Help! My 9 month old hates me!

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Question: My 9-month-old daughter hates me! OK, maybe I am overreacting. For the past two weeks she wants her father only. I am home with her all day and having a great time (at least I thought). The past several days she has been sick with her first fever and virus. It kills me to see her so uncomfortable and not be able to hold her to comfort her. I am glad that my husband can comfort her, and since he works all day, I am happy that she is so attached to him. I am not jealous of my husband, although if she became attached to another relative or friend, that may be a different story!! Today, my husband left for work and my daughter and I went into the other room to play with her toys.

She is beginning to walk, so I let her walk (with my help) to what ever toy she wants. I needed to move her away from a specfic toy because it almost fell on her. When I tried, she screamed and tried to bite me! She was holding my fingers and she bit my finger! I know this is probably a stage, but I can’t help but fell a little hurt. I know that she is with me all the time, and I will have to be the person who sets the most boundaries. I try not to change the rules in an effort for her to like me and I also refuse to react with anger to her outbursts.

This is a huge thing for me because I have a very short fuse. I know she gets at least some of her temperment from me! I am still adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom. I often feel ovewhelmed and stressed, as post-partum depression creeps in sometimes. I had my daughter at 33, and the jury is still out if I will do it again! I worked in a high-pressured job until I had her and I am surprised that I am feeling similar stresses! Add to it that my daughter is reacting this way to me. I keep my cool, I let her decide on as much as possible, I get out of the house often and I have other interests that I pursue regularly. Any other suggestions? Thanks!

Answer: Your question raises a few issues, esssentially revolving around normal late infant development and the challenges of parenting. You describe an infant who is well on her way to the heady days of toddlerhood. As she becomes more mobile and gains new skills, a new sense or self-awareness and autonomy develops. She will want to explore and experiment, but, of course will run into obstacles (like your limits, designed to keep her safe) and get frustrated.

A child with a healthy self esteem will act out when frustrated. It isn’t meant to hurt, but is an impulsive reaction to frustration. (This doesn’t mean it’s OK to bite you though, and you should be firm about those limits, too.) That this normal sequence of development is occcuring is actually a tribute to your job as a parent so far, as hard as that is to believe when your finger has just been bitten! Another milestone of late infancy is a keen ability to distinguish between the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Extraordinary bonds have developed at this point between most parents and their babies. But bonds to both parents don’t necessarily develop in exact parallel. If your infant wants only dad now, it’s NOT a rejection of you, but a concentration on her relationship with him. In fact, it’s another strange compliment to you that she feels secure enough with you not to cling to you alone.

You have given up what a lot of what was once your lifestyle for your daughter. All parents have days when the rewards for their sacrifices are clear and others when they aren’t at all obvious. Seeing your baby lash out or choose another’s company may not feel like a just reward, but this is part of raising a normal child. Have you considered getting involved in a parent’s group or playgroup? Your infant will need the social stimulation of being around others her age, and chatting with other parents who are experiencing the same stages of their child’s growth as you are can be an affirming and supportive experience. Regardless, on those days when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, reach out to someone. Parenthood is an indescribably wonderful thing, but it sure isn’t easy. Good Luck,

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