When Your Child Prefers Dad

36 comments

My daughter is a few months shy of a year and a half. This kid is the funniest little person in the world. She’s totally cute and I constantly want to just smother her in hugs and kisses (which of course, I do!). As corny as it sounds, she is the best thing about life right now. Hearing her hearty laugh every day makes my world brighter and I can’t imagine loving someone more than I love her.

This kid is the greatest.

I’m already crying while writing this and I haven’t even gotten to the meat of it yet.

Although I give her all the love I can, my daughter has a strong preference for my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they have a beautiful relationship. But often times I’m in a lot of emotional pain and here’s why…

I always imagined that if I ever had a little girl I’d have some kind of special bond with her. I’d be her go-to parent, the one she looks for when she falls, the one she wants snuggles from and the one that provides her with the greatest level of comfort. Instead, in my reality, my child chooses her dad for all of those things. When she cries after tripping and I pick her up to comfort her, if dad is anywhere near us she cries out for him. I can’t put into words how much that hurts. She gives him snuggles all the time but I get them very rarely (when I do I cherish them, believe me). Recently I’ve found myself just standing there watching them hug, while she puts her head on his shoulder and he rubs her back, feeling resentful and incredibly hurt.

To be honest, there is part of me that feels like since I’m the one who carried her in my body and gave birth to her (a traumatic birth at that), we should have a special relationship. Not that she owes me anything, don’t get me wrong. I love her to pieces and am so glad she’s my kid. But why don’t we have the type of bond I dreamed of?

I spend more time with her during the week since I’m the one that does all the daycare drop-offs so it’s not an issue of not spending enough time with her. I really think I’m doing everything I can do to be a good parent. It seems like it just comes down to the fact that she’s a daddy’s girl. Others have tried to make me feel better by saying ‘oh, this is just a phase’ but I really don’t think it is. Ever since her birth she’s found more comfort in her dad’s arms than mine.

If you haven’t been in this position I don’t think you can understand how badly it feels. I’m not someone with this huge need and desire for excessive amounts of love and attention. But I do long for that extra special relationship with my child. And I hate that I feel jealous and resentful of my partner at times because he isn’t doing anything wrong. I’m fortunate to have such an incredible daughter who has a wonderful relationship with her dad. I know this. I love them both passionately. But to be honest, I do feel left out at times – like I’m missing out on something really spectacular. And it hurts.

36 comments on “When Your Child Prefers Dad”

  1. Hello. It looks like you wrote this four years ago. I wonder if things have changed for you and your daughter’s preferences? Your story mirrors mine very closely. I am always picking myself apart for what I’m not doing as well, and I stay home more than half the time, so I am definitely the primary caregiver. The one thing I can come to, besides personality characteristics, is that he gets up with her at night and in the morning because I’m horrible on too little sleep. I’m always wishing I could change my non-morning person nature, but I want to be able to feel like a worthy mom as I am. I am loving, patient overall, engaging…but dad is number one all the time. She cries and pushes me away often when she gets me while hoping for him. We having been trying for a second for a while now and I wonder if I’ll get to taste the other side, or if ever in her life she’ll want Mama. Currently I feel like a chubby, overworked, used rag who would love a little child adoration.

  2. I understand this, and I’m relieved to hear someone else explain almost exactly what I’ve been going through. I have this situation with my 8 month old daughter and last night I cried about it openly in front of my husband after she went to bed. Yesterday we had finally taken our first family photos together for the holiday card I’ve been dreaming of mailing to everyone, and whenever the photographer wanted to take pictures of just me and my girl together, she would start to cry and hold her arms out for her dad. It was so obvious who she preferred that even the photographer at one point asked, “Aw, is she a daddy’s girl?” I was like, “No doubt about it.” The rejection is sometimes too heart-breaking to keep bottled up.

    However, I never want my girl to know that I feel rejected because I never want her to feel guilty for something beyond her control; so I am promising to just always respond with love towards her and try to not let on how hurt I really feel. I am so grateful and happy that she and her dad have a such an amazing bond, and I never want that to change (he is the greatest man I have ever personally known – that’s why I married him!). I just hope that I can earn her full love and respect in time, as well.

