Favorites. We all have them in life. Favorite colors. Favorite kids. Favorite parents. But what if you’re the least favorite parent?
A little after Evie turned one-year-old, she started demonstrating a preference for Dad. It wasn’t that noticeable, just showing a little more excitement when he came to play or change her diaper.
Fast forward to now being over two-years-old and she is still clearly fixated on Dad, and as a mom that hurts- a lot.
I’m officially the least favorite parent.
Mom As The Least Favorite Parent Though?
Mothers and daughters are supposed to have this incredible bond, so when that isn’t the case it is easy to feel like a failure. I knew I was busy going to school full time, coaching, and working occasionally. I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I did when I was a full-time SAHM, and it made sense that the less time we had the more distant our relationship became. But Tyler was also busy working from sun up until past sun down, and she wasn’t showing him the same frustrations as I was getting. What gives?
A little googling and you will come across plenty of articles discussing favoritism and its developmental roots. “It is just a phase, don’t take it personally, they will get past it,” etc.
Really though– I can read that over and over and still feel like a guilty, frustrated, and jealous parent. Why does she always cry with me when it is just us two? How come she wants to sit in dad’s lap and snuggle but I can’t touch her? What gives that she is a total different child when it is both parents with her versus just me?
The Toddler Cycle Of Doom
It starts a vicious cycle: toddler acts appropriately (and this is key to note: it is NOT a toddler’s fault. This is 100% normal behavior and they should not be demeaned for it and/or blamed). The un-favored parent feels neglected and gets frustrated. The longer this cycle goes, the more frustrated and distant the parent begins to feel to their child. At one point you may even get to the point of feeling, “Why do I bother?”
You Aren’t Alone
I feel you. I have been there.
I have had days where I cry on the way home because I walk in to pick my sweet girl up from daycare,
and she runs away the second she sees me, followed by throwing a fit to leave, and screaming the whole way home.
She has cried tearfully “don’t like mom” when it comes to me attempting to do bedtime.
I’ve sat across the room from her as she has played, wishing I could just be next to her without being told to “go mom!”
But, for every one of those instances where I have been at my wits end calling Tyler demanding that he return home because I cannot take anymore of her whining (hello, mommy mental breakdown), there has been indefinitely more instances where I forget all of those ugly mom moments.
I’ve walked into daycare to pick her up and she sprints across the gym and thrusts herself in my arms, wrapping me in the biggest toddler hug claiming “miss you mom!”
She has whispered in my ear “don’t leave mom” and thrown her arms around my neck to keep me snuggled with her at bedtime.
I’ve been pulled to sit down so she can crawl in my lap to play Legos, read a book, or just talk.
I try to remind myself of all those endless articles about her ever growing mind, and remember that they are right. She will get beyond this stage; I get her tantrums because she is emotionally comfortable to express herself; she is learning her limits. This too shall pass.
So, here are some tips I have found to help guide me to be patient and loving when I am feeling rejected by my toddler!
How To Handle Being The Least Favorite Parent
Take a cheat moment.
We all try to be those “great” moms that limit junk food and screen time, plan activities, and engage their child outdoors. If you’re feeling toddler-jected do what you can to calm the situation. If that means throwing on a movie so mommy can breathe and just take a second to reset, then do it.
Don’t cave in
If your toddler is having a bratty moment and throwing a fit because s/he wants something (and you’re saying no), then hold your ground! It is okay to be frustrated and to want to give in for the sake of being on your child’s “good side,” but all it will get you is deeper into a power struggle.
Instead, try gently suggesting they take a minute to calm down. I recently read an article about the benefits of having a “calming corner” in your home. When a child is about to emotionally erupt, they can go to the calming area to read a book, play with some soft toys, or just be alone. This usually resets them and then they are in a better state when they have to re-confront the issue.
I tried this with Evie’s toddler-sized couch; she was upset about not getting to help with something I was doing and I asked her if she wanted to go to the “calming couch” to read. Reluctantly, she walked over with me and things de-escalated quickly after that!
Try to make an extra effort to do a special activity every week. For me, I chose to take Evie to an indoor gym with inflatables (think the bouncy houses kids have at birthday parties). She has a blast each time, and it is nice that she sometimes needs my help to climb some of the obstacles! Other times we go to the Children’s Museum or the Zoo; even something like going on a picnic (if you don’t live somewhere with perpetual winter like Minnesota…) or taking them to the pool would be a fun outing!
At the end of the day, just remember: take it one cup of coffee at a time, and try to enjoy even the hard parts since they’ll grow up and past this stage and one day you will miss it!