By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: My husband works away and we have two young boys. They are very attached to their Dad – he has to do everything and Mom is just left out. They will all be holding hands and I will be walking alone because no-one wants me. Being the only female in the house, I am the most affectionate and need constant love and affection. My husband is great and does not leave me out at all, and always says "Someone hold Mommy's hand" but that just makes it worse. If he says "I am going to hold Mom's hand" they cry because they can't hold his hand. I am not sure how to deal with this, any suggestions please?
A: That sounds really hard! I’m really pleased to hear that your husband is aware of the issue and does his best to help.
You mention that you need constant love and affection, and it sounds like you are someone who really loves physical touch (holding hands and hugging and that sort of thing). Maybe there are other ways that your kids show their love for you? Sometimes we can be so tuned in to one 'love language' that we miss other ways that people show us love. You might be interested in having a look at a book called The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, for examples of other ways that children can show their love (and be shown love).
Also, I’m really sure that your boys don’t intend to hurt your feelings. Kids at this age aren’t really very aware of what their parents need or want – they are more focused on their own feelings and needs than on anyone else’s. I know it’s really hard, but I’d like you to try not to take the boys behaviour personally.
I’m worried that you might make the problem worse in the long run by drawing too much attention to it in your own mind, or by talking about it too much to the boys. Perhaps have a look at your thinking when this happens. It’s likely that you’re thinking something like "They don’t love me", or "I’m not important to them", and I’m sure neither of these thoughts are actually true.
Perhaps try to change your thinking to look more at the positive side of things, for example "It’s lovely that they have a great relationship with their Dad", and "When he’s home I can get some time to myself". Or, you could think something like "I don’t like how things are, but they don’t mean it personally and I’ll be OK".
With any of these thoughts you’ll probably still feel a little sad, but try to get busy doing something else and the feeling will soon pass. You could also try doing something fun on your own, and see if they want to join in with you, or engaging in some fun and physical activities as a family.
A couple of really practical ideas that have worked for other FIFO families include getting your husband to encourage family hugs, which kids always love, and developing a roster system for when you're all on the couch. If you and your husband sit in the middle, the kids can take turns sitting on either side of you both.
If your feelings of sadness persist, or if you find it very hard not to take your boy’s behaviour personally, please consider going along and having a chat to your doctor or a counselor about how you’re going. I’d hate for things to continue to be hard and upsetting for you.
All the very best.
Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist and practical tips from mining families, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.
Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email . She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.