Q&A: Chopped liver?

Meggimoo writes:

“My 2-1/2 year-old son adores my husband. I’m happy about that. I’m ok with taking the back seat since the 1st year of his life he only wanted me (and my breasts). But for the past 6 months, and with no end in sight, it’s not just that he prefers my husband. He actively does not want me to have anything to do with him if my DH is within 500 feet. I can’t put him to bed, I can’t sing him songs at night, I can’t change his clothes, ad infinitum. Of course, I still do these things when necessary, but they’re met with the utmost protest. If my DH is not around, my DS will grudgingly allow me to be in his presence

I’m trying to be mature about this (ahem) and not feel hurt. That works most of the time. But sometimes I just wonder when/if this stage will end. Is this it? Am I just not going to be a preferred member of his posse forever more? I had always heard that boys adored their mothers. Has anyone out there gone through this and come out the other end? Did their sons (or daughters) begin to gravitate toward them again? I guess I’m just thrown by the suddenness of how this all occured. I feel like the new wife my DH just married, trying to win over his toddler. But, hello! I pushed you out with no drugs, dammit. (Hmm, I’m beginning to sound like MY mother.)


So you know it’s normal, but it still hurts. I remember it vividly, and it hurt me, too. Heck, it still hurts now when they see their dad and run off to him and leave me hanging. (Of course that may also have something to do with the inherent weirdness of our co-parenting in a completely different–and probably healthier–way than we did while we were still together.)

And it really feels like you spent so much of your life giving and giving and giving and now he doesn’t want anything to do with you. It would be one thing if he was ready to go out of the nest completely, but the switching alliances to his dad while you’re still there just stings.

Two thoughts (and then I’m leaving for the airport):

1. I think it’s a biological thing. At this age, many mothers are having another child, so it makes total sense for the child to be programmed to prefer the dad at this point, so the mother can focus on the new baby. Even though there’s no new baby, his developmental stuff is still going on as programmed. Maybe you could get a cat, or take up a new hobby to keep yourself busy until he comes out of this phase.

2. It does change. At some point in the future he’ll want you again, and may even tell your husband, “No, I want Mom!” and refuse to let anyone else touch him.

I don’t want to miss my flight, so I’ll turn this over to the readers. Anyone else feels just hurt and insulted by this phase? When did it end?

0 thoughts on “Q&A: Chopped liver?”

  1. We did have another baby and in the natural division of labor, my husband was taking the older one (boy) and I was taking the baby (girl). That seemed to be working well for us and the boy was happy for awhile, but then when I would randomly mention that I love him, he would say I didn’t, that his father did, and that I love the baby. I have to say, that made me want to cry. I finally told him a couple of weeks ago (he’s almost 3) that it hurts my feelings when he says that. That seemed to give him pause.I’ve also been taking on a more active role and now I’m the preferred parent of both kids and quite frankly, I’m exhausted!

  2. Not hurt terribly much (on my part), though it was hard on DH with our first.My first note is not only will it end, but it will switch over and over until they can shift at will to whomever is handiest.
    Second note: It differs for each child. Or maybe there are a few different patterns, not sure. But out of four kids, we have four patterns.
    Eldest did the MOMMY ONLY thing (despite DH being a SAHD) until around 2 1/2. Then it switched, in the middle of the night. It was DADDY ONLY at that point, for about 9 months (funny, about the time period when the next baby would have been getting more independent). So then back to me. And then in a few months after that, back to DH. And then back to me in a few weeks. And then days. And then hours. And then it was at-will. It was pretty funny watching the at-will version develop, because it was very clearly NOT YOU, I want MOMMY! Wait, mommy’s handling something else? Oh. Okay. NOT MOMMY, I WANT DADDY! Heh. Oy.
    Second child, blended model – wanted both of us. Simultaneously. Just one wasn’t good enough, really, but … we could stretch it. Any major crisis wasn’t resolved until we were both present. Never changed. Still true, though it has become less intense in the same pattern – around 2 1/2, it eased up, and then eased up again a bit later, then slowly eased all the way to flexible.
    M, elder twin, a bit more mommy-centric, but relatively easily swapping from one to another. More ‘are my needs met? Yes? Okay, I guess it doesn’t matter which parent you are.’ Fairly graceful transitions most of the time. Only intensified into a notable preference (for me) at, yep, 2 1/2 (funny, my kids also had a bigger issue with siblings when they hit six months, so two years apart babies plus six months seems to be the crisis point for my kids).
    R, younger twin, was DADDY’S GIRL from day one. yeah, I was fine, but oh, seriously not favorite. When DH picked her up, from a very young age, she’d get this self-satisfied look that could only be interpreted as, “I got my Da-dee, I got my Da-dee” Gleefully satisfied. Around 2 1/2 she finally added me to the mix, but didn’t fully let go of the Daddy-centric thing even then. It was more I was blended in at that point as an appealing alternate. Gradually, there have been times when she’d rather have me, but … well, there’s an affinity there that I can’t exactly argue with. I envy it a bit, at times, but the eldest still has a tendency to lean in on me, touch down on me, just a bit more than on DH. I’d say that we each have one child who has a strong affinity for us (but no dis-affinity for the other parent), and one child who has a slight lean in our direction or a blend between us.
    Neither of us is chopped liver consistantly anymore, though. Which is much more pleasant than bearing the brunt of ‘NOOOO, I don’t want YOOOUUUUU!’ all the time. It happens, still, but it isn’t the same all the time with any given child. They’re also much better at assessing who will provide what they need right now. We’re different people and different parents, and they know who has which buttons and who has which knowledge and who is more likely to give them uppie hugs at this particular moment, etc.
    It comes. It’s a bit ouchy on the first big go, because it is so absolute a switch. But it becomes less absolute with time and experience and cognitive development. It will NOT be like this forever, at least not that I can see. Granted, I have a sample size of four. Not exactly statistically sound, but at least a sample.

