So I broke the self imposed rule of not letting any one of us go to bed angry.. and allowed the hubs to go bed probably feeling angry and dejected.
Clarissa didn't seem to be in the best of moods tonight and openly refused to let the hubs carry her when our helper brought her back into our room to say good night.
I was brushing my teeth then and heard her crying and wanting to go back to our helper.
When I saw them, Clarissa quickly reached for me and I saw the hubs looking very sian.
I think this all started after we got back from Japan, when little boss started rejecting the hubs from time to time.
Having been the rejected one before – when she was much younger, she didn't like me carrying her – I kind of understand how the hubs feels.
The feeling sucks.
You don't understand how this can happen.
You feel helpless and useless.
Back then I kept wondering, "Why does she hate me? Why can't I make her sleep? Why won't she let me?"
I even started crying after one of those witching hours back, when none of what I did could calm her down and yet she was ok once the hubs got home and comforted her.
Back then, the hubs told me, very gently and logically, that we can't be good at everything. Maybe he's better at making her sleep, but he doesn't know how to bathe her properly. That is why we have to be a team.
When the helper came along, he continued doing the dream feed and tucking little boss in bed.
That was before Clarissa started taking porridge in the evenings and still needed a bottle at 11pm-12am while already asleep, so that she can sleep through till at least 6am.
I was the one who started asking him to let the helper do that on some nights so that he can rest earlier while I pumped.
He said no, night duty is his duty.
But I insisted on getting the helper to try.
One night, we did.
He watched the helper intently via cctv and got quite worked up about her not following his method.
Eventually she clumsily woke the baby up and he concluded that he should just continue doing the dream feed.
Then we started giving her porridge in the evenings and her last feed around 10pm.
She also started sleeping later, since I started working and we only got home around 8pm every night.
Some nights she'd refuse to sleep because she wanted to spend more time with us.
Someone suggested to me to let our helper make her sleep instead.
That way she wouldn't feel the need to deliberately stay awake to spend time with us.
So we started letting the helped make her sleep once we hugged and kissed her good night.
But we continued taking turns to give her the last feed.
Until recently, her #foodstrike.
She'd either flat out refuse to drink when we tried to feed her or she'd suddenly spring up to play after drinking less than half the bottle.
So we started letting the helper take her out of the room to finish her milk, before going back to "collect" her again to say goodnight and tuck her in.
(Now that I think about this and put it down in words, I'm beginning to see the progression more clearly.)
Anyway I turned to Dr Google to find out why Clarissa might be be rejecting her Daddy.
Firstly fathers, you should tell yourself again and again that it is nothing personal. Your children are not rejecting you – they are just expressing a greater need for their mother.
Most of the articles say that it is common for a baby or toddler to be more attached to his or her primary care giver, inevitably due to the amount of time they spend together.
Hence when they are tired or have an emotional need for comfort, the natural inclination is to go to the primary care giver, which in most cases would be the mom.
It does not mean they dislike the dad; it's just that they need the mom more for that particular situation or emotion they are going through.
The articles also said that the preference, while hurtful for the rejected, is not irreversible.
One way to feel less rejected is to continue helping out in whatever way possible.
Begin to establish sleep time connections with your child by reading them stories, bathing them, giving them special Daddy hugs etc.. Even if it doesn’t pay off immediately, it will in the long term. The more you take on the hard work now, the sooner it will pay off.
I sent the links to some of the articles to the hubs, but when he returned to the room, he asked me to summarise because there were too many words.
So I did.
And very gently trying to suggest that perhaps he can start trying to feed her and make her sleep again once a week, just once a week.
"No," the hubs flat out refused to.
"She doesn't want me."
👩: "She's just more used to us because we are at home more often. Why don't you try.."
👨: "No. She doesn't need me. It's ok."
👩: "Just once a week, like you used to."
👨: "Yah I used to feed her every night and make her sleep. Now she doesn't remember it."
👩: "She's just a baby?"
👨: "Now you are number one and the helper is number two.."
👩: "So all the more we shouldn't be lazy and should try.."
That was where the conversation went downhill, because he thought it was unfair for me to say he is lazy.
(For the record, I wasn't.)
I just thought we should make the extra effort to bond with her.
Having a good helper is a real blessing, but it is precisely because of this that we should always keep up with our child so that we remain in Number 1 position.
The way a child senses love and comfort is very direct. The more often and more consistent it is, the more obvious it is to him or her.
It is the same with Clarissa.
Because I have the advantage of working from home, I spend more time with her, whether it's reading or playing or doing nothing in particular. No TV before 7pm.
The hubs on the other hand only has weekday nights with her, where he'd rush to finish his dinner so he can relieve the helper while she has her dinner.
Pretty much just between 830pm to 10pm, and we usually spend it watching TV and/or on the phone.
Even during weekends, there aren't long stretches of time they get to spend together. There is always some errand to run, some gathering to go to, sleep to catch up on, and so on.
While I completely understand the need for me-time and that we cannot spend every single minute with our baby, I think we need to make the effort to spend quality time with her.
Not doing anything except reading to her or talking to her or watching her play or playing with her.. without using the phone or having the TV on.
I guess that is what is lacking.
This is not to say that the hubs doesn't do anything (which is probably why he is angry with me, because he probably thinks I'm suggesting he's lazy), because he really tries his best to get home on time, and really finishes his dinner very quickly so he can take care of her while I continue eating.
I'm just suggesting that that perhaps the idea of quality and effort has to change.
Feeding her is one way to bond. Spending uninterrupted play time with her might be another.
I really hope it was just his grumpy alter ego speaking tonight.
I really don't buy the argument that I'm the primary care giver and hence I should be the one doing the nurturing and spending the quality time together.
If that's the case, what's the point of raising a child together?
I also hope that this little family we are building would be a warm and loving one. Where discipline is needed, it would be given. But the motivation should always be love, not anger.
I don't want this rejection phase to be a permanent one. I want us to put in extra effort to ride through this, reverse it, instead of saying it's useless, without even trying.
That's how marriages break down, as the so-called primary caregiver feels more and more overwhelmed while the rejected gets more and more distant and uninvolved.
This might sound bleak and far-fetched, but I have seen it happen, right before my own eyes.
I don't want this to happen to us. 😢