DEAR ABBY: I am a child care provider working with infants. Two of us work in the nursery and share responsibilities.
One baby has become extremely attached to me, to the point that I can’t take a break or go to lunch without him screaming until I return. I feel guilty taking lunch breaks or even a vacation because I know that whoever substitutes for me will have to deal with the crying.
Other teachers have tried to bond with him to make it easier on everyone, but it doesn’t work. It has reached the point that I’m exhausted at the end of the day from the stress of having to be near him all day. Any suggestions? – Mothering in Missouri
DEAR MOTHERING: Yes. You are a caring person who is doing more than your share of trying to make the baby feel secure, so stop feeling guilty. I consulted Dr. Faisal Chawla, a pediatrician in Los Angeles, who explained that separation anxiety normally occurs at around 6 to 9 months, so age may be a factor. The baby may be experiencing separation anxiety from you as others might get it when a parent drops them off at day care. It should not cause you distress since this is expected behavior.
Dr. Chawla kindly offered suggestions for coping with separation anxiety:
Establish a goodbye ritual or routine that’s consistent and quick. Comfort the infant and let him or her know you will be back after your break (just as parents would tell their little one they will be back after work). Some parents do a peek-a-boo ritual, which can reduce crying goodbyes to ones with much less drama.
Leave after you say your goodbye and don’t come back repeatedly. Coming back is positive reinforcement for the crying (“If I cry harder, they will come back!”).
DEAR ABBY: My husband had an annoying habit of staring at me. After dinner, if I went into the kitchen while he was still at the dinner table, he would turn his chair around to stare at me. When he walked into a room I was in, he would stop and stare at me.
When I finally got sick of it and told him to cut it out, his response was, “Can’t you stand scrutiny?” I said it has nothing to do with scrutiny. It’s a form of trying to control me, or even mental abuse.
He has stopped it for the most part. But he reverts back every once in a while. I still have to mention it at times. What do you think of this? What do you think it means? – Annoyed in the East
DEAR ANNOYED: Unless you have left something out of your letter, I don’t consider what he was doing to be emotional abuse. Until you spoke up, he may not have realized he was making you uncomfortable.
What I think it means is that your husband thinks you are the most beautiful woman in the world, and he’s the luckiest man on the planet. Now he knows it makes you uncomfortable, he’s making an effort to stop, but old habits are hard to break and he occasionally backslides.