  3. (oh, and note, my kids are NOT 2 years apart in age, but they hit the program at that 2 1/2 year point – running the program just as Moxie said. Four years apart and three years apart (and five minutes, if you want to count that), but they still hit the issue at 2 1/2, every time.)

  4. My daughter is 2 1/2 and we have the opposite problem, she wants nothing to do with her father. He comes home from work and she couldn’t care less, he tries to interact with her and she protests with “no Dada!”…it’s really hard for him and I can tell hurts his feelings. He is nothing but sweet to her and I don’t know where it comes from. She won’t let him do anything for her, it’s got to be me. I’m a SAHM and the primary caregiver, and I just wish she’d let her dad help put her to bed, etc. to give me a break if nothing else.From talking to other people this is a phase and this too shall pass. I am due with a boy in about 3 months and I’m curious to see if and how things change. Her dad will by necessity have to do more for her and I don’t know if her feelings towards me will change since my attention will be divided.

  5. Right now I am struggling with pregnancy ills so I am having a hard time doing anything for my 2.5 year old boy, so I am actually grateful for the “No Mom. Dadddyyyy!” cries, but he started this before I was pregnant and I really had to focus on not getting jealous. I finally figured out that if I did things differently enough, it wasn’t as if I was trying to replace Daddy, so he was a little bit more amenable to having me around.

  6. Yeah, #1 (boy) did that too and damned if I didn’t take it entirely personally. However, I knew it was a phase so I did my best to get through it. He hit the terrible 3’s then and hated everyone and now he’s through that and he.just.loves.me. It’s so hilarious and irrationally soothing when he comes up to me for no reason, looks at me with all seriousness (he’ll be 4 in a few months) and says “Mommy! I’m so PROUD of you!” and gives me a hug. He requests snuggle time. He loves loving me. I love being loved by him in this new and individual way.#2 is 18m and I’m braced for his refusal of all things Mommy. I’ve got extra support for my brace now, though.

  7. We have the reverse- my 4 year old daughter continues to say “No Papa!” at least 5 times a day.Mostly, I don’t know about the biology…but I do think this is about our toddler trying to exert some control over their crazy world.
    One thing that has helped A LOT is that when my husband spends more solo time with our daughter…then she still prefers me, but will at least interract positively with my husband. Also, routine helps.
    So- my advice is, even though this may not be practically possible- try to pick some part of your daily routine that you can do for your son every day (bedtime story? bath?) and for at least a week, make sure your husband is out of the house during that activity. Explain to your kid that Papa isn’t there, but that you love him too and this is special time with you. And then maybe give him a little control by letting him pick the story, etc. Expect resistance and remain calm. The goal is not to get him to loosen his attachment to DH, but really just to have some positive time between you and DS every day.
    But he will probably still prefer your husband to varying degrees for a while. Try not to let it get you down. I think most kids do this to some degree with one parent or the other.

  8. My mom lives with us and cares for our son while we’re at work. Lately, our son has preferred my mother over BOTH of us and ouch! that hurts.I REALLY feel bad for my husband, though … he’s the bottom of the totem pole. I don’t really know how to “break” the cycle, or even if I want to. I want my son to have lots of people he loves and trusts and I love that he and my mom are so close. But it HURTS when he goes to her first over either of us.
    I have no advice, but I feel your pain.

  9. I can definitely sympathize! We had the exact same thing from the time my son was 10 months until around 2.5 (a couple of months ago). We switch off bed and bath every other night and he would cry hysterically when it was my turn. “No! DADDY bath and bed!”I remember one day in February when I discovered my pregnancy was ectopic and my son wouldn’t allow me to read to him, and I pretty much collapsed.
    It has been HARD.
    Lately, the past couple of months, things started to even out and now I’d say we’re around 60/40, still in favor of Daddy. It still feels precarious, though.

  10. Please god let this phase arrive.I love my son, who is 2 years & 4 months, but it breaks my heart to see him rejecting my partner. And the cycle that gets going means that I wind up doing a disproportional amount of the child care, which is getting harder and harder as my current pregnancy progresses.

