My baby just wants his Daddy

Family life
parental preference

My 13-month-old son had an almighty melt down just after his bath last night. He cried, went red in the face and lashed out with his arms. I have never seen him so angry and upset – he’s usually such a chilled-out happy little boy.

He wasn’t hungry, thirsty, tired or teething and he didn’t need a nappy. No. The reason for Baby Boy I’s first ever proper tantrum? He was in my arms – rather than those of Cardiff Daddy. I handed him over and he was absolutely fine, laughing and gurgling. For about 10 minutes or so until Daddy left the room, that is, and then the crying started again.

Earlier that day, he’d picked up a toy phone, held it to his ear and started saying his one and only word “Daaa-deeeee” over and over. And when he heard Daddy’s key in the front door signalling his return home from work, he was bouncing up and down in his high chair in glee. Little Miss E and Little Man O, his big brother and sister, ran to the door to greet Daddy, as they always do when he comes home from work – and Baby was straining so much in his high chair to see him, I was worried he was going to break the straps.

baby just wants his daddy

It’s been like this for a few weeks now and Baby’s Daddy obsession has rubbed off on the other two, too. When we stayed in a family hotel room in Swansea recently, Little Miss E and Little Man O both wanted to share a bed with Daddy. And every day they argue over who gets to sit next to him at the dinner table. It’s got so bad we now have a strict rota system.

Don’t get me wrong, it melts my heart that my children love their daddy so much. I know he misses them like crazy when he’s at work, and he’s a real hands-on dad and a great parent, so he deserves their adoration.

But sometimes it makes me want to cry. What about me, I want to ask them. I grew all three of you inside me for nine months. I puked for weeks on end with morning sickness. I had pelvic girdle pain so bad that I could barely walk. I spent a total of 101 hours of my life birthing you all. Breast-fed all three of you for a year each. Cook you 95% of your meals. I’ve put my own career on hold to care for you every day. Pretty much everything I do is with my family in mind, so much so I’ve forgotten how to put myself first. Now, I don’t expect medal for any of this. My children are reward enough. But it would be so nice if someone wanted Mummy to do it just this once. I’m not that bad, I promise!

I know exactly when things started to change with Baby. I made the decision to stop breast-feeding when he got to one and gradually started retreating out of the room at bedtime so that he’d drink his beaker of milk, rather than refusing it and making a nosedive for the alternative. We had a lot of trouble getting him to take milk that didn’t come from me (I’ll save that for another post another time). So when, a couple of weeks before his birthday, he started reaching for his siblings’ plastic milk beakers at bed time I was keen to encourage it. While I went off hanging out washing, cleaning the kitchen or tidying away the day’s toys (or sometimes just putting my feet up for a few minutes!), Daddy was doing the loveliest bit of the day – reading stories, having cuddles and slowly replacing me as the all-important provider of bedtime milk.

It’s not the first time our children have shown preferences. When Little Miss E became a big sister at 21 months old, it was suddenly “Daddy do it, Daddy do it”. She realised instantly that her new baby brother needed me, and she latched on to Daddy. I was upset at the time, as I’d been so worried she’d feel ousted by the new arrival – but, as a friend said to me, at least it wasn’t the other way round, as happened to her. Her eldest only wanted Mummy when baby number two came along and had huge tantrums if any other adult tried to do anything for her. It made it really hard when her baby needed milk, or a nappy change or to be put down for a nap.

parental preference

And then there was the time when Little Man O would only let Mummy put him into his cot just before bed. He was not quite two and didn’t show any favouritism at any other time of the day. But that last cuddle before bed, where he’d close his eyes, drape his arms around me and nuzzle in to my neck, was always reserved for Mummy. For a couple of months, it was my one of my favourite moments of the day.  Just beautiful. And then one day it stopped.

I know it’s a common thing for children to go through. Most of my friends have experienced parental preference at some point. And I know it won’t last forever. I’m following all the advice – making sure Daddy doesn’t just get all the fun parenting tasks while I’m the one nagging them to put their toys away; spending quality one-to-one time with each of them; leaving them in Daddy’s capable hands so they have time to miss me; always showing them I love them unconditionally, despite their protests.

