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My Child Does Not Seem To Want Me


Hi Annie,
I am a first time mother to an amazing 7 month baby girl and recently re-joined work full time.

I love my work but had initially planned to take a year-long break to raise her. However, due to financial difficulties, I had to rejoin when she was 5 months old.

I live in a joint family with my in-laws, so when I am not around she is looked after by a baby-sitter who takes care of her baths and feeding and by my Mother-in-law who plays with her. Initially she used to be overjoyed to see me when I used to rush home from work. We used to spend a lot of time together. But, I guess for the past 5 or 6 days, she refuses to come to me.

She now prefers to be with my Mother or Father in law, who she didn’t get along with much earlier. She now raises her arms to welcome them. Although my in-laws show outward sympathy, I believe they are quite happy that she has chosen them over me. They used to say that that is what they intend to do. Like in a game of hockey or cricket, where there are two teams, they have neatly divided themselves, their son and my baby into one team and me in the adversary team. This attitude, to say the least, is immature and harmful for the baby.

Earlier, and I still do on holidays and weekends, I used to give her a bath, feed her, play with her, take her out and comfort her, but because I am at work the bathing and feeding aspects are taken care of by the baby sitter.

However, I still try to teach her new things, comfort her and feed her in the evenings. But I am so heartbroken that she refuses to be with me. I know I am supposed to love her and not expect her to love me back, but it is so hard to do precisely that. And my in-laws just don’t let me spend time with her. Always they want to take her away and she is more than willing to oblige.

I have had, and still do, a troubled relationship with my mother (where she has always been distant and cold with me) and I had always aspired for a warm relationship with my child. But she doesn’t want me.

I don’t know what to do. Please help.

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Mother Daughter Relationship Will Grow - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

My heart goes out to you, it is hard enough having to go back to work when we have a small baby, but even harder when our child bonds closely with other people and seems to prefer them.

It is actually a really good thing for her that she has developed these close relationships. Babies really need lots of close attention from whoever is looking after them, and in a child care center they really are not able to get the close relationships they need for good development.

So at least take some comfort from the knowing that this close bonding is actually the best thing for her developmentally and emotionally.

But it is sad that the situation has become one of competing for her attention, and unfortunately for you, simply because the stages of development she is at, she is most likely to want her primary carers when she wants comforting or attention.

YOU Are Her Mother

For her well being, don't buy into the competition, but the bottom line is, YOU are her mother, and it is important that she get as much time with you as she can. Don't waste your time with her feeling hurt that she seems to prefer other people, and don't get into trying to "bribe" her so she likes you best.

Of course you do want to have as much good quality attention with her as you can, and since you live in the same house it is difficult to get time alone with her. But you have rights too, and you can assert your rights when you are home and you want to be the primary care giver at those times.

Appreciate But Stake Your Claim

Explain to your in-laws, that you really appreciate all they are doing with your daughter, and you know she has a really close relationship with them, but that it is important that she learn to be with you too.

If you can, get some time alone with her, even if it means you have to take a bath together! Going to the park and talking to her showing her trees and birds, and even feeding her at the park.

Explain to your in-laws that when you are home, you are the primary caregiver and you don't want them taking over, even if she cries. She needs to learn to get comfort from you as well as them, and even though they may think they can soothe her better, that is not the point. It is simply that they are with her more so she is used to being with them, it is not about her loving anyone more.

If you buy into the whole competition thing, your daughter will soon learn to she can play one off against the other to get what she wants.

Instead focus on how lucky she is to have lots of people who love her and want to help raise her, it really gives her a much better base to grow from, having lots of loving adults around her.

Part Two Follows . . .

Mother Daughter Relationship Will Grow - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Closeness Will Develop

The fact that she has developed close ties with other people is a really good thing for her, but it does not mean you can't have a close relationship with her. Relationships take time and energy, and you just have to find a way to be at peace with the situation and accept that since you have to work, she is in the best care being
surrounded with other people who love and can spend time with her.

Don't take it personally - I know it is all very well for me to say that, it is personal - but you have had a fantasy of being the perfect Mom, with an adoring baby - and having a very different
relationship from what you had with your Mom. Your present reality is not matching your dream, but don't let that stop you being close with your baby.

When you are home YOU are the primary caregiver and you may have to set some ground rules for family to sit back and let you take over. She may cry at times and want to go to them when she is tired or upset, but she will learn that she can get her needs met with you also.

Our Kids Are Not Here To Make Us Happy

Be sure you don't focus on her as having to be the little being that is to make you happy. Though of course there is a lot of joy in raising a child.

