When Your Kid Misses You While You Are At Work

I want to work AND pick up this munchkin

I want to work AND pick up this munchkin

At 3:10PM I see that my nanny is calling me on my cell phone. I’m at work so she and Simon should be picking Sadie up from school.  I don’t panic. (Yes, I do.)

“Hi, Sabrina. Is everyone OK?”

“Yes, Christie, everyone is fine, but do you have a moment to talk to Sadie? She’s missing you.”

“Of course.”

Sadie tells me that she told her teacher how much she misses me and that she wants me to pick her up from school.  (At least, I am pretty sure what’s what she said as she held the phone almost inside her mouth to talk to me.)

“I’m glad you can tell your teacher and me and Sabrina how much you miss me.  What did your teacher say?”

“Mommy, I didn’t let her talk because I wanted to keep talking. I told her over and over and I did not want my nanny to pick me up. I wanted you to pick me up.”

I still don’t panic. (Yes, I do.) Teachable moment.  I feel sad that she’s having a hard time and grateful she can articulate her feelings.  And I wish I could be in two places at once and that money grew on trees and that I understood how to balance my life.

“Sadie, I would love to pick you up.  I miss you very much.  On Thursday, I can take you to school and pick you up.  I can’t wait.”

There are a few more rounds of “I. Don’t. Want. My. Nan. Nee. Picking. Me. Up.”  I let her vent and say it as many times as she needs to.  I promise her I will see her very soon.  We discuss the snack I will bring her on Thursday when I pick her up– “No Goldfish or Wheat Thins.  Cold Water with ice and dried raspberries.”  I start to sing her The Greatest Love of All and she hangs up on me.  Accidentally, I’m sure.

Later I email her teacher and let her know that I am aware that Sadie is unhappy at dismissal time because she wants me to pick her up.  Within 16 minutes, the teacher emails me back:

I know it’s probably hard for you to hear her disappointment, but I think this can be a great growing experience for Sadie.  While we always would like to remove disappointment from children, it is inevitable, and I think sometimes, just helping them learn how to cope with the disappointment is almost more valuable.

And now I commence to sob heartily into my pillow because (1) teachers got so incredibly loving and aware since I was Sadie’s age (no offense, Ms. Durlan), (2) because I can’t fix her disappointment or be two places at once, (3) because I feel responsible for her distress, (4) because I’m not sure if the job is worth the toll it is taking on her (or me), and (5) because there is something about my kids being surrounded by loving adults (like me, Jeff, and their teachers) who love them and will honor their feelings and help them face whatever life (or I) throw at them.  It makes me cry.

There are tears of joy, gratitude, fear, indecision, regret, anxiety, sorrow, humility, confusion, hope, and terror.  It’s going to be a long cry.

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42 thoughts on “When Your Kid Misses You While You Are At Work

  1. Awww, I can completely relate! I work full-time, but only in the office three days a week. I went back to work when my daughter was 5 months old, she is almost 3 now. I should be used to this by now, but I still can’t decide which is worse: having her tell me not to leave in the morning and try to give me endless hugs and kisses, or barely even noticing that I left (like this morning, when my husband had her looking out of the window at garbage trucks and she was so absorbed that she didn’t even give me a hug goodbye). They break your heart into a million little pieces, those children.

    It will get easier, but the conflicted feelings, guilt, and profound sadness don’t ever really go away, I’m afraid.

    • You said it perfectly– I am happy she misses and notices I am not as ubiquitous as I used to be, but I don’t want her to feel sad. I can’t have it both ways. Glad to hear you are navigating this as well.

  2. Try not to fret, Christie. I think a short absence does make the heart grow fonder . . . I am looking forward to my younger one going full time this fall so I can commence with . . . whatever I’m supposed to do (yoga, lunches, ha ha just kidding . . . part time law endeavor for realz this time). Anywho, my older is more sensitive and it takes more time to get used to change; whereas, my younger one on his first day of school never looked back at me. Will be lifting a prayer for you both during this new transition.

