When Baby Plays Favorites
A new mom is concerned that their baby prefers her husband. Is this normal? What should she do?
I’m a huge fan of your website and during my pregnancy, loved the pregnancy calendar. Thanks for the honest truth with a lot of fun thrown in!
I am now the lucky mom of a gorgeous almost 10 month old baby boy. He is our first baby, and I really had no idea what was in store for us, how hard it could be. Also, since my parents, sisters, aunties and best friends all live abroad and my family-in-law are not that involved, we had very little help which made it harder still. But so far so good and not counting his night-time antics, our boy is a very easy-going baby, he’s healthy and he’s happy. Even though my husband is a big help with our son and does his bit around the house, I still find myself doing the biggest chuck of the chores, as moms do I suppose. We have cleaners that come in every two weeks (bless them) but in between weeks the house needs tiding up, I do the laundry, I fold the laundry, I iron (some of) the laundry, I cook, wipe, sweep, wash, change the sheets, do the grocery shopping, organise doctor’s appointments, make sure the gas and daycare bills are paid and so on. Although life is pretty busy (don’t know how moms with four children do it!) I try and spend as much time as possible with our baby, especially on my day off work each week – we go for walks to the park, we spend time in the garden watching the birds and I show him the flowers, I sit and play with him and we cuddle and kiss, tickle and giggle. I know that these special moments count heaps more than a tidy house and folded laundry.
So, here’s the conundrum ~ over the last 3-4 weeks the boy has become besotted with his father. He totally prefers his dad to me. When I pick him up from daycare, he’s happy to see me but the carers say the times that dad came through the door he almost freaked out from excitement. He squeals with delight when my husband comes home from work and cries when he leaves the room (even though I’m sitting right next to him). When I hold him and we’re near dad he’d stretch out his arms and kick his legs to go to dad. When he’s in dad’s arms and I’d tickle his cheek for a smile, he’d turn his head away.
My husband is very gracious and sympathetic and I understand that it’s not personal, I love that the two get along so great and that dad’s his hero but I can’t help but feel a little deflated….
My hope is not that next week or next month he’ll prefer me rather than dad but that it’ll even out at some stage and I’ll feel a little more special. Please tell me it’s normal and some advice on how I should handle the situation would help a great deal!
REPEAT AFTER ME:
Normal normal normal phase phase phase.
Seriously, this is perfectly normal, typical — and above all, TEMPORARY — behavior. That’s not to say that it doesn’t sting when you realize you suddenly aren’t your baby’s “preferred” parent, but it’s not really so much of a rejection of you. It’s more that your son recognizes you as his constant, the parent who is always there and always will be, while his dad is probably someone he’s only recently really noticed in the past few months and has thus designated him as “special.” He’s taking you for granted because he knows he can, because he’s bonded with you in a healthy, meaningful way. He can pull away from you because he’s confident you’ll still be there when he wants to reach back.
If that makes sense.
What also tends to rear its ugly head around this age is separation anxiety, and for some babies the whole “having a favorite parent/caregiver” thing is a manifestation of that. They cry when their preferred parent leaves the room, become distraught or clingy at the door/daycare dropoff, or get super particular over who puts them to bed at night. And I’ll be honest, from experience: As crappy as it feels to not be the favorite, it can be exhausting and frustrating to be the preferred parent as well.
Luckily, it doesn’t sound like your son is taking it to that level. So for now, two things: Remind yourself that this is a TEMPORARY PHASE and his preference will very likely even back out soon, or even swing wildly back in your direction. (Babies are fickle little things.) I can all but guarantee that your little guy will absolutely go through an extended “mommy phase,” in a big way, at some point. Probably toddler through early preschool years, I’d bet.
But for now, the second thing: Take advantage of the daddy/son bromance and GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I sense you feel taken for granted in a larger sense as well, and are maybe running yourself a little ragged in your quest to be the perfect working mom who has and does it all. So let the boys entertain each other and go see a movie. Get a pedicure. Get drinks and dinner with your girlfriends. Go shopping for yourself — try shoes on in peace and let the nice people at the cosmetic counters put makeup on you and compliment your skin tone. Let your husband take your son to the park and show him the flowers and don’t feel even the tiniest bit guilty about chores or errands or taking time for yourself. You’ve more than earned it.