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To the Dad Whose Kid Only Wants Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m no parenting pro. I’ve got a ton to learn still, as my kids are only 8, 5 and 1. That being said, I’ve had a number of people with kids younger than mine ask me a question that I think haunts all of us dads at some point or another:

“What do you do when it feels like your kid just doesn’t like you?

Or maybe a better way to put it, “What do you do when your kid just prefers Mom?”

I’m not talking about “Oh, my son would just rather be with Mom” or “My daughter would rather spend time with Nana & Papa.” I’m talking about the “My child screams bloody murder when I pick them up and doesn’t stop until I put them down or give them to another adult.”

If this is you, first of all, I’m so sorry you’re going through this phase. It’s heartbreaking feeling your own child hates you, and no amount of pep talk will fix that feeling. That being said, I would say three things to any dad reading this:

1. You are not alone.

I know I’m leading with the obvious. I know you’ve heard this from every dad about every parenting topic under the sun, but let me repeat it for you one more time: YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

I know how easy it can be, especially in a world where dads are supposed to have their emotions buttoned up and under control, to try and face problems alone. We don’t like to talk about what’s wrong. But you must know that there's an army of parents out here who have gone through or are currently going through this exact thing.

This doesn’t lessen the hurt, but it can make waking up every day just a bit easier.

It’s not that she hates me, it’s that she's far more familiar with Mom.

2. Don't take it personally.

Again, easier said than done, I know. When my almost-2-year-old daughter was a baby, we went through a phase where I was convinced that she hated me. To be fair, she was colicky, so she kind of hated everyone, but my wife could at least comfort her. My mom could comfort her. I could not comfort her. When you can’t pick up your baby without them screaming at you, it’s hard to not take it personally. But, rest assured, they don’t hate you.

She has since warmed up to me, but she still prefers Mom. If the whole family is in a room together, nine times out of 10 she will pick Mom. For a while, it hurt, but then I had to remind myself that I’m at work all day, while she spends all day, every day with her mom.

It’s not that she hates me, it’s that she's far more familiar with Mom.

3. This will pass.

Say it with me:




Much like the colic, this will pass. It will not always be this way. There will come a day when you come through the front door at the end of the day and hear that child scream “DADDY!” from the back of the house. You will hear running feet (possibly followed by the child tripping and falling into the wall).

There will come a day when you can pick that kid up and hold them close to you, breathe in the smell at the top of their head and feel their breathing sync up with yours.

There will come a day when that kid picks you. When they scan the room and decide that they want you. And when that day comes, the fits and the screaming will be a distant memory, because that moment is all that matters.

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