    1. You are great, n I suffer the same…. I waited patiently… She is 6yrs old but still prefers dad….. I involuntarily have started surfacing my hurt but I feel helpless, hopeless after I surface my discontent, I start feeling guilty……..it has become vicious cycle……….i m so badly stuck…..i guess I have already done more damage to the relationship but I know how much I keep slogging……. I can’t help but feel hurt……..

  3. Unfortunately i have been going through this since literally day 1 of her life. I am so sad/upset that i try so hard & she just ignores me, yet when she hears her dads voice she lights up & smiles like no other! I know she doesn’t understand or mean to do it, but the pain is agonizing. I hope this isnt a permanent thing. This has been going on from day 1 and she is now 6 months old. Every day i just hold out hope it will change but it doesn’t. 😦

  4. Thank you for writing this! I came across it as I was searching the web for “when baby prefers dad.” Ha. I know you’ve written it several years ago now so I don’t know if you’re checking comments but if you are – how’s everything going now? How is your relationship?

  5. Wow, thank you for your post, this really resonated with me!!! I found this looking on the Internet in desperation because my daughter (now 2.5 years old) has preferred her daddy since she was 9 months old. There are better and worse days, but this past weekend I had to work on Saturday, and on Sunday my daughter wanted nothing at all to do with me. It hurts beyond words. I love her so much, and this constant rejection is really getting to me. I know all the advice pages say that you should be above that and ignore it, but that’s really much easier said than done. My husband and I both work and share parenting equally. But she never punishes him for longer absences, like when he goes on short trips to conferences. She does punish me. When I return after a 3-day absence, it will take me days to work back up to being tolerated by her. She is fine with me when we’re alone, but whenever daddy is around, she only wants him. I can’t imagine this will ever change. It’s so hard.

  6. It may have nothing to do with you, it may just be that Dad and your daughter’s core natures/personalities are more similar. This will come out as she gets older. This is sensitive, I know, but is there a need/desire within yourself that seeks fulfillment through your relationship with your daughter? If so, it’s more about you then about her or your husband (this is not a criticism, it’s human nature). You’ll know this to be true if you feel jealousy/insecurity, or become competitive with your husband for your daughter’s affection. Raising children is an opportunity for you to grow and especially to learn to let go when the time is right, to sacrifice your desires in the best interest of the child. Very few are able to do this and this is why, I believe, families become dysfunctional. For now just be as aware as you can when you’re with her, and help her to be who she naturally is. She will recognize this, and love you for it.

  7. I have the same situation with my 16 month old son. Exactly. And it’s been that way from the very first day. It’s incredibly painful. Like you, I was a great aunt to 10 kids that I used to have so much fun with and it hurts so much to think ill never gave that kind of a bond with my own son. These posts hurt more because so many people say it’s typical for girls with their mothers but that boys are different. Where does that leave me? 😦

    1. I’ve been reading the trails since the first one and have been crying through a lot of them. My daughter is 26 months now and I’ve been back to work since she’s been 8 months. My husband is at home with her and she only attends nursery for two mornings.
      He’s the most amazing Dad she could have, he plays, sings, dances with her and shows her the world every day. And I’m at work, seeing her for the few hours between dinner and bed time. I try to be there most nights to play with her, then bath her, and put her to bed to have a little bit of suggly time and closeness.
      Whilst it’s always been him she went to when she needed comfort, it’s become more common for her to send me away / out of the room and she’s becoming ever more vocal about everything needing to be done by Daddy only.
      Whilst I like my job and I’m grateful that I have the freedom of pursuing my career, knowing that my daughter is in the best hands possible, her fathers’, I hate the way her behaviour makes me feel.
      I don’t want to show her that I’m upset as I don’t want to make her responsible for my emotions and burden her with that but I worry that my behaviour towards her will show that I’m hurt and I may become despondent. Logically I can give reasons and I can understand that giving her all the love she needs and wants to accept from me is the right thing to do but emotionally, I don’t know what to do and resent my husband, who does nothing but promote me to her.

  8. I fully understand you because my two years old daughter runs to her daddy for everything. It is indeed a torn feeling giving so much and yet receiving so low in return. But I’m OK with it and I will let you know why:

    1. I work same hours as my husband, but when we go back and have 4 hours left to stay with our daughter, I’m the one cooking, cleaning, ironing, and all the other staff, while my husband is there to play with her only.