  11. Holy cow! This is us to a T! My son was 2 in April & about 3 weeks ago, he started wanting nothing to do with me. We both work, but he spends a lot of time with my husband in the evening before I get home. We used to split the bedtime routine (husband did bath & pjs & I put him to bed), but now, when I get home, it’s often “No Mommy, bye-bye Mommy!). Not exactly what I want to hear when I walk in the door. And he wants nothing to do with me at bedtime. I miss talking to him about his day before bed. It was mostly me asking him yes & no questions, but still.I figured it was a phase, but I feel like I have to put forth a lot of extra effort to impress my kid, or get his attention, and that bugs me.
    Remember that Bill Cosby line: “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out!”
    I guess this too shall pass…

  12. I’m with Liza, hoping to get to the stage where my husband will be “accepted” as a contributing member of childcare. It is ALL MOMMY ALL THE TIME. My husband wants to help, but really, I can’t blame him for handing a scraming 2 1/2 year old over after 30 minutes of trying to engage him unsuccessfully. WHEN WILL THIS END????When I’m out of the house, it’s okay (though the act of leaving is rather torturous for all of us). I’ve noticed that like a pp said…..it helps the more time they spend together alone, the better it seems to get for a while. But my husband works a lot, so that’s not always feasible. I went out of town for the weekend last month and they did *great* without me. But I don’t want to have to leave the house to be able to get some time to myself.
    Meggimoo…..I feel bad for you in the same way I feel bad for my husband. Knowing it’s a phase will help us all deal with this…regardless of which end we happen to be on at the time. I’m hoping this next kid will be Daddy’s little baby because I’m not sure what I will do if they both want me all the time. Lose my mind, I’m sure. For starters.

  13. I remember when my daughter was about 2 sitting on the couch in our living room crying because she was in another room with her daddy after telling me rather emphatically to go away. It’s really hard to be a grownup and not freak out about this!She’s always been a daddy’s girl, but I’ve always been the rock–if she’s sad or hurt or sleepy, she wants me. She’s started to become more fond of me in the last six months or so, and I think it may have something to do with my being less available because of being great with child and then caring for a newborn. The pendulum swung alllll the way back to mommy for a while, though, and now it’s an equilibrium–and I am typing this with her snugging next to me :-). It does get better, I promise, and they always love you more than they know what to do with

  14. Could you please send your kid over to talk to mine? Because after three years of having her velcroed to me, I could use a little “I want DADDY!” time.

  15. Okay, this doesn’t pertain directly to the question, but I’d like to share something I’ve discovered about girls and boys and their Daddies. I have three: Girl-Boy-Girl, 6-4-18mo. My oldest has been Daddy’s girl from day one. But for a girl it’s like this: “Daddy I love you. Daddy do you love me?” She wants to adore her Daddy and be adored by him. My son on the other hand couldn’t care less about all the love crap. He wants to BE his Daddy. Wants to dress like him, wants to work beside him, wants to emulate him completely.My kids have had a definite transition period about the 12 month mark. I stayed home for a year with each of them (Canada) and returned to work 3 days/week after that and my husband is at home when I work. My youngest cried and cried when I went back to work, but those full days with Dad are great for the kids. Within a month she would just give me a kiss and wave good-bye. My oldest used to cry when I got home from work! No Mommy! It passes.

  16. I totally understand! I also have a 2 1/2 year old son and he frequently tells me to go away! Daddy only!! Last night when I picked him up at daycare he took one look at me and said No Mama, I want Dadda and stormed off. Every morning I am met with No, Dadda, no want dadda. This has been going on for a while, but has gotten worse. I just TRY to not let it hurt me and hope one day he will want me again. I feel slightly immature for letting a 2 year old hurt my feelings, but it does. It’s just nice to know I am not alone.

  17. Funny, this is happening with DS 2 and my in-laws, who watch my kids every Wed. He loves loves loves his Papa, but Grandma, he could take her or leave her. She really takes this personally even though I tell her it is just the age, development, etc. As for me, both my kids DD 4 and DS prefer me right now for the most part. Heartwarming and frustrating depending on what I am trying to do at the time. So, how does one cook with a child right under the stove at their feet or sweep with one holding the broom handle? Carefully and inefficiently I guess.

  18. I’m wary of this biological theory. For something to be pre-programmed like that it would have to have a much longer past in society. However, this close spacing of children is pretty modern, since the advent of formula, for most people. Typical spacing of children who are breastfed longer due to their being no alternatives (no formula, or not enough food), is at least four years. In the archaeological record you see a lot of four-year-olds who had to wean for a new sibling (even with Neanderthals–that far back) who died young because they couldn’t get enough to eat.

  19. My oldest started with the all-mommy-all-the-time bit when she was juuust about 6 months. She just turned 4 and we have seen no change. Well, small changes, in that she no longer cries and is inconsolable the entire time we’re apart, which she did for awhile. At what point is it a personality trait rather than a phase?We have had decent luck with engaging Daddy in stuff that Mommy doesn’t do. For example, my husband’s a bird nut, so sometimes he sits down with the North American Field Guide to Birds and he and the Munchkin go through it together and talk about the different birds (while I pass out from sheer boredom). Both kids play “dog pile on Daddy” (Again, Mommy is mysteriously nowhere to be found when it’s time for “dog pile”.) I even remember a silly think he used to do with the Munchkin when she was a baby — he’d pick her up and reach her waaay up over his head to “bonk” her on the ceiling. No way could I do that, and she thought it was hilarious.
    I don’t have any idea about helping with your feelings, though, because I’ve only ever been on the other side. I can only imagine that it would hurt, though, a lot.

