The Daddy Phase

When I found out I was pregnant with a boy, all I heard was, "Boys love their mamas!" I was so excited to be a boy mom, and to have that special bond with my son. I have been enamored with Liam since the second he entered the world. There was no "bonding" period—he took my heart and ran with it.

In the early days, we were inseparable. (Literally.) He slept on me, he nursed from me, I carried him everywhere. He wasn't a baby that "needed" to be held all the time—I just loved cuddling with him. I spent all day some days on maternity leave snuggling with my sweet little boy.

 

Any mother will tell you that at the beginning, it's hard to help Dad feel included, especially if Mom is nursing. I remember worrying that my husband felt left out, and we had conversations about how he didn't really know how to help. 

I felt protective of Liam, and like I knew best because after all, I was his mother, I spent the most time with him and for God's sake, I carried him for 9 months. Thankfully, I recognized the problems that thinking like that can present, and together, Bryan and I came up with a routine that allowed him to create his own bond with his son, and do things his own way, without me suggesting it was wrong.

Liam is a happy, healthy, smart, sweet little boy. We taught him to give and blow kisses, how to be gentle, give hugs and snuggle. I tell him every day, multiple times a day, how much I love him.

So imagine my surprise when in late October, I noticed something: Liam started to prefer Bryan. He would get SO excited he got when Daddy would get home from work or walk in a room. He got upset when Bryan left. Bryan would leave the kitchen to go down the hall and Liam immediately yelled, "DAAAAA!" When they played or read together, Liam was just enamored. It melted my heart, seeing these two so obsessed with each other.

I brought up Liam's noticeable parental preference to Bryan one night and he thought I was crazy. I think he just didn't want me to feel bad, so as he does, he read about it. As it turns out, "Daddy Phase" is very normal. Apparently, at some point, babies already know that they have an unbreakable bond with Mom. They trust Mom to love them, no matter what, and so they turn to Dad to build the same relationship. It made sense, to both of us. I thought it was sweet, the way Liam over-the-top adored his Daddy.


But things have changed. It's now six months later and we are still in The Daddy Phase—and I no longer think it's cute.

When Liam and I are alone together, it's amazing. We have so much fun. He showers me with hugs and kisses freely, reaches to be held, brings me books to read, and engages me to play. We have our own little private game of chase that involves me chasing him up and down the hall, eventually "getting him," and tickling him while he squeals and belly laughs in delight. We are mother and son...the best of friends. The dynamic duo I always imagined.


But the second Bryan walks in the door, I become invisible. Unneeded. Unwanted.

Liam squeals for Dad in a way he doesn't for me. He lays his head on his shoulder in a show of tender of affection without being asked (or begged). He crawls willingly into his lap to sit and relax, or read a book.

 

Bryan and I alternate bedtime with Liam. Some nights, Bryan will finish reading Liam a book and have said his goodnight. When he goes to hand him to me, Liam rears his body away from me and cries. Hysterically cries, the shrill, can't-catch-your-breath kind of cry that sounds like he's in serious pain or really sick. I hand him back to Bryan—all is fine.


He hurts himself—walks into a wall or smacks his mouth on his crib. If I'm right there, I snatch him up immediately, covering him in kisses and hugs and reassurances and "Shhh Shhh Shhh, you're OK, you're OK." Frantic, in pain and hysterical in my arms, he looks for Dad...wants Dad. Reaches for Dad.

Do you know what that feels like? To have the one person you love most in this world shriek in your face and push you away? To that say to be rejected by this child—who was part of my body, who used to need and depend on me for everything, whom I love more than life—hurts my feelings, is an understatement. It is excruciating, and it breaks my heart.

Bryan tries to help by encouraging Liam to interact with me. "Mama will read you the book!" he'll say. My enthusiastic,"come here buddy, let's read!" is met with a whiney cry and a slow jog back to Dad's safe embrace.

I'm sure it's exhausting, whether you're the mom or the dad, to be constantly needed. Hell, I was the one who was constantly needed, a mere 12 months ago. I understand that I haven't done anything wrong. I know Liam loves me. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell, or that I don't feel like a failure as a mother.

From afar, I watch Liam freely dole out hugs and snuggles and kisses and adoring looks to my husband. I treasure the fleeting affections I may or may not get on my way out or in the door. I yearn for him to want me the way he wants Bryan.

So when he shrieks at bedtime, rather than torture him by making him cry it out while we rock together—I just give him a quick kiss, tell him I love him and hand him to Bryan before either one of them can see me cry. And then I do cry, feeling an ache in the space between my jaw and my chest where his little head should be snuggled.


I know he is a toddler, and may not even recognize what he's doing. I know I should be grateful for the way he and Bryan love each other. I know this is somewhat normal. I know I'm not the only mother who is going through this. I know I should "take advantage of my alone time." I know this too shall (probably) pass.

But knowing all of that doesn’t take away the pain or the insecurity of being rejected by my baby.

5 comments:

  1. awwww I'm so sorry you're going through this phase with Liam! Hugs! :)

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    1. Thanks girl. It's been rough, but I'm learning to roll with it and just kind of not make a big show of it. I know he loves me, so that's gotta be enough for now. :) XO

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  2. I went through this with my son. He totally preferred me, until daddy started bringing him to daycare. Around 14 months, I began staying home with him and he'd rather hang with daddy once daddy got home. It was hard. I'm his mom. Why am I not the favorite parent? Now he's 4 and he hates us both equally ;)

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    1. LOL! That's what doesn't make any sense to me - we both work, so it's not like he sees me more or anything like that. Thanks for commenting :)

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  3. Hi! I am very much going through this right now and was googling to find stories about mamas who have also experienced this. I know this post was a year ago and was curious if things have changed? I have been experiencing this for the past 6 months and it is torture! I would love to talk with you more about it. You can message me at jecaoab@hotmail.com

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