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dd1 and dh so besotted with each other - where do I fit in?

(28 Posts)
pregnabrain Sat 29-Aug-09 22:03:39


Haven't posted for ages. Am here hoping for advice because I feel really anxious about the state of my relationship with dd1 (4).

She's a wonderful girl - bright, loving and has a wicked sense of humour. I love her to bits, but somehow I feel that I can never get close to her.

She has an incredible bond with my husband. They are like each other's perfect partner. They have SO much fun together - they even have their own in-jokes. When we are together as a family (we also have dd2 18mths), I tend to end up sidelined. I end up feeling like a gooseberry on someone else's date.

If dh is around, dd1 won't have anything to do with me. It's like I'm invisible. She freaks out if I suggest that I'd like to put her to bed (am still feeding dd2 so usually end up putting the younger one to bed). And she is so casual in the way she dismisses me. Often, she won't let me hug her and then runs straight to dh for a big squeeze.

I have tried my hardest to ignore it all and be bright and breezy, but it's really hurting me. The other night, whilst trying to spend some cosy time with her before bed, she said, "Tonight's boring night, mummy, because I'm with you. I wish you were going to work tomorrow, not daddy". I couldn't help responding. I said "You're hurting my feelings and you're not making me feel like being with you right now". I walked out. And then felt like crap for crumbling in front of her.

Should I just invest in a teflon skin and smile through every thrust of the dagger? A lot of people say you should not attach importance to the things kids say. And I'm sure I need to toughen up a lot before she hits 13!

I feel really crap for feeling jealous of my husband's relationship with her. I just wish I could see what she gets out of her relationship with me - I can't see how we'll ever be close.

Ramble over - feeling better just for writing it down.

Bigmouthstrikesagain Sat 29-Aug-09 22:14:35

I am sorry you are feeling like this Pregnabrain I imagine playing favourites is very common with 4yo though. My dc often say they don't want to be with Daddy or with me depending on their mood.

Your words really remind of my eldest nephew now in his 20's. He was a very bright child but he could be very cutting and disrespectful in his behaviour towards his father I used to find it quite shocking the way he would talk to my BIL (a lovely gentle man). Then when he hit his teens, discovered footie and girls snd music he dropped his mum obsession started going to football with his Dad every weekend and developed a pretty positive relationship with both parents. We couldn't see that when he was 4.

So I think you should try and relax and appreciate that your dd is being harsh but not really understanding the effect her words will have on others. Then suddenly when she is older and realising her need for you (and a shared interest in shopping or whatever) - things will change. Just in the meantime try to get your dh involved in involving you in their bonding time and get him to discourage their exclusivity.


pregnabrain Sat 29-Aug-09 22:23:43

Thanks for your reply. Glad to hear that your nephew has developed a good relationship with his dad.

I suppose part of me feels a bit ashamed because I'm her mum, and I feel like I should be the most important person in her life - her rock. I feel like I must have let her down, somehow, for her not to want me in that way.

piscesmoon Sat 29-Aug-09 22:31:28

Have you tried discussing it with your DH? Is he aware that you feel left out? Normally I say take no notice-it isn't a competition to your type of post, but it does seem a bit excluding. Perhaps DH could include you more if he was aware. I'm sure that she loves you-it is just that she just takes you for granted.

Bigmouthstrikesagain Sat 29-Aug-09 22:36:27

I think it is more likely to be the opposite Pregna - your dd is so secure in your love for her that she doesn't worry about offending you iyswim. She does not feel the need to ingratiate herself.

You must make sure your dh is backing you up here and that he makes his displeasure clear, at any offhand comments from dd towards you. He must treat you with the respect you deserve as an example for her. I am a great believer in unified parental frontsgrin.

Good luck and try not to take her words to heart.

wobbegong Sat 29-Aug-09 23:49:13

She is still so little and has so much growing up to do. She is testing and exploring and checking out about relationships, and that is involving testing your love for her. I really suspect that bigmouth has it right that it is a sign of her security in her love for you.

It is so easy to label kids. isn't it?- eg. "DD never wants to be with me, DS always does." We tell a narrative about our family and then we all fit into particular roles. Could you see over the next few days whether it is really really true that "if dh is around, dd1 won't have anything to do with me". Nothing at all? Really? I wonder if there is maybe more going on that you don't see as you are upset and expecting her to always act in a particular way?

I just say this because I have a friend who also said that her DS didn't care about her (much smaller BTW than your DD), and yet as we were talking he was tottering off, grinning, but frequently looking over his shoulder to check she was still watching him. It's just that his mother was too upset to notice.