    2. I get more tired and as return don’t have so much energy and nerves left to make all her wishes come true, but daddy does

    3. I’m the one who is ‘the responsible person’ for teaching her ethics, morals, how to talk, walk and all the staff she needs to learn, but daddy is there only to make her wishes come true

    4. I’m the one yelling and punishing her when she does something wrong, and daddy supports me ‘in silent’

    … and the list goes on.

    One more thing before I end my opinion. Me, myself was more connected with my father when I was a child, and just for the same reasons I mentioned above ( I guess). But with the time, by growing up and by feeling more feminine, I turned to my mother, so don’t you worry.

    She will always be your baby, and she is aware that YOU are her mother, her special bond, so whenever she faces reality, and whenever she needs you she’ll come to you.

    Let her be daddy’s girl, because she’ll always be mommy’s world.

    Hugs, RudinaHP

    P.S. Short true story:
    One day a woman asked my mother “How many children do you have”
    My mom: “three daughters”
    Woman: ” Poor you! All you did was enriching your husband”

    Moral of the story: Girls are always more linked with their father, while boys with their mother. So go ahead and do a boy :))

  9. Hi there,
    I do feel your pain because im going through that right now except that mine is a teenager now. When she was a baby there was nothing that could separate us. Now that she’s old enough to actually have a conversation with me she doesnt want to and went to live with her father. She complains these days of how boring the visits are. Be happy that youre child is liking her dad now because as babies theyare precious but too much work. Dont pay attention. Later on shell get sick of him and want you more. If you show her your insecurities she will feel it too. If you act like you dont care shell come after you when she is older. People always prefer what is unatainable and whaf is absent and ive even raised stepkids. Im heartbroken but thats my fault. I spoiled mine too much. Now im paying the price.continue to be who you are. She will come to you….in time.

  10. You’ve just made me cry reading this because I’m in the exact same position. I’m so glad to know there is someone else out there like me xx

    1. Anna thanks for this comment. I want to reassure you that now that my daughter is a little older (2.5) things have changed. I would never have believed it before, but she does seem to want us more equally now. I got great advice from someone that I should try and have a special part of the day that my daughter and I spend together, or some kind of activity that is just for us. I started laying with her for 10 minutes before bed and it became our thing. I really think that helped in a big way. I wonder if there’s anyway for you to do something similar? In any case, know you are not alone, I too experienced what you’re experiencing and it’s really hard. She still sometimes has a strong preference for dad, but she also has a strong preference for me sometimes too. Hugs!

    2. Hi anna. Im going through the same with my 18 months old daughter. I hate it. It really hurts and stings everyday. I hate it. How are things going for you now? Im hoping this site will help me get through this

      1. I am going thru the same thing. We adopted My son at 3 years old and now at age 5 he still prefers his dad! STILL! Nothing I do can break that bond to make me first! My husband tells me no he loves me more, but he is only lying to make me feel better. I am not buying it, he still prefers his daddy to put him to sleep, gives him hugs more, says he loves him out of the blue… Sometimes it seems to get better and that he is really loving me more and then next minute he’s crying for daddy! I can’t win. I wish it didn’t matter too because I know he loves me, I just don’t know how much…

  11. Michelle, I’m so sorry you are hurting. While I don’t know from experience, I have to believe in what Elise said: that there’s an ebb and flow over time in these relationships. I know that doesn’t make things any easier in the moment, but know we’re here for you and you’re not alone.

  12. Big hugs and thank you for your honesty! I can relate to so much of what you said. Our story is further complicated by the fact that our children are adopted.

    In the beginning, though my son preferred me to my wife, he had a clear and strong preference for his birthmom above all (of course he did, he lived with her for 3.5 years). We got my middle daughter as an infant and I was so excited to have that sweet baby girl as “all mine”…well, not so fast…from day 1 it was clear that I was not her favorite. It hurt and the odds felt so stacked against me.

    Then my 3rd child was born and I made sure she was attached to me 24/7! lol, kidding, mostly 🙂

    Now that we are a few years out from it all, its easier to see the ebb and flow of these relationships. Now the focus is much more on the individual relationships we are forming with each of our children. They are different but special in their own right. Just as I love my children in different ways (but all equally), the love they have for their parents is much the same.

    hang in there friend…the final story is far from written yet.

