Q&A: I think my baby prefers my mother to me. Help!
I am wondering if something is wrong with my relationship with my baby. My daughter is 11 months old and is so attached to my mom, she cries for her. If my mom leaves she really cries. My mom can really get her laughing; my daughter gets real excited to see my mom; and if my mom is around my daughter wants her. I think this is great and healthy, but I cannot get it out of my mind that I have bonded to my daughter, but my daughter has not bonded to me. We had a difficult delivery and a long, stressful time breastfeeding (eight and a half months). I took eight months off work and went back part time. I work two half-days a week, five hours each. My mom keeps her for me, and she lives a few houses down so we see each other all the time.
I am concerned that I won't be close to my daughter as she grows up, and, to be honest, my feelings are a little hurt. My daughter has NEVER cried for me when I leave, and doesn't get real excited when I return. She smiles and makes eye contact, but not like it is with my mom and when daddy comes home. I sing to her and play, we take baths, I read to her if I can get her to settle down for a minute. These things don't come naturally to me, and my mom is a pro at them. But I am frustrated because none of these bonding things seem to be working. Other moms ALL say their babies at this age were so clingy and attached to THEM and NOT others as much. I might understand if my daughter at one time had been that way toward me, but she never has. I am worried that she knows that I am her mother, loves me for taking care of her, and that's it. I want to be her best buddy, her favorite playmate, and someone who can make it all better, but I don't feel that connection. Have I done something wrong?
I will be honest: I have had a few bad days, maybe weeks with her, just trying to figure out how to be a mom (I am a first-time mom). I have never been around babies, and I am learning a lot. I love my daughter to death, so if I have done something to hinder our relationship please tell me what I can do. Do you think my daughter feels a bond toward me at all? How can I tell? Sorry for this long post, but thank you for taking the time with my question. I am just confused.
Motherhood is a wonderful experience, but, like any worthwhile relationship, it isn’t always emotionally easy. Nothing you have written makes me think you aren’t a good parent or are doing anything “wrong.” In fact, caring and trying and giving a child your time are ingredients for being a good mom. Your daughter is going through a normal phase in her emotional development that involves intense attachments. The fact that she is focusing that attachment on your mom isn’t necessarily a reflection on your bond, which can also be a trusting and positive one. (I am generalizing a little here with this example, but think of all the traditional father figures who also felt connected to their small children, only to come home from work and see them only want mom!). Just because one caretaker seems to be preferred at this stage in a child’s life doesn’t mean other relationships won’t blossom as well. Don’t let this phase undermine your confidence as a mother.
Still, I don’t mean to downplay what you are feeling. Being a good parent means investing a lot of time and love and emotion, and all of us want to feel that this is a two-way street, not a one-way one. Have you spoken about this with your mother? Being an experienced mother herself, she should understand what you are feeling and can perhaps help by giving you babysitting time when your daughter is asleep and letting you have the best part of your daughter’s day. Or perhaps you could reserve an especially enjoyed activity just for you and your daughter alone. Another way for her to be sensitive to the issue is to not be around when you want time alone with your child, so the “choice” is not there for your daughter.
Again, though, having strong positive attachments is a healthy stage in your daughter’s development and one that doesn’t mean the two of you won’t enjoy a wonderful relationship as well.