As you said, we just have to love our kids without expecting them to love us back. As she gets older, you and her will develop a very special relationship, even if you are not her primary carer most of the time, you are still her Mother, and you can still build that closeness. It may not come as easy when you are simply not around her all the time as your family is, but if you focus on having joyful times with her and lots of fun and play, it will happen.

Don't for a minute focus on her preferring others - when it happens, be thankful, because it means she is absolutely fine when you are at work, and you have her in the best possible situation given that you can't be home all the time with her.

If there is any option to reduce your hours at work while she is tiny, that will help you to have more close time with her, but if this is not an option, then relax in the knowing that your baby girl is happy and well cared for.

I know all you want to do when you get home is take her in your arms and have her with you, but you may have to give her some time to be ready to come to you.

The first time my little grand-daughter came over to visit from London, she would not have anything to do with me for days. I know it is not the same, I am not her mother, but I can understand a little of how you feel. Little children have always been drawn to me, and I was sad that she was not interested in me, and was only going to be with us for a short time. She did come round, but I had to be very patient, and let her get used to me and not put my needs onto her.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Mother Daughter Relationship Will Grow - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

I know it is so much harder for you, since she is your baby, but the bottom line is we are there for our kids, they are not here for us.

It is important that you don't withdraw from her in response to her seeming to prefer her grandparents or you will just re-create the distant relationship your Mother modeled.

Just give her the time to connect with you when you get home, make a little home time game or ritual, and she will start to anticipate it when you walk in the door.

AsK For Their Help

Your Parent In Laws may not consciously realize they are competing, they are just enjoying her and like that she wants to come to them.

Don't put a lot of emphasis on the issue, but ask for their help in stepping back from their role when you are home. Even if they are pleased she seems to prefer them, that is not important. What is important is that you get some time with your baby, and you get a chance to develop your own unique relationship with her.

Don't give her a choice about who bathes her or who feeds her when you are home, simply just take over, calmly and firmly, and set up your own little routines and evening rituals.

Give her the time to connect with you when you get home, make a little home time game or ritual, so Mommy coming home is exciting. As she gets older she will start looking forward to her night time fun, and it also sets the scene for as she gets older and you are the one who she talks to in the evening.

It is so hard when Mom's have to return to work with young babies, and in many instances the children are sent to daycare, so at least your little girl is in her own family and is well loved.

Just enjoy every moment of your time with her, even if at present she is more familiar with your In-laws.

Try not to feel hurt - at her stage of development it is normal for a baby to be very attached to the primary caregiver, even if sadly it is not you a lot of the time, since you simply cannot be with her all the time.

Your connection with her is the most important, it is the foundation of her growing and having had the security of the early months with you has meant she is able to bond with other adults.

You would hate it more if you had to go to work and leave a distressed baby with a sitter, and it would be no good for her at all.

Be strong in the knowing that you are doing the best you can in the situation, and make the most of the time with her, it is very precious. Just trust that you will build a strong close relationship with her over time, but she will also have a close bond with her grandparents.

Good luck,
Annie D :)

Feel free to comment back via the comments link below

Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you, Annie. Your answer truly meant a lot to me.

There has been a recent development over this weekend. I conveyed my apprehensions to my husband who had a word with his parents. They, especially my MIL, have backed down a bit. And yes, this Sunday I spent almost the whole day with her, just the two of us, and it was like being in heaven without dying. Pardon my melodrama! :)

I am hoping this spate continues. The best part is, touch wood on this, when I am around and she feels distressed, she refuses to be with anyone but me. That is good, right? Because despite the fact that I am not around in the day time, she still thinks of me as the primary caregiver. Am I correct in thinking so?

You know what I think, Annie? In this case, with great love comes greater insecurity. :)

Thank you once again.

May I write to you in the future if I am ever troubled by my doubts?


Make The Most Of Every Moment
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Sanjukta,

Of course you can send in another question any time.

I did mean to write something about talking to your husband, but of course it is difficult for him being in the middle. But the three of you all need time together, and although living with IN-laws is wonderful for support, it also has another set of dynamics that can be tricky.

It is actually better for your daughter that she learns to get comfort from all her close family, when a baby can only be comforted by Mom, then they can get very distressed if Mom is not around. But clearly you and your daughter are very bonded, and she has the best of both worlds - a loving Mom and Dad, AND Grandparents who are there for her.

The most important thing is that you enjoy your time with her and don't focus on the times she seems to choose her grandparents over you. It really is not about her loving anyone more than you, babies simply do not think like that.

Relationships all take time and love to grow and your little girl will go through many stages as she grows up - not all of them fun! But if you focus on lots of play (which is learning for a baby) you will bond even closer.

take care,
Annie D :)

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