I found these books useful in terms of trying to understand the development of children and how their mind works at different stages:

Understanding your 4-5 year old

As others say, good luck and try not to take her comments to heart.

logi Sat 29-Aug-09 23:57:32

hi,i definately know how your feeling as my ds 5 often cries when dh is going to work and he tells me "why dont you go to work,mums can work you know then daddy can look after me " it has upset me which is silly really,the other day he said he didnt want me as a mummy anymore he was going to swap me lol...until i told him the taxi was on its way with his new mum lol of course then he told me it was only a joke.

piscesmoon Sun 30-Aug-09 08:11:22

I agree very much with the other posters that she feels secure in your love and knows you will be there whatsoever and so has no need to ingratiate herself. However I think that your DH needs to be aware and handle it well, especially as you have DD2 who needs to have an equal relationship with him and no feel that her sister is the special one.Your DDs behaviour wouldn't worry me in the least, they often show a preference like that-especially to the 'fun' parent who isn't the one to tell them to eat their vegetables etc. However your DH is the adult and is the one who needs to make sure that you all have fun together and that the 'in jokes' are family 'in jokes'-otherwise you will easily get into the situation where you over compensate for DD2 and it is you and DD2, and DH and DD1. It has been easy up until now because DD2 has been 'the baby' but is getting to be a person and will notice. We had friends of the family with one teenage DD and she and her father had a close relationship with the in jokes etc, it was lovely in itself, but it was clear that it excluded the mother.
Does DH do anything with DD2 on their own-if not I think it would be a good idea. I think it would also be a good idea if you left DH at home with DD2 and you did some really fun things together with DD1(that you know she loves)on your own with her. You could relax and just have fun.

pregnabrain Sun 30-Aug-09 21:14:08

Thanks so much for all your comments.

piscesmoon - dh is definitely aware of the situation. At first, when I mentioned it to him he denied he could see any difference in how she relates to the two of us, but since our latest family holiday, he is now saying he can see it and that he totally sees why I feel so hurt.

He isn't thoughtless in how he behaves with her, and he does tell her to stop when she says unkind things about me (somehow that just makes me feel worse!). He just can't help the fact that he's mad about her and has found his perfect play-mate.

wobbegong - I'm sure you're absolutely right to say that I have got to the point where I only see the bad stuff and none of the good. I wouldn't say that my relationship with dd1 is terrible, by any means. I just find it hard to deal with the fact that she doesn't adore me in the way she adores her dad. Thanks for the link, btw. That book sounds fascinating.

The whole situation has been exacerbated by the arrival of dd2. Before I had my second daughter, I realised that dd1 was a bit of a daddy's girl but I didn't feel left out of her love. dd2 came along, and suddenly I've realised what it's like to be adored by my child - she's a total mummy's girl and wants me more than anyone else (I know there is a big difference in age, but I never got the same feeling from dd1, even as a baby). So now I can't help but notice that dd1 obviously feels differently about me.

As I'm writing this, I'm realising there probably isn't much dh and I can do, other than try to be as fair and equal with the children as possible. I'm sure we're guilty of splitting into two camps - he with dd1 and me with dd2 - just because that has been easy during the baby period.

I'm absolutely dreading the teenage years - I feel like I'm way too sensitive to how they feel about me. I want to be liked too much! How will I survive??

piscesmoon Sun 30-Aug-09 22:26:30

I think that you were busy with the baby so DH had more to do with DD1-now that the baby is older it is time that he forged the same bond with her. I would have thought it quite easy to leave him at home with DD2 while you do things with DD1. I know lots of families operate with on mummy's DC and one daddy's DC, but it isn't something I would like.

pregnabrain Sun 30-Aug-09 22:38:19

I totally agree that we need to force ourselves out of the two camps thing - it's not the way we want our family to be either.

I think dd1 needs retraining in a way. I remember her saying a few months ago "Daddy is my daddy and you are dd2's mummy". That must have been her way of dealing with dd2's arrival. But, in the long term, it's not doing us any good.

MinnieMummy Sun 30-Aug-09 22:42:45

Pregnabrain I came on MN tonight intending to start an almost identical thread - your posts are like you are reading my mind! It's the same in our house except here it's my DS who is 2.9 who makes no secret of his strong preference for his daddy. I got really upset today about how dismissive he was of me (DS, not DH!) and have been feeling quite down about it but actually reading this thread has really helped.
I think we also need to break the Ds-goes-with-DH, Dd -goes-with-me cycle regardless of tantrums, and to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship.

