I take care of our baby when my wife goes to class two nights a week. We play and cuddle and do just fine together. But when my wife is home, the baby only wants her. He won't even let me rock him to sleep.
This seems to be a common complaint of many dads, and it is a situation that can leave fathers feeling useless and left out. Usually when I hear such a story from a father, his wife is the "primary caregiver"- the person who most often takes care of the baby. That still is the case in the vast majority of homes. But, in those families where the father is the primary caregiver, the mother may be the one feeling left out. In fact, recently a mother told me that her baby turns to his father at times when he's tired or upset. And guess what? That mom has a full-time job outside the home while the father does Internet work at home and takes care of the baby the majority of the time.
Babies become attached to the adult or adults who take care of them. They learn to trust those people who feed them, comfort them and who respond with warmth and consistency to their cues and signals. Many babies are fortunate to become securely attached to more than one adult-mom, dad, maybe grandma or grandpa too. It sounds like your baby is attached to both you and your wife, and that is great for all of you. It is wonderful for you and your baby that he enjoys his time with you when your wife is at class. But, babies also often turn to one person as the primary (but not the only) source of comfort. For now at least, it sounds like that is your wife.
Although it is uncomfortable for you now to accept that your baby prefers your wife, it is important to realize that the situation may change as your baby gets older. When he gets old enough to talk and play and to understand more about how much you both love him, he probably will welcome comfort from either or both of you. In fact, at some stages of his life he may show a preference for you over his mom. For example, it's common for toddlers to gravitate toward dad as they begin to venture away from that close relationship with mom. And again in adolescence, children may draw closer to their father while pulling away from mom in an effort to become more independent.
But for now, continue to be there to rock your son, read to him, dress him and feed him. Enjoy those special evenings when your wife goes to class. And when your son does turn to your wife for comfort, join them for a three-way cuddle. Know that your son will grow up strong in the security that two parents are there to love him and care for him.
A question-and-answer column with Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson of the University of Minnesota