Q: Should I be worried that my baby will become more attached to her nanny than to me after I go back to work?
A: No! No one can take your place. Moms and dads are special to their children in ways that no single person can ever replace. By nature, the emotional connection between parent and child is strong. As long as you build a loving bond with your child, by reading and responding to her cues and needs, you will always be number one for hugs and kisses, nose wipes, Band-Aid application, and nighttime tuck-ins. Even so, know that you are not alone in these worries. Many parents share the fear of losing the prime place in their child's life, experiencing hard-to-deal-with feelings such as jealousy, competition, and guilt. It's important to be aware of these emotions, because acting on them without thinking can have unintended negative consequences. For example, these reactions can create distance between the caregiver and you or inadvertently place your baby in a loyalty conflict where she feels she is betraying you when she shows affection for another adult.
It's totally normal to find yourself questioning your special place in your child's life occasionally. You might find that when you arrive home at the end of the day, your daughter refuses to look at you or clings to her nanny -- and while this may feel awful, it doesn't mean your daughter loves her caregiver more than you. More likely, your kid is trying to tell you, "I'm having such a good time here. I need a little time to get used to the idea that she has to go, and I need some help saying goodbye."
And don't forget that there are wonderful aspects of sharing the care of your child. She learns new things from developing close relationships with others, and these bonding experiences also help prepare her to trust and cooperate with other adults down the road, like teachers. Plus, childcare providers also can be wonderful parenting partners. Rather than being threatened by their knowledge, try to see it as a valuable gift. You can share the different ways you each have developed to soothe her; what her likes and dislikes are; and so forth.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2005. Updated 2009