  13. Michelle, My son is now 3 and I had the HARDEST time when he was about your daughter’s age because he MUCH preferred Dad. I felt exactly the same way and spent many a day crying on my way to work because he only wanted Daddy to help him get up and get dressed that morning. I did all sorts of online research about it and found that it can be really common at that stage. I have to say that slowly but surely he has turned around to the point that he told me this morning that if I go to work he will be missing me all day 🙂 I really really think things will get better over time. Hang in there! I feel for you!

  14. What a timely post for me! I have just started feeling the same way with my year-old daughter. And, I was feeling guilty for feeling jealous! Now, I know how my husband was feeling when I was the go-to person when she was younger. She just started daycare and with me generally being the person who gets her ready in the morning, drops her off at daycare, feeds her dinner, bathes her and puts her to sleep, I’m tired and I wonder if my exhaustion is limiting my enthusiasm with her. I also wondered with the “chore” parts of parenting left to me and the play parts to dad have anything to do with it. In any case, there is no clear answer! But, at least we know we’re not alone! 🙂

  15. I see that a lot of people already have given great advice and outlook on things. I’m sorry that you feel hurt that your daughter has a greater bond with your husband at this time in her life. I do not presume to know how you feel because I have never been in that situation. When I was having my daughter, I actually hoped she would be a daddy’s girl because I was a daddy’s girl.

    I love watching their special bond and how it develops. Now that she is older I feel that my husband and I have equal time with her. He does the extra-curricular activities like karate and T-ball, while I take her to the nail salon and shopping. I can already picture her older going to her dad for advice on boyfriends and other issues. I will be an emotional wreck on her wedding day watching her dance with her father (I already picked out their song). Sometimes we as daughters of our fathers need to understand the special bond that is formed between our little girls and their fathers (I hope you know what I mean). Keep your chin up and give it some time. ((Hugs))

    1. Michelle, hi,
      I am wondering if things have changed for you since the initial thread? I am going through the exact same thing with my daughter who is now 3. Maybe a step beyond what you are experiencing, as, if she notices I am hurt or tear up, she lifts her nose up and walks away. Or even smiles, but not in an encouraging, soothing way. I also think my husband enjoys being the “loved” one and although he often explains that Mom is sad, etc. when she constantly asks for him, he is hugging and loving her through these talks thus giving her the attention she seeks…
      I am pretty desperate and am actually having a hard time hugging her or being kind to her. I cannot believe these little creatures can be so cruel.

      1. Hi Andreea, thanks for asking. It’s amazing how much our children’s behavior can impact us isn’t it? To answer your question, yes, things have changed a bit. She does look for me when she gets hurt now and I would say I feel like her attention is split evenly between my husband and I. I still have days though where I feel upset because she goes to him for a lot but I’ve relaxed my attitude a bit and am working on letting go of my expectations. As far as your daughter goes, I totally get where you are coming from with feeling like it’s hard to hug/be kind to her because she’s hurting your feelings but I would encourage you to still try. At such a young age, she really needs her mama, even if she doesn’t show it. Sending love to you, hoping this gets better.

      2. Hi michelle. Reading your post and your experience will hopefully help ease the pain Im finding myself in. Im obviously going through the same ordeal with my daughter of 18 months. She started this “i want daddy” phase about 4 months ago. I cry & really feel like talking to someone professionally about it. My husband is currently home helping me (we just had our 2nd baby 6 weeks ago). Instead of focusing my attention on my #2 baby im so consumed with feeling hurt because i see my daughter running to her daddy and cuddling, ect…. Some might say its because we have a second baby now but this behavior started way before the new baby was born. Im so upset about this…… It really rips me apart. I dont want to resent my husband , but i see it already happening… My husband is currently not working and when i go back to work (6 months from now) the idea of him being home with the kids and me working is going to kill me….

