The Sting of Parent Preference: When Your Kid Prefers Dad

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parent preference

The idea of preference starts at a young age. Babies prefer certain toys, sounds, foods ,and people. With my first child I never really put much thought into who he preferred since I was his obvious choice. Now that my second son is 8 months old and he’s an outright daddy’s boy I am feeling the sting of parent preference.  

With my oldest son, who is a big mamma’s boy, I never knew that it bothered my husband. He was so happy to see me in bliss with our only child that he didn’t voice his disappointment. Sadly, it was almost comical and something I think society expects; a young child often prefers their mom, as a baby and toddler, over their dad.

As we began to prepare for the birth of our second child I began to try and step away so my son would get used to the idea that even though he wanted me, daddy was going to be doing a lot with him now. My husband was always willing and capable to do all these things with my son, but he knew I loved it too and just wanted to make everyone happy. The gradual switch from me as the main caretaker to my husband doing a lot more with him truly was a good idea that paid off once we had our second child. 

I quickly went back to work after the birth of our second child and this dramatically changed the dynamic in our household. Due to my husband’s flexible schedule he really took over as the main caretaker of our children. My new schedule was brutal and I didn’t get to spend as much time with our kids as my husband did. This extra time with daddy was a huge factor as to why my 8 month old is obsessed with his daddy.

I will be honest, I took it pretty hard. My mom guilt washed over me and I began to blame and shame myself. Because of my new job, I didn’t get the same bonding time and experience with my child that I did with my first. I truly thought he didn’t love me. I made comments like this to my husband and he always tried to graciously reassure me.

Then one day I was explaining to my husband’s mom that the baby prefers my husband and she said, “That’s a good thing.” This really opened my eyes about parent preference. She was right. Why was it a bad thing for the baby to prefer daddy? It wasn’t. I was also missing out on the fact that my husband loved it. I would often tell him it was okay to put the baby down and let him play rather than holding him, but I was missing the fact that he wanted to cuddle the baby and soak up all the things he missed out on with the first baby.

I realized my mindset was the problem and knew I needed to switch it for the sake of everyone. It is adorable watching them cuddle and seeing the baby’s face light up when daddy walks into the room. I also began to appreciate the help, and loved that I still got time for just me and my older son because of this. My fear of the future and my sons not needing me anymore was getting in the way of our relationships right now.

Having a helpful, amazing role model father is a blessing and I should foster it rather than hinder it. The seasons of life will form these relationships and there is nothing I can really do now except continue to be a good mom and support my husband’s relationship with our children.

In the meantime, I am going to expel the unnecessary jealousy I have about parent preference and use my time and energy to support these important relationships even if that means I am on the back burner for now.

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I was born in Denver but I have grown up in Arizona almost my whole life. I live in Gilbert with my beautiful son Paul who is 3, my nine month old son Finn, my silly pit bull Armani, and my amazing husband Ryan. We have been married 2 and a half years but have known each other since middle school. He truly is my best friend and better half. I went to Arizona State University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I was an elementary school teacher for 10 years in Mesa Public Schools and currently teach in the Kyrene School District in fourth grade. I love to play dodgeball. Yep, dodgeball. It started out as just a fun recreational league but have started to train and travel tournaments around the country.

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