When you’re not the preferred parent

I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be the parent shunned in favor of another. When my almost three-year-old son needs anything, it’s all “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”.

While my husband does his best to comfort, feed, snuggle, potty, and otherwise take care of our son, he is sometimes met with “Not Daddy, just Mommy”. He’s even been told “Daddy go out, Mommy stay”.

Preferred Parent

If it were me, my heart would break to hear those words. It does break just to hear it said to my husband.

I admire my husband for continuing to stay in the game always, never losing heart. He’s a wonderful, caring father, and he loves our son unconditionally. They have loads of fun playing together, and my husband shares lots of the care time, too. They have their own bonding rituals. And just today, our little guy was over the moon when he heard Daddy’s car pull in after work.

But for our little one, it’s obvious there’s just no substitute for a mother’s love.

Not all little ones are attached so much to their mothers, though. I have neighbors and friends who say theirs are completely enthralled by Daddy, barely giving Mom the time of day.

Is it just natural for a child to develop a stronger affinity for one parent? Why does this happen?

I’ve been wondering if it’s just that a child can sense a personality that’s more akin to its own, the way we as grownups also identify more with certain people who come into our lives. It just seems odd to think this could happen also within families, I suppose.

Or, on the other hand, could it have something to do with an experience the child had as an infant?

When our son was two months old, we tried to get him to accept milk from a bottle. My husband was the one to give it to him, of course. And it never took—he just cried and cried every time. Is it possible this caused the impression that it was Daddy’s fault that Mommy went away?

Now that I think back, there were a lot of times we tag teamed caring for our son, since I would go off to do some work when Daddy came home. Perhaps it was a more gradual resentment of the fact that when Daddy was around, Mommy was often gone.

I’ve also heard that this preference for one parent over another can come and go in waves, though that really hasn’t been the case for us.

What’s been your experience? Do your little ones have a preferred parent? Tell us in the comment section below!

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I won’t be going back to THAT playground anytime soon!

Comments (3)

  1. Leah

    A few years ago while vacationing, I was overwhelmed by my children’s apparent inability to ask my husband a question instead of me. All the questions and decisions were directed at me, as I was the one usually making the decisions from 8-6 every day. Overwhelmed, we made a new policy. When my husband gets home, he becomes “the answer man”. Whenever the kids have a question(mom- can I have more milk, mom-where are my shoes, mom-she’s not sharing with me, mom-mom)my response is, “you have to ask “the answer man”. It took awhile but after about 6 months the kids finally took to it and they know when daddy is home, he takes over. In fact, my 4 year old was playing Barbies and she told the little girl Barbie to ask the answer man since daddy was home! Of course we use a funny voice when we say it to add humor! Another thing we do to encourage love of daddy is since I have spent all day with them, he does bedtime(tuck-ins) on the weekdays and I do bedtime on the weekends. They usually still ask for me but I respond that I had the chance to see them all day but daddy hasn’t and he loves you too and wants to spend time with you. As your kids get older, they can have some “daddy dates”. I will drop one off at his office and he spends his lunch hour with them at the restaurant of their choice(usually McDonalds or Wendy’s). It is a special time for them to bond. I’m often curious if stay at home dads get the preferential treatment in their homes or if it’s just an innate “mom” thing that is dear to all children. Anyway, I’m sure there are other ideas and I look forward to other comments!

    • Lisa

      Leah, those are great ideas! I hadn’t thought of actually structuring in “daddy takes over” time, but I think we may have to give that a try. Since we’ve only got one child so far, it’s not that overwhelming for me (yet!), but I think their relationship suffers when I always take over. They bond really well on weekends and any alone time they have, but then on weekdays it’s back to “just Mommy.” Thanks a bunch for stopping by the blog! I’m sure other moms will also get a lot out of your techniques here.

  2. Tania

    This is the same for my daughter. While I know she loves her daddy and she does get excited when she sees him they never formed a special bond like her and I did. But that was partly his fault as well for many reasons.

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