Working mums - ever feel jealous that your domestic helper gets to spend more time with your baby than you? Here's how you can deal with the green-eyed monster within...
I always knew going back to work after having a baby would be hard. What I didn’t factor in was how hard it would be to hand over my baby to my helper and see how strong their relationship became. Don’t get me wrong: I love my domestic helper and absolutely appreciate everything she does for us. She’s a real-life superwoman and has become such a big part of our family. But there’s also this little niggle inside of me that my child prefers our helper to me. So what now?
Worrying your child prefers your helper is NORMAL
I remember my first week of work, when I was adjusting to full-time employment after a long break from the workforce. It was hard to say goodbye to the kids in the mornings and switch out of mum mode. I’d get choked up from the whirlwind of emotions – sadness, guilt and anxiety, to name a few. All I wanted was a big squeezy cuddle to get my final baby fix for the day. But when I went over to pick him up, he flat out refused my affection. In fact, he squealed with rage and reached out instead for our helper. Gah. It was like a knife to the heart! ‘Child prefers helper’ evidence, right there.
It’s normal to feel jealous at first
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a flutter of jealousy when your child saves their most adoring expressions and biggest giggles for your helper. After all, she’s the one who spends a big chunk, if not all, of the day with your baby. It’s only natural they develop a strong bond. But don’t think you have to offer a rash ultimatum to your baby to be top of the pecking order. Instead, see the relationship between your child and maid as a positive addition to your family dynamic.
Here in Singapore, our wonderful domestic workers become part of our families. Unless you’re a bit of a weirdo, you wouldn’t expect your child to be chilly towards other family members… so don’t expect them to be ice cold towards your helper! Having a maid who loves your child and who your child loves in turn is a GOOD thing. And would you rather the alternative – that your kid squirms away from her and breaks down into fits of tears whenever they come near? Hell no! Some researchers even believe tots who form strong relationships with adults as children are healthier, both mentally and physically, later in life.
See your helper as a parenting partner
For me, having a strong relationship with my helper helps enhance my relationship with my kids. I see her as a parenting partner; all that knowledge she’s accumulating is a huge positive! You can share so much information with your helper about what your child likes and dislikes, how they interact with other children or what book they’re really into lately. And they can offer wisdom, support and empathy to you, too!
Yes, it can hurt handing over the primary care of your baby, but trust me – this adjustment period will settle. In the meantime, there are things you can do to reconnect with your bub and keep a sense of harmony in your household. I insist my husband and I do the morning and the ‘bath-book-bed’ routines, and it’s helped us keep that close bond going. Even when my brain is fried after a long day in the office and I’m beyond exhausted, throwing myself into childcare when I get home is the best way to connect with my tiny humans. So feed them, play with them, bathe them, read to them.
Congrats… your helper is amazing!
Let’s not forget that you went to great lengths to find a helper who is warm, loving and caring… of course your baby loves her! Well done to them for being such a fantastic caregiver to your little one, and well done YOU for finding someone so amazing.
For anyone going through something similar, here are my words to you: your baby still loves you and no-one can replace their mummy (and no-one’s trying to!). You’ll always be number one for nighttime tuck-ins, story-time snuggles and kissing those bumps and bruises.
Your helper’s care doesn’t compete with yours, nor does her love for your baby replace yours – it merely supplements it. You are and always will be your baby’s parent, and nothing can change that.
Still need more convincing? We asked other mums…
“Yes. It was quite a shock when my child once ran to our helper and not me – it was a bit of a wake-up call. Honestly, now I tell myself our kids have three adults in the house who love them – and I can see that my helper truly does love them – and they are better off with three than with two!” – Jess Hart, Australian, three kids
“My old helper and youngest loved each other from birth. I just had to accept it and embrace that she loved my kids, which at the end of the day is of course a positive thing.” – Sara Valentine, New Zealand, three kids
“Of course, it always hurts when you see your child cry for the nanny rather than you. It pains when you can’t calm her down or make her laugh as loud. But the fact is that is what you hired the nanny to do. In the end I am grateful someone is able to help us love our daughter, especially when we are not around. We take what we can and just do our best to learn from our nanny as well. I frequently ask how she feeds her or spends her afternoon so I can enjoy the same (albeit sparingly). Come from a position of appreciation rather than jealousy. Wouldn’t you be alarmed if you found that the person who is with your child for most of the day is unable to create a bond with them?” – Maria Athena Catedral Bughao, Filipino, two kids
“In the beginning, my two-year-old daughter disliked our helper. After two months she favoured playing with her Aunty over going to the pool with me. It stung. But now I am happy as I get to focus on myself more, while knowing my daughter has the best time. I am not jealous, only happy for what they have.” – Olga Grant, Netherlands, two kids
“Yes, occasionally I get jealous, but then I remember how important it is to me that my kids are loved by our helper. If they are showing their love, then this is actually perfect, not threatening.” – Carrie Gray, Australian, three kids
“Being a stay-at-home mum, I have plenty of time and relationship-building capacity with my kids. But I think it is valuable and healthy for them to have good relationships with other adults they are comfortable with (our friends, family, teachers and helpers) and that it will help them understand that all relationships are unique and important.” – Faith Chanda, American, two kids
“I am happy that my children are affectionate towards her and vice versa. It’s a different kind of love.” – Aruna Rao, Indian, two kids
“To be honest, yes I get jealous! But at the end of the day, I try to remind myself that I am the mum and the bond I have with my baby, no one will change.” – Adriana Diaz, Brazilian, one child