  20. I went through that with my daughter as well. And I was jealous too. She really started acting mean towards me at one point, just to emphasize her rejection. Since we are extended breast feeders, I did the most immature thing — I told her that I didn’t need to bother giving milk to someone who didn’t like me (she had already turned three, understood completely what I was saying, and was not going to starve if we stopped, which would have been fine with me). She weighed the options and decided that perhaps she ought to be more civil towards me. Just like that.Over the last six months, she’s been just fine. I think she doesn’t have a preference right now, but I expect that she will go back and forth as the years go on. Next time it happens, I won’t let it bother me as much (though I won’t put up with rudeness either).

  21. @Eva, really? I thought it was 2 years apart even in areas that nursed for an extended time (or really, more like 2-2.5 years, around then). It included nursing through a pregnancy, tandem nursing, etc. – fertility returning around the end of 14 months to 18 months, when night-weaning tends to happen more often…. Just checked, and yes, if you follow ‘nature’s plan’ (‘ecological breastfeeding’) for lactation (demand feeding, night feeding, no other sucking devices, etc.), fertility on average doesn’t return until 14.5 months, with the first cycle often anovulatory. That puts the earliest TYPICAL next child at 23.5 months (13.5 + 1 + 9), and if it takes a little while to get pregnant, another six or so… bingo, 2-2.5 years between kids.
    I think you’ve confused age of weaning with return of fertility – age of weaning averages 4 years in ‘pre-formula’ conditions, but fertility returns well before that.

  22. story of my life. :)My oldest started that at the same age (2-1/2) and it’s only letting up now that he’s 4. Once I got pregnant I kept saying, “I hope this one likes me!” because I was so hurt that my little boy didn’t want me, even when he was sick or hurt (man, when he got hurt and howled for his father, I started crying…that was my last “stronghold”). As mothers, we are destined to get our hearts broken by our children over and over. I’m just hoping that my younger son doesn’t do it as long as his older brother. 🙂

  23. @Hedra–and history plays this out. I did a study of breastfeeding in medieval English widows, and you can clearly see which group breastfed and which did not due to child spacing. Fascinating!Anyway, to the topic–I feel your pain. I used to think I’d give anything for my kids to prefer dad for a bit. But since the divorce (a different situation from Meggimoo’s, I know) it always stings, as Moxie said. Just yesterday I asked my older kids if they wanted to spend more time with their dad since it’s summer and schedules are more flexible. My son (8 y.o.) immediately said yes and began to work out which days he’d spend with dad. His enthusiasm “stung”. Of course I want them to be close to their dad and to have the same relationship with him they would have had if we were all still under one roof (for this is the healthiest way to a happy child of divorce). But, you know, I don’t want to simply be the workhorse in their lives. But a little while later my son walked through the room and said, “Never mind. If we spend more time with dad that means less time with you. Let’s just leave it the way it is.”
    So, no help just empathy for how you’re feeling.

  24. Wow, this is timely – just yesterday I was googling “toddler prefers one parent”. For my daughter, who just turned 3, it’s all Mama, all the time, and I know this hurts my husband, who is a SAHD, a lot, plus I’d really like to be able to go to the bathroom without entering extended negotiations about how long I’ll be gone, you know?My one piece of advice is that she is not allowed to be hurtful or disrespectful towards my husband – I think she’s old enough to be made to understand that it hurts his feelings when she says “I don’t like Dad!” or something similar. I don’t know if it makes any difference in her attitude, actually, but I think it does make HIM feel better at any rate.

  25. We’ve had a similar situation in our house to some extent for quite a while now- but I have figured out the reason behind some of it. DS is 2. Mostly this has to do with bedtime; from about 18 months on, DH started putting DS to bed. It took him FOREVER! They play together, do puzzles, build blocks, etc. At bedtime. IMO, when it’s bedtime, you put the kid to bed. SO, when I would try to put him to bed, he would cry for daddy, because I am much more no-nonsense, it’s time to go to sleep now. Daddy would evntually cave and come in and sing and snuggle and rock and do whatever DS wanted. Basically, he wants daddy because daddy lets him do what he wants.About 2 weeks ago I fianlly got tired enough of him being up until 10 every night, and taught him how to put himself sleep. It took one evening of being firm, and he’s doing GREAT now, and doesn’t mind me putting him to bed at all, becauase the expectations are there. But if DH puts him to bed, there is still the same nonsense that goes on for an hour or more- he gets very needy for daddy, because daddy allows it.
    I have also noticed that Daddy spends a lot more time playing with him in general, and I spend a good portion of our together time doing chores (I am p/t SAHM). When it is just the 2 of us, DS seems happy to do laundry with me or whatever, but of course he is going to gravitate towards the guy who’s sitting on the floor with him, racing cars and building blocks when given the chance.

  26. @Hedra–need to make that clearer… history plays out the 2-2.5 year spacing. Never heard or seen evidence of the 4 yr spacing Eva mentioned.

