Surviving Postpartum Everything

Baby 12

Traveling Parent and anxiety in kidsI suppose it's obvious that the kids would be affected by having a traveling parent. As long as my kids can probably remember, my husband has been gone more than he's been home.

When he first started traveling, my oldest daughter (then an only child) struggled with his departures. But it made sense since she was the only one who ever knew him when he had a "regular" job, if you can call 12- to 15-hour days, sometimes weekend trips, regular.

But she, like my others, grew accustomed to the routine, so much so that I found myself explaining why he'd be coming home at night on days when he had Guard duty. "Going to work" meant that he'd be gone for a few days, sometimes more, so for them, his leaving and returning on the same day would throw them for a loop.

I'm fortunate that overall, my kids are super resilient and adjust fairly well to going from one parent to two parents. Other than oftentimes only wanting mommy to do everything, or worse, going to me for every single thing that they want or need even when my husband is home, the transitions are fairly simple.

However, since adding a 4th child to the family and my husband just recently returning to work with a five-day trip to Africa, I've noticed that my 3-year-old son, in particular, is a little more anxious than usual, which manifests in tantrums, defiance, and worst of all, sleep disruption.

Of all my kids, he tends to be the one who needs the most structure and consistency in general, so it's really not surprising that he has so much difficulty when my husband leaves and then returns. I think what's most difficult is that my other kids are the complete opposite, so it makes his anxiety even more challenging. I can usually identify it pretty easily, since I find myself putting him in the corner or taking away privileges more often than usual.

And the crying fits and tantrums seem worse than they ever were with the terrible twos.

But I'd happily take all that just to not have the sleep disruption, which involves him coming into my room every few hours for the entire night. Sometimes he'll wake up crying and scream for me. Other times he'll just pop in to say "hello" at 1 a.m.

And 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Either way, it's maddening -- and now with a 2-year-old who does the same thing AND a newborn -- well, let's just say I don't see much sleep in my future.

Add in postpartum hormones and it's not pretty.

My husband's absence this past weekend has been helpful in that it's made me much more aware of my son's anxiety and what I need to help him deal with it. Part of me is surprised at how helpless I can feel even after being a sometimes single mom for over three years now. Another part of me understands that I'll never know it all, at least when it comes to my kids.

And that I probably won't be getting much sleep any time soon.


Image via Kristen Chase

baby first year, newborns, postpartum recovery


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jeann... jeannesager

When my daughter went through this phase in the middle of the night (also around 2/3), we set up a tent in our room for her. That way she didn't get used to being back in our bed, but she was close enough to us that she slept better). Then we gradually moved the tent into her room . . . then moved her back into her bed. Not sure how big your bedroom is, but it's an option?

Good luck!

Wendy Peterson

I feel for you. I don't do well without sleep.
My son sounds a lot like yours. My husband is off at a meeting and my son has been out of his room twice in about 30 minutes, even though I promised him Daddy would come and say goodnight when he got home. Even though Daddy gave him a hug and kiss before he left.
No real advice, but I do feel your pain.

dms757 dms757

A friend of mine has a term "night anxiety" that she used to describe that dread she would feel each night worrying if she was going to get any sleep when she had small kids.  I remember it too (my oldest was still getting up when #2 was born) and I feel your pain!  Just put them all in bed with you when your husband's away so you can get a good night's sleep. 

nonmember avatar Carolyn

Does he still nap? If so, I'd stop naps so he's more likely to be tired at night. I'm sure you've tried everything at this point, though. Although my 3yo rarely comes into our room overnight, it used to take FOR-EV-ER to get her to finally settle down, stay in bed, and fall asleep. Maybe keep him up a little later to get him good and tired? Have him run several laps around the house before bed? I give my daughter 4-5 books to look at, with a nightlight, while she's in bed. Good luck!

nonmember avatar Kara

I've got nothing. Last night I paid my 2 year old 30 cents and 8 Chuck E. Cheese token to let me brush her freaking teeth.

nonmember avatar Kate

Okay, no sleep advice, but perhaps some anxiety assvice to ward off the bad sleep. My husband travels for work and is typically gone 3-5 days/nights per week. Both my son and daughter miss him, but my son definitely has more anxiety about it. husband has a couple of prized possessions that he wants my son to "take care of" while he's gone. There are also lots of daily phone calls and some skype, too. When he returns, my husband always has some sort of snack/treat (food rewards-boo!) to give the kids. It's something I would never buy and is a rare treat in our house. These little things seem to keep them connected, and really help to ease the separation. Maybe they would help your little guy sleep a little sounder. Good luck!

nonmember avatar mid

I can never understand why parents cant just take charge and lay the law down. Your the boss tell him if he doesn't stay in bed there will be punishment and when he doesn't stay in bed follow through with the punishment. I think what has happened is he has gotten himself into a habit of coming in and you need to break that. It will be difficult but worth it.

Paige Horst

I remember these days well. My oldest was just a non-sleeper from birth, and a very anxious kid in general. For years we had a mattress on the floor next to our bed with extra-fluffy comforter and flannel sheets and dozens of pillows. Whichever kid was waking up could come in and sleep in the mattress without waking us up, or he/she could wake us up and sleep in our bed. If they chose to wake us up then there was no dessert the next day. If they didn't wake us up, there was dessert, extra tv time and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't but for the most part, we got more sleep.

Now that the kids are teens, the problem is WAKING THEM UP!

nonmember avatar Jennifer

'Laying down the law', even if it worked to keep him in his room, would not solve the issue at hand- anxiety. And would probably, in fact, make it much worse. Anxiety does not need to be punished. A child cannot learn how to deal with his emotions if he is taught that they are 'bad'.

nonmember avatar Suzie

My older daughter got out of her bed CONSTANTLY when she was little. It was my button. And she pushed it for almost her entire childhood. She's 14 now, and I still feel frustrated when I hear her go into the bathroom at midnight (at least it's the bathroom, and not my room ... right?)

I feel your pain. I wish you the best.

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