  3. I am crying partly because I’m a wimp and partly because I left a sobbing 3-year-old as I left for work today. THAT. SHIT. SUCKS. And it hurts. God, how it hurts physically. Sadie’s teacher’s words are a balm, though: we can’t keep them from being disappointed, even though their disappointment may be borne by us disappointing them I AM PARAPHRASING, GIMME A DAMN BREAK.

    I’m sure (I’m not sure) he’d stopped crying by the time I hit the corner. And I’m sure my husband soothed him (No, he didn’t; I’m sure he told him to get his coat on already, it’s time for school). I’m positive that he was OK by the time he got to school (I am). I do hope you know you are doing what’s best for your family, what’s needed for your family, and I’ll be smiling a little extra hard on Thursday knowing that you and Sadie are both happy.

    • It seriously helps to know I am not alone. It’s worse in the summer when the windows are open and I can hear her all the way down the street. There will be tears of another kind on thurdsay when I am there and STILL don’t do it right. DAMN.

    • Right. It’s like I am sitting here working and I get this call from Sadie– the nanny has pulled over to the side of the road so sadie can talk to me– and I am thinking (1) is she for real? (2) what do I do? and (3) how can I fix it? Teacher says no fixing children’s feelings. UGH.

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 10:18 AM, Outlaw Mama

  4. Ok, I’m crying while reading your post! What a beautiful gift you all are — from Sadie and you to Sabrina and her teachers . . . oh, and of course Jeff too!!!! There’s nothing that gets to me more than a kid’s emotions. So real and powerful . . . and honest and vulnerable! You are a certifiable rockstar in allowing her to have all her feelings and not trying to fix them. What an amazing gift and mom you are!!!!!! I love you. Admire how you are showing up for your big full life, one unpredictable day at a time. Ok, now back to Policy paper writing. Ugh and Oy!!!!! Hugs.

    • UGh and oy is right. I really really want to fix the feelings. If the teacher hadn’t discouraged that approach, I would be on line ordering Sadie a princess playhouse made out of bubble gum and chocolate.

      But for now, no fixing. Just trusting and loving.

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM, Outlaw Mama

  5. Geez, I can’t even stand when my dog’s tail droops when I leave him, so I can’t even imagine my child crying about it! It’s so hard, but it is also part of the real world that she has to navigate, like her teacher said. And you are doing a great job helping her to do that! Hugs to both of you 🙂

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I console myself that it’s good practice for both of us, but when she asks me WHY we need money and WHY I have to work, I just fumble around. Plus, I don’t want to give her the idea that work is ONLY about money. It’s not. It’s about using my talents and skills and contributing to the world…it’s not just about money, but I had a hard time explaining “identity” and “ambition” to her.

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM, Outlaw Mama

  6. i’m don’t work and at times my kids cry because they want to stay home with me. there’s disappointment everywhere… and we can’t shield them from everything, however much we’d like to. so we cry, eat ice cream, run and keep going, day by day.

    • Thank you!!! It takes a village: Someone to hold the tissues, someone to parent me, someone to hold the phone, someone to Google “childhood trauma”, someone to drive the car, someone to hold the snacks, someone to clean the crumbs….

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 11:32 AM, Outlaw Mama

  7. My children tell me they miss me when they’re at school (and one has asked for a cell phone so that she can call me when she misses me, although I expect that’s a thin excuse for why she really wants one…games!) but when they see me at the door of their after school program they groan “Noooooo!” and I often end up hanging around until they’re ready to stop playing. Your teacher has such wise advice. Why are we so inclined to create an emotionally sterile environment for our children? When my oldest was despondent last week after receiving a rejection letter from the college she was most interested in, I really wanted to fix her feelings. I did a lot of self-talk for a couple of days, reminding myself that she would face a lot of rejection and disappointment in her life and that allowing her to learn to deal with it and move on was the best way I could help her. We.must.resist.the.urge!

    • You’re wise, yourself. This line is fabulous: “Why are we so inclined to create an emotionally sterile environment for our children?” I say I want them to have all their feelings, until they have them, and then I want them to stop. Thank you.