  27. Yes, it’s normal and it will end. It happened with my younger sister and my father, but itps possible it’s just all part of the same phase. At about 2 1/2 years old, my sister rejected my father completely for several weeks, until my mother tried explaining how the behavior was affecting dad. It simple as, “You know, when you won’t hug daddy, it hurts his feelings and makes him sad.” In our case, that’s all it took to start changing things, but I think it depends on how well your child understands other people’s feelings.

  28. @hedra & Eva, I think 4 years is based on research in contemporary hunter-gatherer cultures that often, with use of additional restrictions on sex and so forth, space children at that interval. hedra if you haven’t read Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s book “Mother Nature” I think you would LOVE it. She’s a senior anthropologist/primatologist and the book looks at “maternal instinct” through that lens.Anyway, that’s one of the places I’ve seen the 4 years numbers–the 2 year spacing comes in more with agricultural (which frequently means patriarchal of course) societies.

  29. My son, 3.5, is Daddy’s boy. I think he always has been, but he didn’t begin protesting about Mommy until about 2.5. I didn’t realize this was common (until I read this) and I tried to be mature, but it hurt my feelings. I’m not sure if it’s biology or personality or psychology. But the more I think about it, I’m leaning toward psychology. I tried not to make an issue of it (after all, I am very happy my son loves his dad so much), but I think he totally knew it upset me and that gave him a little control. Once he told me I wasn’t his friend and, although I am not proud to admit this, my reaction was truly pathetic. Are we friends now, are we friends now, are we friends now? And he remained insistent–no. A few days later he told my husband he was not his friend anymore and my husband said, very matter-of-factly, “Okay, I’m not your friend.” Right away my son said, “But I am your friend, I want you to be my friend!” So the next time he rejected me, I did the same thing and he’s been much more open to both of us lately. In our case, I think part of the appeal of Daddy was that he wasn’t so available to him all the time. When I acted more aloof and unaffected, I was more appealing too. It’s like The Rules, except for kids instead of men.

  30. My son is almost four and a half, and has been doing this since he was about 2.5 years old. He LOVES his daddy. He does accept cuddles from me and allows me to get him ready for bed on occasion but always looks to his dad first for comfort. I used to be fine with this but it is getting a little challenging not taking it personally. For example, just the other day he told me that he loves his daddy more than me. Ouch. I have to remember that he is at an age where identifying strongly with his dad is healthy and “normal,” and one day things will even out a bit more. And, I do have reminders on occasion of how much he deeply loves me. For example, last night he was scared in bed about thoughts he was having, and I went up and talked him through them. He greatly relaxed and at one point sighed “mommy” and put his hand on my cheek and fell asleep that way. So sweet. So, even though it feels as though your son is rejecting you, please know that he deeply loves you. And, in my experience, the rejection at this age can also be a manifestation of how much they trust you (i.e. knowing that you won’t reject them back). Hang in there! Sympathies!

  31. I know this happened at some point with my first born (he is almost 3.5), but I can’t remember when. But not to such as an extreme as in Meggimoo’s case. I do remember my son switching from calling me in the morning to calling his dad, and I was over the moon, and told my husband, he wants you not me so give him what he wants. But it didn’t last long.With my daughter who is 17 months old, she is starting to show a lot more interest in her dad now too, but I’m definitly still the preferred parent.
    But my kids are pretty much raised by me at the moment due to my husband’s work hours and my kids’ bed-times. My daughter sees dad in the morning briefly and on weekends, but never sees him in the evenings and so he is still pretty much a stranger I guess. My son does a little better, as he goes to bed a bit later, but then again he spent a good 2.5 years seeing a lot more of dad before he got this current job.
    But I am still number one for both of my kids, although dad is fun for different things, like rough and tumble stuff and ball games.

  32. I know this happened at some point with my first born (he is almost 3.5), but I can’t remember when. But not to such as an extreme as in Meggimoo’s case. I do remember my son switching from calling me in the morning to calling his dad, and I was over the moon, and told my husband, he wants you not me so give him what he wants. But it didn’t last long.With my daughter who is 17 months old, she is starting to show a lot more interest in her dad now too, but I’m definitly still the preferred parent.
    But my kids are pretty much raised by me at the moment due to my husband’s work hours and my kids’ bed-times. My daughter sees dad in the morning briefly and on weekends, but never sees him in the evenings and so he is still pretty much a stranger I guess. My son does a little better, as he goes to bed a bit later, but then again he spent a good 2.5 years seeing a lot more of dad before he got this current job.
    But I am still number one for both of my kids, although dad is fun for different things, like rough and tumble stuff and ball games.

  33. Thanks to everyone for your comments…it’s amazing to see how common this is.@Kate…I totally agree with you. My DH is very soft-hearted and their bedtime routine has stretched out and stretched out because he’s not willing to be as no-nonsense as I am about it.
    I know that I am more of the rules parent/timekeeper. My DH is more likely to keep playing with our son and never notice that bam! it’s 10 pm! So now I quietly tell him when it’s time to transition to something else, and he announces it to our son. Hasn’t helped that much that I can see, but it’s something.
    I also try to do silly and fun things with our toddler…I don’t want there to be the fun parent vs. the non-fun parent. (i.e. my mom vs. my dad)
    As a pp wrote, my DH has to be perceived as being absent for my DS to allow me to put him to bed.
    I’m prepared for this to be a phase, even a lengthy one. I suppose it’s more pronounced since we only have one child right now. We’d like another, but I’m not sure whether that’s in the cards.

