Parents inevitably have to spend time away from their kids. Whether you leave your child in the care of grandparents, relatives, a helper or another adult, the worry and guilt parents carry while they are away can feel like a tremendous weight. If you spend most of your time at work and are concerned about your bond with your toddler, Dr Richard Woolfson shares why you needn’t be overly worried.
You and your husband work long hours, so your little one spends a great deal of time with his grandparents. Sometimes, he doesn’t even see you for days because you’re on a business trip. You might worry about the possible implications of him growing up without you 24/7. But here’s why you can rest easy.
Your worry: “He’ll be closer to his grandparents than he will be to us.”
The reality: A child is capable of building a bond with more than one person. So, having a close and loving relationship with his grandparents doesn’t mean he is less likely to be attached to you. Each bond adds something special to your toddler’s life. Instead of worrying about this, be happy that he has so many adoring adults in his life, all of whom love him very much.
Your worry: “He won’t think about us at all when we are out of his sight.”
The reality: There are plenty of ways you can keep in touch with your tot while you are at work. For instance, you can call or Facetime him during your breaks. And how about leaving small gifts for his grandparents to give him during the day occasionally? It doesn’t have to be a case of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Your worry: “He’ll feel uncomfortable in our company when we care for him.”
The reality: True, he is used to his grandparents’ ways of doing things. But young children are adaptable. Instead of agonising that he isn’t used to you, get stuck in when you return home. For example, make the effort to bathe, change, feed and play with him, even though you’re exhausted at the end of the day. These help you keep your connection strong.
Your worry: “He’ll never have quality time with us.”
The reality: This is entirely up to you. You can have it if you and your husband devote your non-work time to family life. Weekends and holiday periods provide the ideal opportunity for the three of you to share an activity, whether at home or outside. These don’t need to be complex or expensive. You can walk in the park or play a game together at home. What matters is that you relax and enjoy one another’s company.
Your worry “He’ll be heavily influenced by his grandparents’ old-fashioned ways.”
The reality: Of course, your two-year-old is influenced by the attitude of his caregivers. But, if you are concerned about any aspect of their parenting (for instance, if they are too firm with him or too easy-going with him), chat with them about it. Express your thoughts and ask them tactfully to tweak their style. They’ll probably respond positively to your request when they understand your point of view.
Your worry: “He’ll resent us for the rest of his life.”
The reality: You falsely assume that your tot is unhappy with his care arrangements when you’re at work – he probably has a wonderful time with Grandma and Grandpa! Even if he would prefer to be with you instead, he has evenings and weekends when you spend time together as a family. And even if your toddler has moments when he is miserable during the day at this stage in his life, he’ll forget them the minute he starts nursery.
Dr Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents, August 2015