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM, Outlaw Mama

      • Bingo! I’m totally cool with the healthiness of all those feelings. Until somebody has them. Or I have them. Great post. It’s nice she misses you & also nice she’s gaining skills. Would be great if the process wasn’t so hard.

  8. Your child is learning coping skills, as well as independence and trust.. It’s good for them to spend some time away from Mommy and learn that Mommy will always come back to them. I think we suffer more than they do.

    Having said that, my baby is going on his first after school play-date today, and I’m a wreck.

  9. What an amazing response from her teacher. I’m trying to retrain myself to not try and keep my daughter from being disappointed. It’s really hit home for me lately that I’m doing her a disservice by not preparing her. Stay strong! Motherhood is hard.

    • You’re right. Where does it say that mommies should keep kids from having life experience? I can love her through it but I can’t (and shouldn’t) fix it. I want her teacher to be my mommy sponsor.

      • I’m sure she (teacher) would do that. She sounds amazing! You’re doing great. I have my “helicopter mom moments” and she’s an only child. We do and give her everything. I read an article somewhere that was pointing out the fact that kids need to have moments of disappointment, being , sad, and so much more. By not letting them experience such things, they are unprepared for when It *does * she will be better prepared. Now I’m on a mission to disappoint her ever change I get! 😉 you got this!

  10. Hang in there, you’re doing great – so is Sadie. It’s the best kind of parenting to surround our kids with love when we can’t be there ourselves. Our kids learn to love and be loved by more people – and also that parents will come back when we need to go away. Painful, though.

  11. Is is weird that the word I would use to describe this post is ‘sweet’? It sounds like everything is going just exactly as it should. It’s totally understandable that Sadie would feel the way she’s feeling, and you the way you’re feeling. How could it not happen that way? It’s unfolding sort of perfectly. (Although I realize it probably doesn’t seem as silky smooth to you. Nor would it to me if I were in your shoes.)

    Also, is it at least sort of satisfying to know that she misses you? Or am I just self-centered? Because I’m pretty sure I would feel at least a tiny bit good knowing that.

  12. Thanks for this. Totally relatable. I hope next week goes better.

    Curious as to whether you (or any of the commenters) have a sense regarding at what age kids can grasp the whole we need money, and I must work to get it for us concept? My son apparently labors under the impression that the atm prints the stuff at will. When I try to explain, I get a blank bordering on annoyed stare.

    I know, epic fail by me.

    • Funny that you mention that. I have heard my 3.5 year say stuff about mommy needs to earn money– because that’s what I heard the nanny tell her– but I don’t believe she understands. It makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s a fairly advanced concept. I wouldn’t call it a fail…it’s complex.

      On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 12:21 PM, Outlaw Mama

      • My son is the same age and he doesn’t grasp the transaction at all. He does grasp that I really like my work, and he’s jealous of it, which opens all kinds of mommy guilt issues. But I think it’s good that he sees me working. I want to raise a feminist after all.

      • Yes. Both my kids are now really into playing “work. They pretend they are going to work or doing work or coming home from work. It doesn’t look like they think it sucks.

  13. Holy schmoly, that was a heart twister of a post for every working mom. Scratch that. For every mom. We never want our kids to hurt, it goes against all motherly instincts to protect them from harm. And, especially if we feel it is our fault. I know I’ve been there. Every time I drop off my littlest at preschool, she hides behind me, clings to my hand, avoids all attempts to be re-directed, and sometimes (on the really bad days) wails as I give her small hand over to the teacher and duck through the never ending hallways. I used to brainstorm ways we could make ends meet without my job, berate myself for being such a sh!tty mom, and generally worry all day long about her well-being. Until, one day I left and had to come back to her school two minutes later with her forgotten snow suit. Wouldn’t you know that she was smiling and telling a teacher a joke? Yep, literally two minutes after wailing. Emotions are transient. Learning how to deal with them is life long.

    • You’re right. It sucked when I would drop her off at the gym day care for an hour wen I when I wasn’t working. This is just another version of that. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone. It helps.

      On Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM, Outlaw Mama

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