kiss blowing & set phrases
- both adult parties were as matter of fact as possible to convey this is all fine, nothing to see here.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:55 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

We've done the mom to dad to mom and are about switch back to dad again, and I think there's only so much you can do to prepare the baby for it. Graduated time away over a few days might help you and dad prepare but I'm skeptical it teaches the baby anything rather than dragging adjustment out. (I know some parents believe strongly otherwise, but I don't know parents its worked for in real life.)

Just doing it was tough for a few days but dad and the baby got comfortable in less than a work week, and same when I was home again.

Wrapping helped dad, if nothing else the baby can't resist the wrap nap after 10-15 min

Nursing right when I got home helped him know I was always coming back. Definitely saying goodbye and hello as well.

Since we also had no childcare or help or even visitors really for the first few months, spending some time all snuggled together before leaving and in the early evening helped too - like everybody's here with the baby and all is right in baby's world (cat joining in too usually).
posted by sputzie at 4:22 AM on March 4, 2015

Oh, and I would say, now that we have had some sitters it's not the same - much faster to get accustomed to staying home with dad who has been a baby carer the baby's whole life. Not like a stranger or unfamiliar relative.
posted by sputzie at 4:25 AM on March 4, 2015

How old is the baby?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:37 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Pumping was very difficult and mom could not ween our boy. Even after he grew teeth she just couldn't do it. Boy was 2.5 and a business trip came up. We'd always gone as a family to those conventions. This time, mom went alone. Boy watched her get on the plane and fly away. He brooded on the way home.

We got home and made chicken Waterzooi. The dishwasher, one of those you hook up to the sink, had a butcher block top and I rolled it in a corner and put him up there and gave him an old fashioned plunger/jar chopper thing and he went to town on the veggies.

Boob time came and I was tasting the broth and he made that indescribable noise he always made when he was hungry. So I gave him some broth in a sippy. He was impressed and we ate that whole huge pot over the next few days.

His mom came home 4 days later. Of course he was glad to see her and got in position. "Boob?" "No." One tiny tear from each of them. The end of an era. It seemed like the perfect time to switch roles, but now I have to cook like that forever and school lunch just doesn't cut it with him.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:13 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Be sure to explain to the child where the mom is going and that she's coming back. They can understand much more than you'd guess, and their understanding grows quickly. I used baby sign with my son starting when he could sit up (~ 6 months), and we had a simple invented sign that referred to his dad. It was so surprising (and bittersweet) how often he'd sign "dad" during the day. To which I'd say, "Yes, he is at work, but he'll be home after dinner when it's dark."

Mom can also do a regular Skype/Facetime chat from work so that the child can see her when she's out. The child will understand it more clearly if he can visit mom's office, take note of a specific object that is there (e.g. a bright orange toy), and then see it again in the video call with mom. He will understand so much better that she is there, in that specific location. We also used Facetime around the house to make clear the concept that you can use it to see people who are in a different location, like the bathroom.

It may seem like overkill to do all of these things, and for most kids it's probably not necessary, but it's also fun to help a child conceptualize space and time.
posted by xo at 9:07 AM on March 4, 2015

Oh, I feel for you, it's really hard to transition your child to someone else's care (not that dad is just anyone). I went back to work at the end of November and eased my son into daycare. He did 45 minutes the first day, through snack the second day, then through outdoor play time, then through lunch, then through nap, then all day. We did some of the days twice in a row before extending the time. I really wanted it to be gentle rather than suddenly being gone the full time, and I think it was good for him. Many many tears the first couple of days but he gradually got used to it.

So I would follow that kind of schedule (not leaving at random times of the day for two hours, but leaving in the morning as you would for a work day and gradually extending how long you are gone).

Another thing that will help is if your husband takes him to activities. If you all leave the house at the same time it's not as traumatic. Library story time, playtime at the community center, music class, swimming, baby gym, parks. So many options!

Best of luck.
posted by JenMarie at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2015

He's spot on six months.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:14 PM on March 4, 2015

Big separation anxiety age. Things are likely to get better in a month basically no matter what. Dad should try wearing him in an ergo/carrier and going for a walk or walking around the house. It might take him 30 minutes to calm down but he likely will eventually. A spot of paracetamol / tylenol might be tried if you think there's any way a tooth is on the way. Finally, he might be overtired--make sure bedtimes are early enough and naps happen before exhaustion.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:26 PM on March 4, 2015

I agree that dad needs to get baby out and moving. A drive, a walk. if nothing else a screaming baby is so much easier it if the house then in!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:53 PM on March 4, 2015

Never mind my weaning story then. At six months I was just doing relief work on the weekends so mom could sleep in without a Remora attached to her chest. Getting to the park in the dark and putting him in a swing as the sun rose seemed to make the day go better. Pools and hot tubs with tickle jets were pretty popular too. And climbing. Climbing anything. They can do this before they can walk.

What I found was that getting the little monster out for physical activity very early was the key that unlocked a good day for all of us. Downside now is little hands on either side of my face shaking me awake in the dark and demands for fritata and an outing and I ask for 30 minutes and the little hands are on my face again in 3 and then I can't go back to sleep because I am wondering what the hell is going to be left of the house if he is out there on his own.

Congratulations on your very own human snooze alarm.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:33 PM on March 4, 2015

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