Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

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I was inspired to write this post after the J had a crying fit because she didn’t want Mummy to put her to bed. She only wanted Daddy. And I have to say, it hurt my feelings (I may have the beginnings of PMT today, but I still feel this is a justified response).

We as Mothers don’t often have to play second-best with our children. In the traditional family model, it was the Mum who primarily looked after the kids (and so got to be the favourite) – it was certainly like that when I was growing up. These days things are very different and have certainly changed for the better in terms of shared parental duties etc. I always wanted Grump and I to have equal responsibility for the J and he is a very ‘hands on’ dad (I don’t like this phrase, as it implies that being ‘hands on’ is extra special and not just part of his job as a father, but you get my gist).

As Grump is a teacher, he has more time off than the average father to spend with our daughter. This works well for me, especially with freelancing, as it means I can take on more work in the school holidays, with free childcare to boot!

However, I have noticed that during those times when I am working more and Grump is in charge, the J goes off me. She constantly asks for Daddy, runs to him for cuddles and just seems disinterested in me.

She did this once before at around age 1. I vividly remember being at a friend’s son’s 1st birthday party that had a children’s entertainer. All the Mums were sat on the floor with the children, singing and joining in and the dads were stood at the side chatting. I tried to sit with the J, but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted Daddy. And so I took on the role of a spectator with the other Dads and felt really left out. It hurts when you are not wanted. Granted it was nice to have a break and scoff down some party food, but I was embarrassed when every time I tried to pick up or cuddle my child she cried. I had spoken to a friend about this problem beforehand and she came up to me after the party and said that she had no idea how bad it was. Of course, over time things got better. Grump went back to work and Mummy was favourite again. But that party always sticks in my mind. I wonder if this is how many Dads feel on a regular basis?

As she has got older (now almost 17 months), the J has become more confident and now has close relationships with Grandma, Granny and her childminder. She is happy to be left with them, as well as myself and Grump. As her affections are split between more people, she tends to be happy with whoever is happy to play with, feed or cuddle her.

Over the last week or so, Grump has broken up on school holidays and he has become the firm favourite. I think this might also have something to do with the fact that he gives her more treats (fruit juice from his glass, chocolate etc), whereas I am perhaps a bit more strict (water only!!).

Tonight, it was me who spent 20 minutes singing songs with her, throwing balls down the hall way, and getting splashed during bath time. When we tried to get her ready for bed she kept running off and wouldn’t get dressed. Grump was unsuccessful at getting on her PJs and he admitted to me that it had taken him half an hour to get her dressed this morning. I decided to show him what I normally do, which involves firmly holding her down and putting clothes on her.

She cried a little, but nothing major and then Grump put his arms out for a cuddle and said “Horrible mummy”. Now I know he was joking, but the J is taking everything in at the moment and understands a lot. She looked at me with a heartbreaking stare as if to say, “I don’t like you”. Then she wouldn’t come to me for a cuddle. I had to tell Grump to leave the room and force a crying child to be cuddled until she had her milk and settled down. Not fun at all.

The only way I can describe that feeling is when you were younger and you fancied/had a massive crush on a boy, and you found out that they didn’t like you back. That sad sinking feeling. Your affections are not returned.

But when you’ve carried a baby for 9 months and gone through labour, you expect to get the best cuddles and kisses from your child – not Daddy who didn’t go through any pain (apart from a squashed hand). It’s not fair.

Now I’m sitting on the sofa, feeling put out. The answer…?

There isn’t one, except the knowledge that at some point the tables will turn and I will be her favourite again. Although it makes me sad to think that Grump will feel like this at some point, or has done in the past. Being number two just isn’t fun. A big shout out to all the Dads or Mums out there who know how I feel. But when they do run to you for a cuddle or desperately call you name, that feeling is so amazing and special that it makes all the other tough times worthwhile.

 

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