What if she is sad? What if she is confused?
While I was in an inpatient psychiatric facility for my depression, my daughter was under the belief that, "Mommy is away for work." At the time, I was extremely concerned with the effect my absence would have on her psyche. I would speak to her every morning and every evening and make sure she knew how much I was thinking of her and how much I love her. My husband would repeatedly tell me she was doing well and even though she missed me, she was entrenched in her own life at preschool with her friends.
The day I was admitted to the hospital, my husband and I set up "operation support." We called our families and enlisted my parents' and mother-in-law's presence to help with childcare (keep our daughter occupied and spoiled a bit while mommy was away) and to be present for me. We contacted friends, locally and from afar, in order to gather emotional support. This extended to physical support, too, with playdates for our daughter with her friends. My goal while in the hospital was to focus on myself and in order to do that, I needed to feel that my family at home was sustained.
I'm a planner, and planning my own psychiatric hospitalization may sound ridiculous, but it is emblematic of how I live my life. As a mom, I was overly concerned with how my absence could possibly damage my child. I am Mommy, and no one else can take my place. How would she react to missing our morning hugs? Would she be upset at not being able to have our nightly cuddle after bath? How would she go to bed every night without hearing me sing the two songs I sing to her nightly? These were my concerns and I felt they were valid.
The truth is her resilience is greater than I ever gave her credit for. This little being, whom I helped to create, is her own person with her own strengths and weaknesses. Although there were moments when she would verbalize missing me, she was much too caught up in her own world of friends, coloring, books and playing to be constantly thinking of me. Even though I was thinking of her each moment during those very long days in the hospital, she was occupied with her life. Now, part of why I was convinced she would fall apart without me was due to my own fractured mind's understanding of my world. If my cognition were not impaired, I would have recognized that my husband and I have been raising our daughter to be strong, to ask for help when needed and that when you love someone, you carry that with you all of the time, whether you are with that person or apart. She had already incorporated me into her heart and was therefore able to be apart from me without suffering. What an amazing thing! She had proven herself capable by being able to separate from me at preschool drop-off every day, but she exceeded my hopes while I was in the hospital.
She taught me something very important at an extremely difficult time in my life. While she is very dependent on me at this young age, she is also an individual, with her own gifts and flaws, who is already able to manage in her daily world with incredible strength. I must give credit where credit is due.