Mothers and Professional Love

Another thought provoking post by Emily Dawson who is currently studying for a PhD in Education at Canterbury Christ Church University and works as a childminder from her home. As in the previous post, all names are anonymised. Thank you Emily – lots to think about here!

I am a mother and yet, because of my work as a childminder, I have never had to use childcare myself until my daughter began attending preschool.  However, I have mothers at my door every day, handing me their small child.  While I have no first-hand experience of this, I imagine it requires a huge degree of trust.  As part of my research into Professional Love, I wanted to find out what mothers who use childminders feel about the relationship between their child and the childminder, as well as the relationship they themselves have with the childminder.  I had begun my research by speaking to childminders and wanted to compare their thoughts with those of the mothers.

The concept of Professional Love was developed by Jools Page who found that some mothers do not like the notion of their child developing loving feelings for another caregiver, and so choose nursery settings because they believe their child will not develop a close bond as they might with a childminder.  I wanted to find out if this had been a consideration or concern for mothers choosing childminders.  I conducted three interviews with mothers using video conferencing technology due to the Covid-19 pandemic at the time.  Interestingly, each mother had experience with more than one childminder, which affected their responses.

Siobhan has one son, Alfie, who has attended two different childminding settings due to moving house.  Siobhan says she has a good relationship with the second childminder, but did not realise how “amazing” the first childminder was when Alfie attended that setting.  She describes the first childminder as more caring, while the second is more business-like.  Siobhan initially felt uncomfortable leaving her small baby with “effectively another mother” but became more accepting of it as Alfie grew older and now speaks positively about the close relationship they have.  She reported finding it hard to develop a relationship with the childminder herself, as she only sees them at drop off and pick up, although she can tell the positive impact they have on Alfie.

Alice has two children, one of whom attended a childminding setting when she was very small, before Alice removed her due to her feeling that the childminder failed to demonstrate empathy with her crying daughter.  She recalled meeting the second childminder in the park, when the childminder helped her daughter after she fell over.  Alice spoke enthusiastically about the close relationship her child had with the childminder.  Alice stated she would be happy for the childminder to behave just as she herself would, acting as a motherly figure.  She also stated she had developed a close friendship with the childminder.

Kiera initially chose a childminder for her daughter because they were cheaper and accommodated more flexible timings than a nursery.  However, Kiera spoke the most positively about the relationship between her child and the childminder, stating she wanted them to have a loving relationship for her daughter’s happiness and wellbeing.  She described her own understanding of professional love as “an attachment between a childminder and a child and how that can develop into a loving and caring relationship”, highlighting the importance she placed on the reciprocal nature of the relationship.

All of the mothers in this small study were supportive of the relationship which developed between their child and the childminder and seemed to have an understanding of how important this attachment was for the child’s feelings of security and emotional wellbeing.  Only one of the mothers explicitly stated she had found this difficult initially, although all understood that the Professional Love relationship did not threaten the loving relationship they themselves had with their own child.

Are you a mother who has used a childcare setting?  How did you feel about the relationship your child developed with the practitioner(s)?

One thought on “Mothers and Professional Love

  1. pns47

    Thank you Emily, this is a really interesting piece of research. I had not really given this much thought until you have written about it here.


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