My Kid Loves His Daycare Provider More Than He Loves Me

My Kid Loves His Daycare Provider More Than He Loves Me

What do you do when your child prefers a childcare worker over you?


By: Leah Maxwell

Childcare has been a big part of our lives since my oldest was eighteen months old, and both kids love it as much as my husband and I do. On most days, they boys are as happy to be handed over to the daycare or preschool staff as they are to be handed back over to me at pick-up, when they run squealing and laughing into my arms, full of stories of their latest adventures. This is how it should be.

As a working mom, I’ve heard all the anti-childcare rhetoric that wants to convince me I’m “letting strangers raise [my] children,” and that I shouldn’t have had children if I didn’t want to spend every waking moment with them, and that I shouldn’t be surprised if my boys start calling someone else “Mommy.” For four years, I was unfazed by these warnings. For four glorious years, I never once worried childcare was anything but wonderful and healthy not only for our family as a whole but also for my bond with each individual child. I fully believe that childcare allows me to be a better parent.

And then something happened that challenged all that.

A few weeks ago, my two-year-old tripped as he was walking up the steps to daycare. His knees hit the concrete, his head bonked gently against the side of the house, and as his mouth opened wide in a silent wail (that soon transformed into a wail that was very much not silent), his arms simultaneously reached out for comfort -- not from me but from the daycare assistant standing at the door to greet him. My poor little guy was shaken up, but I can guarantee I was more hurt in that moment than he was.

Even worse, when I bent down to pick him up, he scrambled into the lap of the daycare worker and between sobs choked out, “No, Mommy!” Ouch. (But, hey, at least he was still calling me “Mommy”!?)

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A mix of emotions swirled inside me. I was hurt but also embarrassed. I felt guilty and sad and betrayed. I plodded back to my car and tried to not cry. Was this what I had been warned about? Was this the natural consequence of having “neglected” my child by sending him to an amazing daycare where he could play and learn and laugh and be loved?

But that’s where I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Because sending my kids to childcare has never been about merely finding someone else to take care of the practical parts of raising children so I could work. I don’t send them to childcare simply to be fed and changed and made to take a nap and kept from licking the electrical outlets. I send them to be cared for. When we chose our daycare and preschool, it was important that we chose places with staff that would love them -- staff that, hopefully, the boys would love in return. And they do. This is how it should be.

Does it still hurt when I sometimes fall short of first place in my kids’ affections? Sure. But do I doubt that it’s a gift to my children that, through daycare and preschool, they now have more people in the world to love and be loved by? Never again.

Have your kids ever shown preference for a childcare worker over you? How did you handle it?



Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two small boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/shalamov

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