Daughter Favors Dad, Mom Resents It
by Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero
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THE PROBLEM: My 3 yo daughter likes her father better than me. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but sometimes it makes me angry. I do most of the nurturing around here (feeding, bathing, getting her to bed), then my husband swoops in and does the fun stuff. I’m a mom at home, and my husband works really hard, so I don’t want to burden him with doing more than he already is. (He’s great about helping whenever I ask him to.) Besides, I’m not mad at him! I’m feeling resentment toward my daughter when the three of us are together (say, at a family get together), and she cries for my husband when I’m the one holding her. I really want to address this. I mean, how can I possibly have resentment toward a 3-year-old?
MARY SAYS: I admire you for admitting what you’re ‘embarrassed to admit.’ Problem solving begins with awareness, which is often the hardest part. Being honest about your feelings allows you to address them. If only we could all be so brave!
It sounds as though your husband enjoys a healthy relationship with your daughter, and you don’t want to mess with that. But as an ‘insider,’ he can certainly influence your daughter’s response to you. Have you talked to him about what you’re experiencing? Ask him to put in a good word for you; your daughter needs to hear from him how special you are to both of them.
But as you’ve identified, this isn’t really about your husband.
Ask yourself what’s really going on here. Do you find you’re too busy caring for your daughter to share intimate moments with her? Have you spent time developing your relationship with her? Asking her how she feels about things? Telling her how you feel?
A three-year-old can’t be responsible for her feelings toward you. But by changing how you’re spending time with her, you might find she starts sensing something new from you. Yes, the nurturing is important, and underneath it all, you’re making your daughter feel loved and cared for. But it’s okay to lower your standards a bit, which will give you more time to get to know each other.
By doing this, you’ll create a bond that you both will cherish, long after she needs you to get her dressed, bathed, and ready for bed.
ERIKA SAYS: Kiddos preferring one parent over the other is more common than you think. But regardless of how common it is, getting rejected hurts!
Not to worry, mama, I have some tips to help you work through your feelings. Start by reminding yourself that your daughter’s preference for her dad is not a reflection of how much she loves you. She may be attaching to her father as ‘parent-of-the-moment’ for any number of reasons: a significant change or transition, a shift in parenting roles, or the family dynamics to name a few. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of resentment, but keep in mind that your worth is not defined by which parent your daughter prefers on any given day.
Remind yourself that this is only a phase, because that’s exactly what it is.
In your daughter’s case, it sounds like you do all the work, then dad ‘swoops in and does the fun stuff.’ This scenario isn’t a bad thing; you might just need a more balanced approach, starting with you. Put down your chores and have more fun! I used to be a stickler for routine, barely noticing that crossing chores off my list often kept me from enjoying my son. Sometimes I have to remind myself the laundry can wait and yes, I do have time to play a board game.
Share your feelings with your husband; he may not even know what you’re experiencing. If he’s really able to hear your concern, he might be more inclined to take on some of the less-than-exciting tasks for your daughter. Opening up to your husband may also help you feel less resentful.
And by the way, why not find the silver lining in this? I see an opportunity for you to have some ‘me time’!
I once was a stay-at-home mom, and now I’m a single mom, so time to myself is hard to come by. When your husband and daughter are spending time together, do something for yourself. Take a breather. Draw yourself a warm bath and watch your favorite TV show while you soak. Take a trip to Target and do some shopping, or go to your nearest coffee shop and read a book. If you’re a low-key girl, grab some snacks, lounge in bed, watch a movie, take a walk, or call a friend. You catch my drift. Use the time to take care of yourself!
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
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ABOUT MARY FOLLIN
Mary is the author of TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective with parents of younger children.
ABOUT Erika Guerrero
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.
ABOUT Suzanne Johnson
Suzanne Johnson, mother of five children and grandmother of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of the Realms of Edenocht series.
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