  16. Michelle, I am not a mom but being the youngest daughter of four and having a very close bond with my mother in my later years I think it is just one of those things. I would not take it personally. Honestly It seems the opposite with boys. My mother said (there is no compassion for the same sex). Although that sounds harsh reading it literally I think that instinctually from the day we are born we crave the attention from the opposite sex. All four of us, my sisters and I always ran to daddy when we got hurt or were scared and especially when we did something wrong. Don’t get me wrong I always loved my mom but until I was a teenager I did not have a super close bond with her, But what I can tell you is that the Closeness that I have with my mother now is very different and unbreakably strong and is one that will last for the rest of our lives. Althought this might not be exactly what you wanted to hear … i guess my point is try not to take it personally. Because even though you may feel jealous right now of the bond your husband and daughter have. Thir is nothing that compares to the bond between a Mother and her daughter. Even if it is not so noticeable at the moment:)

  17. I wonder if it is because you are around for pick ups and drop off etc. that she reaches more for the hubby? I do know as a daughter myself with three sisters we all went through different times of wanting one parent over the other which now as a parent I can see how it could hurt. But I know you and know in my heart soon enough you will have that special bond! Thank you for such an honest post 🙂

  18. Michelle- this makes me sad. I always just assumed that whenever Jake trips and falls, it’s me that he turns to, which he does, but I never thought of how Mike feels when Jake does this. Your post brings to light the other side of the story that I never thought about, and now that i’m aware of it, i do feel sad for your situation. I sometimes feel that when i’m in the role of “enforcer momma” telling Jake not to do certain things or that he has to sit down in his high chair, Mike gets away with being the fun guy. Those times i definitely feel a little put off, and i try to make sure both of us discipline Jake so that no one is the “bad guy.”

  19. We struggled with this issue for years (I’m talking till she was about 7ish) with my daughter – only it was me she always wanted and not her father. I’m not sure why kids do this – maybe they are trying to control things?? – but what I know is that being the parent of choice isn’t always as good as it looks. Sometimes you don’t want to be the go to gal. I used to get so upset and burnt out when she would cry and cry and cry if it wasn’t me helping her with who knows what. It was exhausting and it hurt my husband deeply when this happened. Still to this day when either child is happy that I am putting them to bed, verses “getting dad” it offends him, and rightly so. I just don’t get it. It’s no secret that he is much more fun than me, and an amazing father. So what gives? I don’t know!! Maybe the cousins can chat about it someday 🙂 I’m sorry you have to go through this – but know that it will get better and that she does cherish you, just like I didn’t ever doubt that my daughter cherishes her father – she was just stubborn as all get out! Love you!!

  20. Oh, Michelle. This hurts. (((HUGS))) My sister-in-law has mentioned feeling this way about her daughter and her husband (my brother). I don’t pretend to know how this feels…but I know I would feel exactly the same way you do if it were me. I love you and I’m here for you, Dear Sister.

  21. Michelle, I do not think you are alone! I have 2 thoughts to share after reading this. One is, have you been through or considered trauma focused therapy to process the trauma of her birth? It may be possible for her to be picking up on subconscious ‘ick’ that you may have lingering deep within you and leads her to lean more towards Dad. I may be wrong, so please ignore me if you need to, but that is something I have seen before after a traumatic pregnancy, traumatic birth, or severe illness right after birth. Second thought is this; my 1st child was attached to my hip and at age 8 she still would be 24hrs a day if she could be. My husband has been open w me about him feeling a lot of the way you feel. THEN our 2nd child comes along, and it’s reversed…he is quite that daddy’s boy, it’s not as severe as child #1’s behavior, but I am definitly getting a taste for what hubby’s been experiencing.
    Just keep being there for her when she needs you, and she will come to you one day when she needs you.

    1. Mary it’s interesting you posted this because I was wondering the same thing. I have been seeing someone to help me with the traumatic birth experience I had and while I feel much better about it I can’t help but wonder it did cause this/lead to it. I had a very hard time bonding with her for the first few weeks of her life because of what I went through dealing with severe anxiety issues. Maybe deep down that still upsets me and she picks up on it.

      Honestly, it makes me even more mad about my birth experience to think that the trauma I went through is likely the cause of this situation. (Not mad at you! Just about what I had to go through) It’s just so unfair…

  22. Ouch. Michelle, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m normally the go-to person in our family and I always try to be aware of how my husband feels when our boys reach out for me. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in your shoes. Hugs.

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