Playing Favorites :: When She Only Wants Me
When our daughter was born, my husband worked long hours in a town where we had no family. I took a long 4 month maternity leave from the clinic so we could both adjust to life as a family of 3. During those first few months, I had very little help unless my family visited from out of state. The days and nights were long, but it was my choice to stay home with her while she was in that precious stage of newborn life. We went to play dates at friends’ houses and new mommy classes, and we walked through the mall (it was winter in Kentucky and as a Louisiana native, my blood had not yet adjusted to frigid winters)!
Of course, my daughter preferred me in the early days. I breastfed her and I was the only person she saw 95% of the time. When I would hand her off to a relative or the babysitter, she would swivel her head around to make sure she could still see me in the room. And if I left, she would wail like I was never returning. She fell asleep in my arms most nights before transferring her into her crib (which I would later learn was a big “no, no”). Everyone said it’s just a phase; she will get used to other people as she gets older. While she became more at ease around other people, her preference for me over my husband only intensified.
And it continued into toddlerhood.
At age 1, I was back to work part-time and living closer to family. I spent much more time away from her hoping she would get rid of the “only mommy will do” mentality. It seemed to work, yet she favored me in most settings, especially around my husband.
At age 2, she only wanted me to put her in the high chair, in the car seat or in the bath tub. By this age, she was speaking very well so I started talking to her about dad’s role in the family. Just like most of our reasoning conversations ended, she didn’t budge. After two years of playing favorites, I was not only tired from doing most of the manual labor but my husband was feeling inadequate.
He confided in me that it really hurt his confidence as a dad and he felt like he was missing out on father-daughter time. I recommended he have “special time with daddy” on certain days like Saturday mornings. He would let me sleep in while he took her on a walk to get a cup of coffee. It was a big success! Not only did she come home bright eyed, but my husband’s attitude started to change. They took outings to baseball games and to the park. She seemed to enjoy her time with daddy as much as mommy.
Good But Not Great
Her preference for me did not change when it was just the three of us. At 2.5, I was 5 months pregnant. Despite the fact that I had less energy and a growing abdomen, she continued to request me for most activities. “Mommy, you push stroller. You get me out. You read to me. You, you, YOU!” This phase that everyone eluded to seems to be a lifestyle at this point. Is she going to request me to drive her to college? Walk her down the aisle?
Sure, I could just say “no,” but then I have to deal with the screeching cries of terror. And most days, I would rather just give in than hear her cry. I guess I could take it as a compliment that she only wants me, but I was seriously exhausted by the end of the day from lifting and chasing 25 pounds of active toddler!
I was almost at my wit’s end until last month when my husband’s position at work was eliminated. In the last few weeks, he’s begun working from home with the luxury of more availability and family meals. While the thought of him being out of work was terrifying, I began to see her respond to him differently. And finally, for the first time in her life she cried for “daddy” while I was in the other room. It was sweet relief to hear her little voice ask for her dad. And I know it brought him great joy.
While I love the fact that we have a such a special bond, I want my husband to experience the same tiresome love with his child. He can’t make up for lost time, and soon enough he will return to work as usual. But for now, I am soaking up all of the shared time. I may continue to be her favorite, but I have hope that she and her daddy will have the a unique bond that will evolve into a mature father-daughter relationship that they both deserve.