That said, even though I’d love to win back my baby’s heart, part of me would feel guilty about it too. I carried him for nine months. I birthed him. I breast-fed him and spent hours and hours holding his little body close to mine. I am the lucky one who has put her career on hold to spend my days with him, just as I did with his brother and sister before him. If and when he suddenly makes Mummy his favourite, I know Daddy will be the one left feeling rejected and hurt instead.

And given the head start I had in the first year of Baby’s life, doesn’t Daddy deserve to be in the limelight for a little while longer?

Has your child ever shown a preference for one parent over the other? How did you feel about it? What did you do about it? I’d love to know, either in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or on Twitter – @cardiffmummy

Super Busy Mum


30 Comments to My baby just wants his Daddy

  1. All three of our kids were very clingy to their mother for the first couple of years of their lives (although Kara was more even-handed). It was only with the birth of each successive child that I really got much of a look-in. Now I think the split is more even, and there are definite things that are ‘Mummy things’ or ‘Daddy activities’. Honestly, I’d enjoy being able to split the burden – as long as it doesn’t turn into a good cop/bad cop divide, it’s great that Cardiff Daddy is getting a look-in.

  2. Cardiff Mummy Says

    Yes, I know what you mean. I’m trying to embrace it, and I love that they adore him so much, but my baby screaming at me for holding him, or if Daddy leaves the room, and the other two not wanting to sit by me at meal times does get me down some times. Just got to ride through this stage, I guess and I’m sure it will even itself out at some point!

  3. We have this exact same thing and all three have been through it! Once they turn about 1 they are all Daddy’s! It is nice to have that little breather when he gets in from work as they flock to him but it does feel a little bit like a rejection sometimes when I have spent the whole day with them!

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Yes, such mixed emotions on it all. I love that they adore their daddy but I’d love to get some of that too! x

  4. We have exactly the same thing, Daddy is the superhero in this house. I think it’s lovely most of the time, and am more than happy to hand over the reins when he comes home, but I would love them to greet me in the same way lol!

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Yes, I think that’s the problem when you are the primary parent. Mine don’t really have the same opportunity to miss me like they do their daddy. x

  5. I spend the early days hooked up to a breast pump because he wouldn’t nurse. I then had spinal surgery when he was 6 months and wasn’t allowed to pick him up and carry him for 3 months, not to mention 1 month bed rest. So that pretty much meant our baby wasn’t interested in me and much preferred his other mummy. As I’ve been getting better I’m doing more and more and things are changing. Now he’s mostly ambivalent about which of us is with him. It might change though. I think it’s common to go through phases. It hurts but I’d try to enjoy the wee break, if you can.

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Oh wow, what a difficult time you had in that first year. I hope you are okay now. Yes, I try to embrace the time to myself but it’d be nice if they could all want mummy every once in a while. Or even if just one of them could pick me as a favourite! x

  6. Been there and it can be frustratingly, I think because both mine see me the most, it’s inevitable they want Daddy on an evening, gives me a break. I do get jealous if it happens on a weekend though. My youngest is a complete Mummy’s boy so hoping that will last! Fab post x

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Yes, I try to see it as a break but it does feel like rejection too! I guess when you are the parent they see the most perhaps they take you for granted. But I have three children – surely just one of them could want me for once?! x

  7. I have two children, a boy and a girl. My son has always been a daddy’s boy, since he was only a few months old. My husband used to go to work and my son would scream and scream for his daddy and it used to really upset me. He’s still a daddy’s boy now and would much prefer to hang out with him. My daughter is the complete opposite and she is very clingy to me.

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      It’s so difficult, isn’t it? I have such mixed emotions about it all. I guess both of you can see both sides of the situation, of being the favourite and the rejected one! x

  8. Cathryn this was the story of my life with Gus. Before Gus was born I worried that my husband might feel left out. But then when he was born I really struggled with the shock of motherhood so much that any chance I could I would pass him Gus because I felt so overwhelmed. This culminated in me feeling hideously left out as soon as the post natal fug had died down. Gus was a through and through Daddy’s boy. It upset me so much! So when I got pregnant with Joni, there was no way I was letting her go! And guess what?! She’s become a daddy’s girl too!!! But of course now she’s here…. Gus is all mine! Kids are SO contrary!

