Who's the Mommy?
Bona|September 2016

It can be heartbreaking to see your child preferring to spend time with the nanny rather than you. But, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Lungile Khumalo

When Thandi* returned to work after maternity leave, she hired a nanny that she was happy to leave her baby with. Eighteen months later, Thandi was anxious and distraught. She had noticed a change in her daughter’s character – Phindi* preferred the meals her nanny prepared, wanted the nanny to play with her, and seemed happier to stay with her. After a week’s holiday with her mom and dad, Phindi threw herself at the nanny – happy to have her back in her life, leaving Thandi feeling like an outsider.

Childcare experts say that this behaviour is not unusual. “After spending 10 hours a day with the nanny for the past 18 months, Phindi’s reaction makes her mother feel uncomfortable. But, this is a common phenomenon, demonstrating the crucial role nannies play in a child’s life in the absence of the mother,” says Dr Senathi Fisha, a clinical psychologist and founder of Fishawellness Hospital in Pretoria.

“As a mother, you may feel as though you are being replaced by another ‘mother figure’. But, in reality, your instinctive bond will always remain natural, strong, sustained and irreplaceable,” Senathi adds.

Children crave routine, and get used to the person regularly feeding and bathing them, or reading a bedtime story for them. It’s not a case of the nanny doing a better job, or being liked more by your child. It’s about your child enjoying and wanting regularity and dependability – and for the time being, your nanny is doing just that.

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