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Toddler daughter - no love for Dad

(9 Posts)
Gareth3000 Thu 21-Sep-17 09:41:42

Hello people of Mumsnet,

Just seeking some advice/camaraderie over this issue. It's got past where it can be a "phase" now and something else must be going on but I am searching my behaviour and can't find what I am doing to perpetuate it.

My daughter, who is now 29 months old, has consistently rejected me/ignored me in favour of her mum since she was about 15/16 months old. To the point where she starts screaming and crying if I to try to bathe her (I used to share bath-times 50/50 with mum), and even won't let me read her a book or hold her or pick her up and touch her. If her Mum isn't around she lets me do things for her (once she has calmed down from standing at the door screaming "Mummy"). But really because I'm the only person there and she needs someone to feed her / read to her / watch a cartoon with her.

In the morning when she gets into bed with us she makes sure to sit with her back to me and talk to Mummy and shout NO and wriggle and struggle if I try to talk to her/hold her. When I get home from work she sits on the sofa with Mum and ignores me, and looks past me at the TV if I try to say hello and she crawls into Mummy's lap, kind of like for protection.

I work full time. I leave the house at 7:45 each morning (by which time we've all been awake for about an hour and a half - in the good times this was when I'd be able to spend time with daughter) and I get home at about 6:30pm when she is about to have her bath (which we used to share 50/50).

There's no doubt that Mummy has done more of the hands on caring. She has worked 2.5 days a week. But when around I have always done a lot - nappies, food, bathing, dressing, doing fun stuff together, loads of book reading. Yes, I am second best in terms of the caring no doubt, but it seems for my daughterI don't rank anywhere in her top 50 favourite people.

I'm not a strict Dad. I do put her right over things to help her understand right from wrong, like not hitting, not being rude, helping Mummy where she can, just the real basics. But I don't scream and shout at her and there's certainly never been any kind of physical discipline. My partner and I both sit and explain things with eye contact and calm words. We do it the same way as each other. I can't see how she could possibly have cause to be afraid of me.

I even had 9 months (when she was 12 to 19 months old) where I went down to a 4 day week and was sole carer for her on the day I was off, in an attempt to make a strong bond. It seemed to help a little bit I couldn't keep it up, it just wasn't financially viable long term.

The situation is definitely worse during the week when I see very little of her because of work. Over the weekend things tend to get a little bit better and then we are back to square one on Monday morning.

Are there some parent/child relationships that just never work? Could it be that I did something that I did that traumatised her and there's no going back? Do I just need to accept my lot and get on with it? Should I just sit back and marvel at the strong bond between mum and daughter and try to make earning money enough for me?

I've seen a few people talking about this on internet forums and the advice seems to be two things; "It's a phase", and "Do more father/daughter things together 1 on 1". I no longer believe the first one, it's been too long, and we have been doing the second one since forever. It doesn't make a difference.

Thanks for listening! If anyone has any thoughts, appreciate it,


OP’s posts: |
Ceara Thu 21-Sep-17 12:29:34

I thought for a moment you were my husband - but we have a son and he's a year older than your daughter.

First, sympathies, it is a horrible position to be in and very hard to stay positive. But you must.

Our DS started rejecting my husband in a very similar way at around 2 years. Like you, we had shared parenting as equally as possible. I do work slightly fewer hours, but my husband also went down to a 4 day week for 18 months and we have always totally been "in it together". There was no discernible reason for DS's change of heart, DH did nothing differently. DS just decided that only mummy would do. It has been, frankly, a nightmare for us both - me because of the extra practical load of being the default parent all the time, the only parent who can do bedtime, provide cuddles etc; DH because it is heartwrenching to hear your much loved only child saying "I hate you, go away, I want mummy, I don't want you..." again and again and again.

From our experience I do think [please don't hate me!] that you need to hang in there and believe it IS a phase (albeit a long one). It's been a year here but the worm is finally turning. DS sometimes lets daddy read bedtime stories now. Last night he asked him to stay at bedtime and wanted to be cuddled to sleep. (I think I cried.)

It really helped that they found a "thing" (Lego) which is just theirs because DH is better at it than me and because I deliberately backed off and made Lego all about daddy.