  34. I feel hurt when I’m not wanted and overwhelmed when I’m all that is wanted. But, it changes and changes again. And, I’ll mope again next time I’m left out of the loop, even though I know better.

  35. ok, anyone reading who is single parenting? what seems to be the norm then? my 18m (but developmentally delayed – previous micropreemie) son and i live with my mother who does a bit of childcare, but it’s pretty much me. anyone know what’s likely?i feel kinda adrift…no ‘wonder weeks’ here, he’s not on anyone else’s charts. i definitely have to parent ‘in the moment’.

  36. Funny, my kid made the switch to Daddy right around 2.5 too, and it was a pretty overnight switch. It’s been over a year and he still has a strong preference for Daddy. When I’m out, and I come home, he’ll scream “Oh no! She’s home!” I once told him I loved him, and he said “I don’t love you, I just love Daddy,” although a few minutes later he admitted, “Actually, I love you, but just a little bit.”It doesn’t really bother me much at all, since I have a younger son (1.5) who just wants Mommy every single second of the day, so it works out. We try to mix it up sometimes so that each kid gets time with the less-preferred parent doing a fun activity, but otherwise we just see it as a phase.

  37. Oh yes. I could have written this myself. Son was 3.5 when Daughter was born. Throughout my pregnancy, I really encouraged my hubs to take over for me. Son had also self-weaned prior to my pregnancy. I was grateful for and embraced the all-daddy, all the time stage. That was almost two years ago. I am now sometimes hurt by it, and wonder if Son will ever prefer me again. It is hard to be mature about it, esp when he says things like “I don’t like listening to you” or “I like daddy better” . No answers here, just trying to still be the best mom I can, and remembering to be the fun mom sometimes too.

  38. Looks like it is a behavioral affinity issue: http://sambuca.umdl.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/45603/1/11199_2004_Article_BF00287413.pdfPartly gender-role related, but not exclusively (note that there is both swapping of the preferred parent, and while it’s MAINLY the girls swapping to the mother at 2 and the boys swapping to the father, it is not exclusively so). Degree of verbal interaction and direct address (speaking to directly) may play a role. The tendency for boys to show a strong preference (for father) and girls have less preference or to switch preference more often in the 2-4 year old range is shown here: http://www.jstor.org/pss/350726
    That said, studies in other countries sugggest that all the male-to-male stuff has more to do with how parents interact with children in the US studies, than it does with what the children would do in absense of a difference – the more the dad is available and indistinguishable from the mother in play style, the less there is any statistical association between parent preference and parent behavior (that is, if the parents play and interact alike, the only driver of the child’s preference is the child’s actual preference, and not anything to do with the social interaction or structure of play). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6872633
    All that supports the experience of the parents here who changed their play and interaction style, and found that the degree of preference shifted accordingly.
    Looking back on our kids, that’s probably at play in our family, as well. Because with the eldest, there was a strong dichotomy between our parenting styles (we were still aligning, though we also still parent differently even now), though DH was highly available for the first year, after that he became much less available (night school, lots of studying). But he became more available after B was born (though not immediately – we still started out cosleeping, and had a much more coordinated approach to parenting, and were more similar). With the girls, it switched again because of the necessary division of labor with twins and two other kids.
    Very interesting stuff. Fascinating that mothers change their communication style as the child gets older, too. I’ve noticed that in myself – that as my expectations change, my parenting changes, and it changes in different ways than it does for DH (though his also changes).
    Which also may answer the single-parenting question – while there may be a developmental opening of relationships around this age (providing more opportunity for them to attach with more people, develop friendships, develop multi-generational relationships more strongly, etc.), the child’s preference underneath is still their preference, and as such if they don’t have someone to swap towards, there would be no driving need to do so.
    It’s more of an opportunity with social complexity than a power drive.

  39. I’m with Eva. for one thing, people were hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, and farmers for a fraction of that. No one was having babies every year or two until they started farming. for another thing, comments seem to show that this particular example is not, in fact, universal by any means.

  40. I’ve heard the 3-4-year spacing as well. And it’s still practiced in societies today. I also heard that it has to do with gender/role identification.

  41. Could it be that at age 2 – 2.5 they become more aware of gender and then start to prefer the same sex parent? I haven’t done any research on this, but my thoughts are that around that age they become aware that there is a difference between mommy and daddy and they begin identifying more with the same sex parent. So boys at that age realize ‘I’m a boy and daddy’s a boy too. I want to be like daddy and I don’t want to have anything to do with mommy because she’s not a boy.’ And vice versa for girls. Thoughts?