piscesmoon Mon 31-Aug-09 08:36:30

I think that if DD1 is saying that at the age of 4 yrs it will get entrenched and DD2 hasn't had the choice, I dare say that she hasn't noticed yet but she will by the time she is 4 yrs , she will know that she can never be 'daddy's girl' however hard she tries and DD1 will make quite sure it stays that way!
Normally I think parents are a bit wet when they get upset that DCs have a preference because they nearly all go through phases-but in your case your DH would be unable to say that he sees DD2 in the same way as DD1.
Telling her to stop saying unkind things about you is not the answer, they are still the alliance and she will stop to please him.
You need to act as a family before DD1 gets any older. I think it means DH having much more to do with DD2, having the 2 DDs together, putting DD2 to bed, you all having a day out and playing together as a unit of 4 and not 2 units of 2. I think that letting him stay at home with DD2 while you take DD1 swimming or something she likes is an excellent idea.
Lots of families operate with 2 units, I had quite a few friends as a teenager where my friends were complete 'daddy's girls'and didn't get on with the mother. (mainly because daddy spoiled them and mummy was the one to say no!) -I don't think it is a healthy option-especially for the resentment it might cause between the DDs in later life.
I agree with MinnieMum-break the cycle but in a gradual, softly, softly way so that they don't notice.

piscesmoon Mon 31-Aug-09 08:39:03

DH could also take DD2 out while you did something fun at home with DD1, like cooking.

pregnabrain Mon 31-Aug-09 10:44:00

You're right. We've got to start breaking the cycle now.

Minniemummy - I'm sorry to hear you're going through the same thing (but kind of relieved to discover I'm not alone!). Has ds always been closer to his dad or is it something that's developed since the birth of your second?

I'm going to start by drawing up a bedtime roster so that, at least three nights a week, it's me putting dd1 to bed. And I'm going to grit my teeth and ignore any comments / tantrums. After all, by being persistent, I'm really showing her how much I genuinely want to spend time with her, regardless of her behaviour.

And I'm going to think up some nice activities for me to do with dd1 (we have one afternoon alone together each week - want to try to make more of that time).

I don't want to end up with a daddy's girl and a mummy's girl - it doesn't feel right.

And it's certainly not fair on dd2 for dd1 to have the monopoly on "fun dad" wink.

ToffeeCrumble Mon 31-Aug-09 10:48:45

Not much to add but i don't think you did the wrong thing in telling your dd that she was hurting your feelings and walking away. All part of gradually teaching her about empathy and not being hurtful. I think it would have been wrong to let it pass without comment.

MmeLindt Mon 31-Aug-09 10:51:55

We sometimes have to "force" DS to go with DH rather than with me, even if it is just walking down the street, holding his hand. He always prefers to be with me.

He adores his father, but he is a mummys boy.

We try not to say that in front of him anymore as it is self-perpetuating. If we say that, we are reinforcing his feeling that is ok.

DS loves cars so he goes with DH to look at car shows.

Do you have any hobbies that your DD1 would like to share with you?

I agree with other posters that your DD1 is very sure of your love and support, and that is why she behaves like this. Try not to let it upset you, she is too young at 4yo to really understnad that she has hurt your feelings.

wingandprayer Mon 31-Aug-09 11:14:51

I'm in the same position too Pregnabrain. My 4 year old DD and DH very close and I often feel excluded. I definitely feel like the boring, nagging, rule setting parent whereas DH gets to have the fun. I recognise now that is extremely unfair on DH, who is an amazing dad, and I shouldn't ask him to dillute his relationship with DD just to make me happier.

For me, I have realised that my issues with Dd are tied to a lot of my own emotional baggage. I had PND with her and have always fretted that she didn't get enough of my time/love when she was tiny, but have now recognised that's just residual guilt, and that I spent far more quality time with her than DS got when came along PND free two years later! I recognise I am far more critical of DD, who I always think of as inclined to be a bit of a dreamer. She's 4 FGS of course she's allowed to be a dreamer. I am carrying forward the criticisim I got from my parents of never having my strengths recoginised and always being considered second best to my highly intelligent brother.

What I am trying to say, without totally hijacking the thread with my issues, is that when I gave it some thought I could see why I was reacting the way I was to DD and have had to work had to break patterns of my behaviour first. I now make time for just me and her, and I really cherish these days (got one on Wednesday - woo hoo!). Instead of sulking about DH/DD activities being so much fun I just get stuck in and have fun with them, and DH spends more time with DS, which is brilliant for both of them (though he developing an obssession with his dad now too - damn wink). If she hurts my feelings I tell her because I agree with toffe crumble that it's a good time for them to start realising the power of their words. It's hard work, and it's sometimes very tiring to have to work so hard for my daughter's attention if I'm honest, but I see that it's paying dividends and we're all happier as a result.

MinnieMummy Mon 31-Aug-09 17:56:12

Pregnabrain I would say it started while I was pregnant as I had SPD and couldn't move that well, so DH became the fun, active, silly throw-you-up-in-the-air parent and I was the one who just fed him, changed nappies, enforced discipline, etc. Obviously when I had DD things kind of continued like this as I was bfing and glued to the sofa to an extent.

