Stop being a clingy mum!

If your tot’s growing confidence is making you clingy, your mothering could have turned to smothering. Here’s how to find the balance…

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  • At parties & playdates

    A garden full of 3-year-olds is hardly high risk (well, until the sugar highs kick in, anyway) – so why are you nervously hanging around? And why do you find it so hard to let your little one share his toys and organise games with a playdate pal?

    “By always hovering, you’re saying to your child that you don’t think he can cope if you’re not there,” says Dr Claire Halsey, co-author of Ask A Parenting Expert. Rather than going cold turkey and suddenly withdrawing when you take your tot to a playdate or party, Claire suggests you set yourself goals for gradually leaving. “Perhaps stay for half an hour and then say your goodbyes. Then, at the next party, you could leave your tot to it after 15 minutes,” she says. If you really can’t cope with leaving your toddler the first few times around, then make sure you stayin the background.

    Mum’s story

    “I used to follow Isaac around when he went to parties, so I’d be right there if he needed me. My husband said he’d soon start to wonder why it was only his mum who was hanging around. So I started offering to help out with the food instead. That way, I stayed in the background but was there just in case.”

    Fiona Walton, 35, from Essex, mum to Isaac, 3, and Alice, 1

  • Sleepovers at Granny’s

    Your parents are desperate to have your toddler to stay for the night. It’d mean a much-needed evening off for you and your other half, so why are you coming up with every excuse in the book?

     “You may think you can control the behaviour of everyone around your child if you’re there,” says Gillian Campbell, parenting expert and author of Love You Mum . “But your child has to have different influences, whether or not you see them as right – that is, how you’d do things,” she adds. Granny won’t undo overnight all the hard work you’ve done to establish a routine. “What matters is that your tot has a lovely relationship with his or her grandparent. There’s no regime that can’t be deviated from occasionally,” says child psychologist Dr Pat Spungin.

    Mum’s story

    “The first time I left my son Tom for the night with my mum was when Alex and I went on honeymoon. I was on the phone all the time but regular texts from my mum helped me relax. Seeing Tom happy when we got back put things in perspective.”

    Lucie Phillips, 33, from London, mum to Tom, 2

  • Getting a babysitter

    It’s been so long since you and your other half had a night out, it kind of feels like a first date all over again. Who’ll mind your little one – and will he cope when you’re not downstairs in case he wakes up?

    If you haven’t had a date night for a while, you may worry that you don’t know how to be a wife or partner anymore. “By making time for yourselves you can talk about each other’s expectations on personal topics like sex,” says Gillian Campbell. “Once you’ve had these conversations, tricky as they can be, you’ll feel more relaxed about spending time together.”If you can’t imagine being able to relax away from your tot for a whole evening, start out with a coffee afternoon with your man, suggests Claire Halsey.

    Mum’s story

    “It’s not that I don’t trust babysitters, but I find it hard to let someone else step into my role and put William to bed. My hubbie and I have had a couple of nights out but for the moment we are doing things like cooking ourselves a special dinner at the weekend, sort of like ‘going out’ at home, until I build up my confidence more.”

    Victoria Wagstaff, 36, from Hertfordshire, mum to William, 1

  • At bedtime

    You’ve been up and down the stairs umpteen times to calm your toddler. Your hubby offers to go, but you always say you’ll do it. Does your tot need Mummy to settle, or do you just need to be there?

     “It’ll help your child if other people can soothe him– you can’t be there all the time, and your partner won’t build confidence if you don’t give him the chance,” says Claire Halsey. Your other half’s bonding with your tot is as important as your own. “It may take your partner longer to get your child to sleep, but the relationship between them will benefit,” says Dr Pat Spungin.

    Mum’s story

    “After I had Emilia, I felt I was the only one who knew what to do with her. But things changed when I started expressing and letting Michael feed her. Seeing them together was lovely and now I often let him go to her when she cries.”

    Sarah Brown, 26, from London, mum to Emilia, 6 months

  • Continue slideshow >

  • Simple ways to de-cling today

    • ASK QUESTIONS Knowing how your tot feels about a situation will help you relax, like if he says he’s excited about a party or playdate.
    • ALLOW MESS Creative play helps tots develop their imaginations. Join in and get messy too, it’s liberating!
    • MAKE SPACE Sitting back while he chooses a toy or book will give your little one a real feeling of independence and you’ll learn about his preferences as well.
    • TALK TO FRIENDS The really good ones will be able to tell you honestly if they’ve seen you being too clingy with your child. Be prepared to deal with the truth though!
    • WATCH OTHER MUMS You’ll notice you’re not alone in finding it hard to let go. Ask them if they want to have a coffee together while your kids play independently.

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