DH has also tried very hard not to let the hurt show and to keep saying that he loves DS and is here if DS wants him, whenever DS tells him to go away. It's not easy though. And has been a bloody long phase.

This article was quite sanity saving, if you haven't found it already:

Hang in there.

Gareth3000 Thu 21-Sep-17 13:16:09

Ceara, thanks for the message. It's great to hear of a similar experience out there (albeit I am sorry to hear you've had such an experience!)

When I've sat and wracked my brains about this behaviour, I've thought perhaps it was a girl thing - so it's interesting that you've had the same with your boy. I don't suppose gender would be a factor when you think about it.

That article was really helpful too - thanks. Good luck with continuing to be a superhero!

OP’s posts: |
Ceara Thu 21-Sep-17 18:52:43

Good luck! My husband reminded me about this article, which he found reassuring. (Yes, he did nick the Lego idea from here :-))

Ceara Thu 21-Sep-17 18:55:41

DS regularly tells him to "go back to work" and has told him "I wish you were dead," on occasion so the article resonated ;-) Practice for the teenage years.

woollychimp Thu 21-Sep-17 20:37:10

It is a phase. They do grow out of it!

I had that with my DD1 and a friend had the same with her son - i.e. they preferred Daddy. I think Ceara is right about having a thing. It helps if there's something you can do whether it's teaching her to ride a bike, swimming, lego, whatever.

BewareOfTheToddler Thu 21-Sep-17 23:23:27

This is us, apart from ours is a boy too! He's 2 exactly and this has been going on for ages now.

DP and I set out to be as close to equal parents as possible, bar me breastfeeding. He was very involved from the start, took a long period of paternity leave, was at home for tree months full-time when I returned to work, and for a long period was responsible for all night wakings as DS settled far more quickly for him. He's lovely with DS, firm but fair, and lots of fun.

For most of the last six months, DS has insisted that only Mummy will do. If I'm around, it has to be Mummy and hysterics ensue if he's prevented from being with me including in the loo. If I'm not around, DP is fine.hmm He has also been known to scratch and bite DP unprovoked but only when I'm around.

I can't tell you how awful this has been. DP tries to be sanguine, but it's easier said than done, and he has found it very hurtful. It puts a huge amount of pressure on me, and I feel terrible in case there's something I've done that's contributed towards it. We have had a stressful year, including a house move, which I think has contributed to it.

But I can now say hang in there, as we are coming out of the other side and DS is finally calming down around DP. Am counting the days until I can pack them off on bike rides together! It really will change if you hang in there. But I know how tough it is.

RainbowSunCatcher Fri 22-Sep-17 12:28:22

Hi Gareth it is so lovely that you want to bond so much with your DC and have done so much to try to make that happen..

I know that my DH was always put out that only mummy would do for a long time, and I think a lot of it is to do with breastfeeding and the memory of it - the children just remember that and see their mum as different from everyone in this way. They want to sit on mummy, sleep on mummy, bury their head in mummy. Still, now, years later, my children openly prefer me for everything whether is is reading a story, or brushing their hair.

One thing that is very painful for DH is that the kids hate their dad's stubble and don't want him to kiss them- is that possible?

However, the fact that the kids have a special thing for their mum, my DH bonds with them in different ways, involving them in his hobbies, taking them to the park - letting them sit on his shoulders, doing the kind of things they look forward too and they obviously love him and miss him when he is not around. Perhaps your feelings of rejection are making you behave in ways that aren't very fun or engaging with your DC?

Gareth3000 Fri 22-Sep-17 16:08:58

This has all been immensely helpful, thanks everyone. Puts what we are going through into context.
I've already tried using humour in the face of rejection, and with more practice I think with my little girl, this should help us get past this phase.
I'm not perfect and have sulked on a couple of occasions but won't be doing that anymore as understanding more of what is actually happening shows how counter productive that would be (well it always is, isn't it!)
We already do 1 on 1 time, but will be doing more of it.

What is amazing is the age range this can happen at - I've seen stories now of 1 year olds all the way up to 6 year olds doing this, but fairly consistently people say it's bad for about a year and then rears its head for a while but much more sporadically after that.

Anyway, some great resources on here so I hope the presence of this thread will help others with this issue.

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