My 25 month old daughter has been favoring the other parental figure over me and it's like being punched in the heart. I've read articles on this matter, but it still doesn't make things easier for me. Here's the back story on her life.
When we turn 1 years old, her father and I separated, so it's been a year. We share custody of her. Her father lives 5 hours away, so we drive a good deal to exchange the little one. He has her 2 weeks at a time and I have her 3 weeks at a time. Naturally during the exchange she is excited to see daddy when she hasn't seen him in three weeks. This is not my issue.
My issue is, she is favoring a different person in her life. She is favoring my boyfriend, who has been in the picture for a good amount of time. We live together, so in a sense she has a second father. Lately she has been favoring him over me. When we picked her up from daddies the last time, she saw me and screamed for Derrick. Didn't pay any mind that she hadn't seen mommy in two weeks, she screams for Derrick. The whole day I couldn't hold her or love on her, she would push me away. Our morning routine has changed a little since school started for me. We all get up together in the mornings now, so Derrick gets to say goodbye to her, before she was sleeping when he went to work. Now that she sees him in the mornings and he leaves, she runs to the door and cries until it's time for us to leave ourselves. When I drop her off at daycare, she goes over to the providers arms willingly, looks at me and doesn't make a peep when I leave. I give her hugs and kisses and tell her that I love her, she just stares at me, but doesn't cry. When we are home together, and we play or rough house, she grabs Derrick arms and throws them around her and screams when I get near her. I don't understand what is happening and I feel so rejected. A few months ago she was a mommies girl and only wanted Derrick every now and then or when it was just them two together.
I feel like all this separation is causing her a good deal of emotional pain, is my daughter going to be okay?
She is a VERY VERY happy girl, rarely cries, she's pleasant to be around, she plays and laughs. It's hard to beleive that we are causing her any emotional, separation pain because of how happy she is. She sleeps and eat good, she doesn't seem to be effected other than when Derrick leaves for work, or leaves to go anywhere.
This is something that we covered a lot when I was taking psych/ attachment theory in school and I do want to assure you that it's something that attachment theorists would hold as a completely normal and healthy behavior.
Even if you aren't the parent that she's excited to see, you are still her primary attachment figure. Most children go through their earliest piece of childhood by exploring around their mothers (or fathers if they have a stay at home dad or dad provides most of the childhood) but sometime around their second birthday show a preference for their secondary attachment figures (ie the parent that works, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc that are pretty involved in the kid's life but not to the same extent as the main at home care provider). This means that even if she isn't showing it right now, your daughter is totally comfortable with you as her parent and you've done a great job making her feel comfortable and loved because she is also able to experience that with her father and your boyfriend.
The other reason I wouldn't be concerned about it in the long term, is that she otherwise sounds very healthy, happy, and adjusting really well to what is going on. Kids that aren't emotionally healthy don't sleep well, generally aren't healthy, and aren't generally happy.
Keep in mind it might change too - my daughter goes back and forth over several months and changes which parent she favors. I generally get the raw end of the deal because she sees me the most - but sometimes she only wants Mama!