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How can we teach our baby that Mommy and Daddy can both play and nurture?
Q: Our 6-month-old daughter is generally a very happy and active child. I am a stay-at-home mum and my husband works fairly long hours. Lately we have noticed that whenever she wants to play, she is more apt to go to Dad. She seems to laugh more and become more interactive with him. However, when she is overly tired, hurt, or just plain cranky she only wants to be with me, and Dad can't seem to do anything to soothe her. It is almost as if she identifies us for different purposes. How can we teach her that we are both there for play and comfort without letting her cry for hours on end?
A: Would you believe there is a lot of research evidence that most babies identify their fathers with play and their mothers with more traditional nurturing activities? As gender roles in families change, with concerned fathers now providing more basic care than used to be the case, that pattern may disappear. Unless it seriously disrupts the family schedule, I wouldn’t try to change anything. Her preference pattern gives both of you a special role—and an opportunity for an occasional breather. Her primary attachment is undoubtedly to you, which is why she needs you when she wants comfort. She will, in time, become more interested in playing with you, too.