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      They certainly are contrary! And it really tests such a range of emotions. Just think, when they are teenagers, they won’t want either parent! x

  9. A great post! Baby Z is still pretty much attached to me, but I love to see his beaming face when Daddy enters the door! I can’t imagine how confusing and emotional this must be for you, because I must admit i would also get rather jealous if Daddy started getting all the attention! #brilliantblogposts

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      It definitely tests a wide range of emotion. Today, for the first time in months, Baby wanted me for something, rather than Daddy and I was so happy I almost cried. x

  10. There’s relative equity in this household. Our eldest daughter is a daddy’s girl and Toddler Adams is a mummy’s girl! Although when Toddler Adams was born her older sister spent the next year asking me toplay with her all the time. It was clear she was a little unsettled at the new arrival. ALl water under the bridge now. #MMWBH

  11. I can understand your feelings. My toddler was previously a bit more ‘mummy’ – though on the whole pretty 50/50 but recently has shown a bit of a daddy preference. This morning he brought him in to our room and put him in bed with me while he nipped to the loo and the boy went crazy – inconsolable. I do love that they are so bonded though, and to be honest quite enjoy the nights he demands daddy to put him to bed because it gives me free time! I do worry sometimes though that he sees his dad as the fun one and me as the boring ‘eat your dinner’ one and that’s why there’s been a bit of a shift. I’m sure for both of us it will swing back around soon and as long as we are still getting our cuddles I guess it’s all good 🙂

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Aww, sounds really similar to us. Like you say, I love that he adores his daddy but I also worry daddy is the fun one and I’m the boring one telling the three of them what to do all the time. Like you say, it will most likely all change soon enough x

  12. We have things the other way around at the moment. My 13 month old only wants me – I have to put her to bed and give her her last feed, she won’t let daddy and if I dare leave the room she screams the place down. She even sits on my feet when I’m on the toilet!! (tmi?! sorry!) As you say, it can be just as hard, because I can’t get a thing done and am tearing my hair out half the time.
    Still, as hard as it is, I would try not to take it to heart too much *hugs* xx

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Aw, it’s tough going whether you’re the favoured parent or not. My baby just screams at my husband in the mornings, when he is getting dressed and yes, on the loo too, to be picked up and he struggles to get things done too. I’m sure this stage will pass soon enough and we’ll someday be those embarrassing parents he doesn’t want to be around at all! x

  13. Bless you. With having five kids of my own each one has been different. Clingy to one parent or another but my youngest goes through waves of wanting Daddy and only wanting Mummy. Its frustrating but we got to deal with it I suppose, haha! Thanks for linking up! #MMWBH

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Yes, just another one of those stages. I imagine when they are teenagers, they won’t want either of us!! xx

  14. What an amazing post. My little guy is 15mo and hes just getting over his preference to his Daddy and becoming more equal again. It was so hard as I knew it was for reasons out of my control, as I am now full term and struggled this pregnancy Ben has had to do a lot of the bath bottle bed routines as well as other fun things like running around the park and swimming. But since being off on maternity leave and spending all my time with him hes thankfully taking a liking to me again. Hes still closer to his Dad and he always has been and I love that but I do get jealous at times.
    You’ve summed it all up perfectly!!xxx

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      Thanks for sharing your experience – it definitely seems to be something a lot of parents relate to. It’s hard when you are pregnant too and can’t do everything. Glad to hear your little one is wanting his mummy again. It’s such a mix of emotions, isn’t it? Glad that they love the other parent so much but slightly jealous too. x

  15. Great post. This must be so hard for you and I dread the day it happens (if it happens) to me, I know that I would hate it!
    Great to see that you are being realistic about it and admitting that maybe it is daddy’s turn.

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      It is hard but I guess Daddy is the one who leaves every day for work, whereas I am always here, so he probably makes the most of daddy being around and latches on to him before he disappears. Maybe one day it’ll be my turn again! x

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