Have to say, I think I agree with Toffeecrumble - yesterday DD batted at my face in a baby style - not fully in control - and DS copied her by slapping me in the face. I was premenstrual and cried, felt really guilty and like I was emotionally blackmailing him, but he was really concerned 'mummy why you sad? mummy ok now?' and actually he's been a lot more caring towards me today. We changed around who does what with which one a bit (DH still got to take 2.5 stone DS on the back of his bike though wink) and DS was totally fine with that.

Personally I don't care that he 'prefers' DH, I figure that's just going to happen, it's the apparent total disregard/disdain that I was finding hard to handle.

Miggsie Mon 31-Aug-09 18:26:39

My DD was glued to her dad from the age of three.

He got quite het up about it in the end, but to me it was sort of recompense for the first year that she had spent attached to my boobs!

My friend has 3 boys and then had a girl and was stunned when her DD went for daddy, she was so used to the boys being all over her.

It is a girl thing.

And the comments are not meant to be hurtful. I remeber DD saying "when will you die?" and I was really upset, but she really wanted to know just for information. They are not old enough to realise some comments are upsetting and hurtful, for them it is just a fact.
But some days the cat gave me more affection.

This will pass...when I went for a week's business trip abroad DD was thrilled "a whole week with daddy!" Before I was home she was sobbing for her mummy every night... and the next time I had to go it was "I don't want you to go mummy!"

My friend says it is because I am around all the time and do the school run and most of the caring that daddy is a novelty for her, but she misses you if you are not there.

DunderMifflin Mon 31-Aug-09 18:36:13

Sorry - I haven't read the whole thread but I think you were right to tell your DD that she was hurting your feelings and walk away.

I imagine others will disagree but I would say that its important to teach children that you have feelings too and to make them think about how their actions impact on others.

That's it really!

pregnabrain Mon 31-Aug-09 21:12:31

Well, I just couldn't hold it in when I told her how she had made me feel. But then I felt super guilty afterwards. It seemed like such a heavy burden to put on her shoulders at age 4.

And I have this real hang-up about wanting her to see me as her rock (probably because I suffered quite bad PND after both births and feel terrible that she saw me in a bit of a state the second time round - I feel bad that she has seen me so fragile). I want her to feel that she can say anything to me and it won't throw me, if you see what I mean!

wingandaprayer - I felt close to tears reading your post. So much of what you said reflects my own situation. I have way too much baggage to be able to keep things simple with my kids.

risingstar Mon 31-Aug-09 21:59:30

can i echo that it is a girl thing- i have 3 of them!

can i also add that small children can be manipulative and will also try stuff out just to see what reaction they get.

i think that your reaction is spot on- i have not hesitated to let my girls know if they have upset me. they need to know that grown ups have feelings too and 4 is a good age to start learning this.

we all have baggage but i think that all children need to understand that adults are affected by their behaviour- it will do them no harm at all. this applies whether they have innocently said the wrong thing (dd2 to teacher, your teeth are the same colour as your t shirt(brown) ) or knowingly said the wrong thing ( i love daddy more than you) DD1 for about 2 years.

DD1 is now 14 and thinks that i am fab, most of the time and shows no sign of emotional harm!

wingandprayer Tue 01-Sep-09 14:36:26

Sorry I didn't want to upset you, but I know how upsetting it is even admitting this. I had CBT counselling with my PND and find this helpful at dealing with my negative thoughts about my relationship with DD. Did you have anything similar with your PND? I can't change my past, but I can affect DD's future, so I try to focus on the support and encouragement I can give her, about the role I have played in her becoming such a happy confident little girl.

As their mums we are absolutely the centre of their world. As our first borns they are absolutely the centre of ours, but when you've had PND you associate that birth process with so many negative things. PND destroyed my confidence and blighted my first 12 months with my daughter. However, what's your earliest memory? Can you honestly recollect anything much in your life in detail before 5 or 6 if not later? So why would my children remember my PND problems, or my troubles getting to grip with motherhood, unless of course I make them spend the rest of their childhood in the shadow of it? I am determined that's not going to happen.

pregnabrain Thu 03-Sep-09 13:42:12

wingandprayer - thank you for your message. It certainly sounds like the CBT worked for you - you sound really positive.

I have had (and continue to have) therapy to help me and I think I'm on the road to feeling good again (with blips!).

Everything you say in your post makes sense - it's just the kind of thing that escapes me when I start wallowing in negativity!

I've been making a massive effort with dd1 this week and have been trying my hardest to notice the good stuff.

We normally have a few hours alone together on Tuesdays but weren't able to this week. She looked really disappointed when she found out it wasn't going to happen this week. smile

Yesterday she was telling me that she wants to make fireworks when she grows up. She was listing all the different coloured fireworks she wants make. After a while she turned to me and said "Mummy, you're my red sparkle" (red is her favourite colour) grin My heart actually hurt with joy.

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