  42. I can totally identify with you. My son started to show a marked preference for his father at 10 months (right at the beginning of my second pregnancy), this was also coupled with him starting to want my mother-in-law over me and it was really hard not to take it personally. I remember sobbing on the phone to my mother that I felt like a failure as a mother because weren’t all babies supposed to prefer their mothers???This phase lasted throughout my pregnancy and for the first 6 months of my daughter’s life, but after she was born I started to accept the situation and was actually grateful that he was happy to go to his daddy while I dealt with his sister.
    Then right after he turned 2 he suddenly decided that I was the only one he wanted and as much as it warmed my heart to be able to soothe his hurts again, I also realised how much harder it made life as my daughter was still at a stage where she was very much attached to me.
    Now he is 3.5 and his preferred parent seems to change from month to month and I’ve finally come to see that there are definite advantages to him preferring his daddy.

  43. Coming in late on this one… but could it also be related to who the primary care giver is? I’ve noticed with my daughter (who just turned 1) that she is super excited when her dad comes home from work. Then he plays with her down on the floor all fun-like and she loves it. She is never ever excited to see me like that and she doesn’t seem to enjoy playing with me as much either.I think though that it just might be that she spends all day long with me, and when daddy comes home its a real treat and all she wants is daddy. I go back to work on Monday and I guess we’ll see if my theory is right. Will she be excited to see me too or will it still be all daddy? I’m REALLY hoping she’ll be excited for me too. I’m having the guilt feelings about going back to work and I know I’ll be hurt just like a lot of you if she doesn’t show some signs of wanting to be with me.
    Anyway, maybe who the primary caregiver is (whether mom, dad, or child care provider) during early childhood could influence who the child prefers. Just a thought.
    ps: hedra thanks for the links and your thoughts on this, very interesting!

  44. @Melba, we both work at this point, and it ends up being more ‘they prefer who they prefer’ – some days me, some days him. Can’t count the number of days I’ve shown up at school and two of three have raced up in joy, crashing into me in their delight to see me, while the other says ‘I wanted DADDY to come get us’. Or the number of days they’ve all wanted daddy. Or the number of days that they all wanted me, or some were indifferent about being picked up at all…So, I think the more we’re alike as parents (both away, both home in the evening, both doing housework, whatever) the more they’ll just want who they want when they want them and not be as locked in to wanting just one person all the time.
    Or that’s kind of where we’ve ended up, and it seems sane. Annoying at times, but sane.

  45. I’m a little embarrassed to post this… but this happened at the birth of sweetpea with our dog. The dog always preferred me, until we had the baby. It’s been a year now of the dog completely rejecting me,and it still hurts.

  46. @Victoria – I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought about their dog! I was always favorite for my younger dog. When I had my son, he completely rejected me. He won’t even come sit next to me when I call him. He used to attack with love when I came home, now he doesn’t even get out of bed. It makes me much sadder than it probably should.But ultimately, its good because if he was all over me all the time like he used to be, the transition would have been much harder. He kind of seems to instinctively “get” that the baby needs my attention.

  47. Daughter has been through similar phases, sometimes rejecting me, sometimes my husband. We are pretty well aligned with our parenting philosophy of meaning what we say, every time, and did different things depending on the situation. If it was a time when either parent was available she was offered a choice, (Who should do the bath tonight?) and we would honor her choice. If it was a situation where we had told her who was going to do something, (Papa is going to do baths tonight), no matter how much she screamed, we did not change.One thing it has taught us is to be careful how we phrase things, if it truly doens’t matter to us which parent it is. Sometimes I would tell her who was going to do it, and then regret it a moment later as the screaming started, because I truly didn’t care. But, (and all who wish to shoot me for this), we really give in a lot, and don’t want her to learn that shrieking will make things change. We do a lot of asking her to repeat herself without shouting, and if she managest to tone it down and ask in a regular voice, “Please can xx do xx tonight?” then sometimes we will say, “Yes, sure, we didn’t know that you wanted that” etc.

  48. @ Auburn – the dog is okay with my husband, but not with me. She won’t sit with me anymore either. She won’t touch me when she sleeps on our bed. DH is away this week, and she is sleeping up against his pillow, her back to me. She loves my mother and I’m afraid she’s going to go live with her permanently soon.

  49. Maybe we’re a little out of step with others, but we discipline for what we consider “bad attitude,” even at age 2. That means that it’s ok to prefer one parent to another (and to calmly talk about that), but it’s not ok to scream, throw yourself on the ground, push the other parent away, or pout (just to name a few) simply because you prefer to be with parent A right now instead of parent B. Just like it is hurtful to another person when my child physically hits them, it can also hurtful to someone else when my child exhibits a selfish “bad attitude” and so he/she is disciplined for it. I understand that this is normal/common behavior for a child, but that doesn’t mean that I forget that ultimately my goal is for my child to learn appropriate behaviors for an adult to exhibit (because that’s what he/she is going to be one day). Am I perfect at this? I wish! But that’s my goal/rational I revisit when I’m not sure how to approach a sticky issue: How would I want my child to handle this as an adult? That usually gives me a clearer direction to head in for how to handle something like this.

