Friday, May 23, 2014

New Mom Has Separation Anxiety

Dear Tazi:

I am the mother to a beautiful, healthy eighteen month old baby. He is my first child, and I love him more than I ever thought possible. I would give my life to keep him safe, and that is no exaggeration. My problem is, I am dreading the idea of going back to work because it means leaving my precious baby in the care of strangers at a day-care all day. A baby needs his mother!

I have asked my husband about remaining a stay-at-home-mom until our son is old enough to attend pre-school, and then returning to work on a part-time basis until he starts school, when I would work mother's hours until he is old enough to be able to stay on his own. I realize this is an investment of several years of my life, but I am willing to do whatever I must to give my son the very best life possible. My husband, on the other hand...

Tazi, "Frank" has told me that I have to return to work as soon as possible, that i have stretched my maternity leave long enough and that we need my paycheck to survive. Tazi, Frank is a skilled worker who makes a much bigger paycheck than I do, and with the cost of day-care taking up 50% of my take-home pay the amount of money I bring in could easily be made up if Frank were to pick up an overtime shift once a week. Overtime is plentiful at his job, so it is not an issue of whether or not he can get it but of whether or not he will take it.

When I suggested this idea to Frank, he flat-out refused to commit to working overtime so I can stay at home with the baby. He said his job is stressful and tiring enough without having to take on an extra shift that would take him away from me and the baby for an extra 14 hours a week (Frank works 12 hour shifts, with an hour commute each way). Each of us thinks the other is being selfish. I am considering telling my employer that I have decided to be a stay-at-home-mom and let the chips fall where they may (since I think they may have already figured that out), but I don't think this will go over too well with my husband, who is already jealous of the time I get to spend with the baby while he is at work. Who do you think is right, Tazi - me or my husband?

New Mommy

Dear New Mommy:

First let me congratulate you and your husband on the birth of your first child! Becoming a parent is a joyous, stressful, life-altering event as I am certain you are discovering! Having seen new moms and their babies before, I have witnessed the incredible bond between mother and child and can see why you would not want to leave your child in day-car to return to work - especially if you will essentially be working a 40 hour week for half the paycheck. However, I can also see your husband's side of the story.

You say that Frank is "jealous" of the time you get to spend with the baby while he is at work. If this is true, I can see why he would become resentful at the idea of working an additional 12-hour shift every week in order to make up for the loss in pay as you spend even more time with your child. I can tell you that this resentment would build exponentially if you were to force his hand by quitting your job, so I do not advise that you do this. Rather, I suggest that you and your husband sit down and discuss the issues that are on your mind.

You feel strongly about being a stay-at-home-mom, and have your reasons for feeling this way. Your husband has strong feelings about your returning to work, and his feelings are equally valid. You believe that a child needs his mother; which is something you can provide by staying at home. Your husband believes that your family needs both the extra paycheck and the presence of a father, something he can provide if you return to work. By suggesting that Frank take on an overtime shift every week, you reduce him to nothing more than a paycheck (in his eyes) which is very hurtful; by demanding that you return to work for (essentially) half-pay is equally hurtful to you. Additionally, the fact that you planned out the next several years of your life without asking for your husband's input had to hurt him. The two of you need to stop hurting each other, and the only way to do this is to openly communicate with each other.

A proven way to effectively communicate is role reversal. I suggest that you and your husband find a neutral time to discuss things between you - say, after the baby has gone to bed but before you two are both so tired you are irritable. You can play the role of Frank and Frank can play the role of you. This activity will force you to think as you believe the other is thinking and reveal these feelings to the other. You may be very surprised at what you discover. Once all the cards are on the table, you will be able to see a much clearer picture and can make a decision from there.

One possibility that you may not have explored is for you to work part-time - half-days five days a week; full days two-days a week; or some combination of the two. This will cut down on the day-care bill and allow you to spend more time with your child so you don't feel so resentful about going back to work. I realize the separation anxiety you are feeling must be overwhelming; but find comfort in the fact that babies are social creatures and enjoy being around other babies. If you find that this solution does not work for you, re-visit the issue with your husband and ask again about being a stay-at-home-mom for the nect year of your son's life, after which point he will be old enough for pre-school. After a steady diet of nap schedules, dirty diapers, endless laundry, and everything else that comes with being a stay-at-home-mom to an infant, I am surprised that you do not crave the company of adults and the intellectual stimulation of an outside job.

I wish both you and your husband the best of luck, and your little one the best of health! Remember, a happy home is the best gift you can give your child.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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