Does your child love her caregiver more than she loves you? The childcare expert answers.

The question:

My daughter has been growing closer and closer to her caregiver and doesn't seem as happy to see me at the end of the day. I am thinking of quitting work because I am actually feeling miserable, and, I guess, a little jealous. Is this simply a fact of life? - Dorie, New York

The Childcare Expert Answers:

We should all have your troubles! Seriously, take a step back and think about what is going on here. What you are seeing the very best outcome you could hope for with a childcare provider. Your child LOVES her caregiver! And you have done a fabulous job in finding a wonderful caregiver! It was a difficult task but you did it and that is commendable! Never fear, love is not a limited resource; your child will not run out of love, leaving nothing for you.

What you are feeling is a very natural and common response to this situation. I have a whole section in my book titled "Help, I Think My Child Loves The Caregiver More Than Me: Dealing With Your Jealousy." I wrote it because lucky parents (who find great childcare) sometimes do feel this way and need to understand why so they can handle it appropriately.

Try to restrain yourself and not act in a way that is motivated by jealousy. I know of mothers who changed caregivers every year because they didn't want their children to get to close to them. Now, THAT is crazy thinking, if you want my opinion. Or how about the mom I heard about who actually fired her child's nanny because she felt her child was too close to the woman? Yes, this really happened. Can you imagine taking away someone who is dear to your child for that very reason?

I have faced a similar situation to yours. When my oldest son was about a year old, he was in family daycare with a boy who was two years old. I knew that the caregiver was a wonderful person and that my son and she had a very fond relationship. Frequently, when I came to get him, he didn't even look up from playing; he was that content. One day, when I was picking him up, I heard the other boy call the caregiver "Mommy." I felt like I had been stabbed! What if my son did that? (Of course, he wasn't really talking yet, but one can project.) When I asked the caregiver about it, she smiled and said, "Mommy is just a word. Kids always know who their mothers are. Don't worry about that." She was right.

When you started looking for childcare, your goal was to find a childcare provider to care for your child in a loving fashion. Now that you are successful, enjoy the fact that your child is able to enjoy a positive and caring relationship with her caregiver when you are unable to be with her. I don't think that you would really want it any other way. Your success here does not diminish your vital importance to your child as her mother, nor does it lessen her love for you. No one can ever take your place. Be happy that there is one more person in the world for your child to love, and to love her.

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