  50. My little Lizard has been a Mommy’s Girl since day one. The moment I picked her up for the first time, she snuggled up and fell asleep. When I handed her over to her dad, she fussed.I wish she would prefer her dad! He’s home more often. He’s more patient with her than I am. Both of them are more “fly by the seat of the pants” types that like to disrupt my tightly-planned schedules and routines.
    The fact that this can change, that one day she might decide that she’s Daddy’s Girl, is relieving.

  51. omygod you’re in my head, heart AND household! I SUCK IT UP everyday and try not to cry. though sometimes I think if I cry in front of my 2-year-old-son-who-loves-his-papa-like-crazy that i’ll get some sympathy hugs or something!!! now i’m going to read all the comments to boost my morale and get some hints.

  52. I am on the other side of this in that my daughter, who is 3 and a bit, is obsessed with me. I remarked to my husband the other day that I had been doing the bedtime routine with her almost exclusively for over a year. I know because the baby is 13 months and I remember being hugely pregnant with her and finding the bedtime routine with the toddler trying back then. We kept thinking it would end any time and her favour would switch back to my husband but here we still are. We were lucky in that the younger one happily let my husband put her down, but I would like to be able to switch every now and then!Like the OP she will tolerate him putting her to bed if I am not available — a perfunctory couple of stories and she kicks him out, whereas we have a more involved routine. I actually think that’s part of it — I have to say I am a more fun reader than my husband, then my daughter and I take turns wishing on our star, and sing a little song. He’s a little more business-like at bedtime. I know it hurts his feelings a little bit, and I am concerned that my younger daughter get an equal share of special mama-time too.
    She and her dad do other fun things together — he takes her swimming and for bike rides. She seems to strongly associate one parent with certain things. She would be shocked at the suggestion that I take her to the pool, for instance. I am supposed to wait in the car while they go swimming 🙂 She thinks this because I used to go to the grocery store with the baby while they swam (when the weather was cold and the baby small I didn’t like the idea of putting her in the big germy pool.) I guess she figured I just parked outside the rec complex the whole time. she’s a real creature of habit, that kid.

  53. @Charisse:thanks for the “Mother Nature” book recommendation, i got it on friday. it is quite interesting and i’m only at the beginning. i like her writing style, when discussion one thing she points to related subject matter that she will explore later in the book and it makes me all the more interested in reading through.
    i would be interested seeing a compilation of all book recommendation by readers. i’ve already picked up a few over the course of the five or six months i’ve been reading.

  54. First, let me say our experience with the preferring-one-parent thing was not nearly as extreme as what Meggimoo and some other posters are describing — not even in the same stratosphere — so this doesn’t apply to some, but I’m throwing it out there for others who maybe haven’t dealt with this yet and go through something much milder.The way we handled it was by never letting our daughter get her way when she screamed for, say, Mama to pour the milk when Papa was in the process of doing it. We did have to suffer through a few tantrums as a result, but she quickly got the point (which, again, is a way in which our situation was not similar to the original poster’s).

  55. This is my life as well! Glad too see I am in good company! Oh man does it hurt! For a while there I ended up acting like a two year old as well, getting all huffy at DS when he wanted his Daddy over me, it made things way worse! Thankfully I came to my senses pretty quickly and I never let him see that I am hurt by his preferences. This has been going on for a year for us and I must say that just recently it has become much better. Weaning my younger son two weeks ago now means that Daddy and I take turns putting the boys to bed and finally elder DS will accept me! Yippee!Hugs to you meggimoo!

  56. I’ll ditto the ‘must use good manners and no giving in to screaming fits’ thing – You’re allowed to have your preferences and your feelings, you’re not allowed to hurt anyone because of them, whether that’s physically or emotionally. And screaming is ‘hurting people with your voice’.It still might be hurtful to feel rejected, but at least if they’re doing it calmly and without rancor, it doesn’t sting so much.
    We also tend to ask who they’d like to have help them with something if they might have a preference and we’re both available. Okay, so we also ask if it is something the person handiest would rather not do (like, oh, ‘do you want Daddy to change your poopy pullup, or Mommy?’… ‘HEY, I heard you ask her that!’ :innocent look: ).
    I do try to watch out for the perception that we’re protecting them from feeling something – like disappointment, say. Because we’ve done that accidentally before, and it means they then tend to get really wound up trying to prevent themselves from feeling that – because to their minds (including neurologically) since they haven’t experienced it, it is much more of a BIG HAIRY DEAL. Not that we set them up to be disappointed (or scared, or lonely, etc.), but that there are plenty of opportunities for them to feel these things in life being life, and they should be allowed to experience them without being rescued from them, so that they develop a perspective that they are not necessarily catastrophic.
    It can be a challenging to balance the ‘you know, this really isn’t any skin off my nose, sure you can do that’ with ‘I’m not going to move on this one, you will have to suck it up and deal’ in a reasonable way. Working out the problem-solving process does seem to function, in the end – sometimes the answer is still ‘no, sorry, you don’t get to have your way’ and sometimes it is ‘let us see if you can have your way… um, nope, opportunity does not exist’ and sometimes it is ‘hey, sure, your way is fine’. As long as they participate in the problem solving part of it, and aren’t expecting US to solve THEIR problems all the time, I’m okay with it. That goes for which parent is available as well as where to go for dinner when we’re traveling.

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