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Why does DH keep asking 3yo DD to 'look after Mummy'?

(51 Posts)
LazyCake Tue 24-May-16 08:46:57

Often, before DH goes to work in the morning, he kisses DD (3) goodbye, saying 'Will you look after Mummy?' This really bothers me, as I want her never to feel that she has an obligation to care for her parents.

I have, numerous times, told DH how I feel about this and asked him to stop. He then becomes offended, says I am over-reacting/misunderstanding, that he won't alter the way he speaks to his daughter, and then keeps on doing it! Am I over-reacting? Or is he the one who is being unreasonable?

For context, I have suffered depression since DD's birth, and have been very concerned about how my illness might affect her, now and in the future.

winchester1 Tue 24-May-16 08:49:12

My oh did this a few times but stopped when I asked him.too so your oh sounds quite dismissive of your feelings.
How does he feel if you ask dd to look after him?

Bogburglar99 Tue 24-May-16 08:54:54

Could it perhaps be meant to amuse DD? For example, my DH is off on a school trip with our 7 yo today and before leaving for work I said to her 'look after Daddy on the school trip, make sure he behaves himself'. Broad grins exchanged on all sides. She finds it funny because she knows I don't mean anything of the sort.

I do think it's very unlikely that a 3 yo would feel a sense of obligation from one comment as he leaves the house, if that reassures you.

Joke or not, though, it isn't kind to go on doing it if you've told him it bugs you. DH and I have times when something we say to the kids seems harmless to us, but really bothers the other one. Generally we stop saying whatever it is.

LazyCake Tue 24-May-16 09:36:06

Hmm... So it looks as though I have been over-reacting to the initial comments, but probably am right to feel annoyed that DH is dismissing and then ignoring my feelings. I think I shall talk to him about it again tonight.

Thanks, winchester and Bogburglar. I really appreciate the advice I get on here.

Oh, and BTW, he says he wouldn't mind at all if said, 'Look after Daddy.' Grrr...!

hellsbellsmelons Tue 24-May-16 09:42:02

Can't he just change it to 'Have a lovely day with Mummy' ???
Definitely have another chat with him.
It bothers you and that matters and it should matter to him.

ShadowsInTheDarkness Tue 24-May-16 09:47:02

Me and DP say this all the time to the kids. Its just a jokey saying that we both grew up hearing and the DC grin broadly and insist on fetching me glasses of water and helping out with tidying breakfast things etc. They def dont feel obligated, in our house its a jokey reminder to think of others in the family, help out with cleaning up/tidy up after themselves etc.
I wouldnt give it a second thought personally.

Peasandsweetcorn Tue 24-May-16 09:48:36

At least initially, I think you were reading too much into it. DH just about always reminds the DC to be kind to me or look after me if he is off to work & I'm at home with them. When on maternity leave with DC2, toddler DC1 found it hilarious when DH's parting words were "remember DC2 is in charge & do as he says"...thinking about it, DC2 was such a miserable baby (reflux) we would usually do as he said as we were both so keen to get a break from the crying and in his moments of respite, he was such a gurgling little thing.

JustABigBearAlan Tue 24-May-16 09:51:02

I think he does just mean it as a joke as it is obvious that a 3 year old isn't going to be in charge! At the same time children can take it quite seriously and feel important and grown up.

So although I'd view it as quite sweet and just a bit of fun, it's not great that he'd not listening to you. Tell him that the issue is he's ignoring your feelings and see what he says.

SandyY2K Tue 24-May-16 09:56:19

I wouldn't be upset by that. Obviously you're the looking after DD and he knows that. It's probably just another way of saying 'be good for Mummy'.

I have a 3 year old niece and I can't see that she'd feel it was her responsibility if her dad said that at all. She'd likely just say okay daddy and carry on being the toddler that she is.

I do think you're overacting.

Joysmum Tue 24-May-16 09:59:38

We've done this all the time, it made my little girl feel mature.

Pinkheart5915 Tue 24-May-16 10:01:18

When my DH leaves in the morning, he says to ds (8months) be good for mummy or have a nice day with mummy.

I doubt your DH means anything by it, personally wouldn't bother me.

LazyCake Tue 24-May-16 10:05:35

Well it's reassuring that most of you think this is not going to cause harm to DD! I do get things out of perspective quite easily and it looks as though that's what has happened here. blush

Thanks, everyone.

ravenmum Tue 24-May-16 10:12:05

Did you tell your husband why you feel so sensitive about this, because you are worried that you might actually need to be looked after, due to your depression? (If I got that right?)

senua Tue 24-May-16 10:12:18

I tend to agree with you. It could be light-hearted fun but, alternatively, it could make your DD feel anxious about the responsibility being laid on her shoulders.
Perhaps if you do a similar back at DH he might get it. So start asking him if he has sorted out the Middle East crisis yet. Or when you go round to visit the ILs, ask DH 'Will you look after MIL?' When he is asked to do onerous or weird things and doesn't like it then he might start to realise what he is doing to DD.

senua Tue 24-May-16 10:13:49

'Be good for mummy' is totally different from 'look after mummy'.

diddl Tue 24-May-16 10:26:50

If you really don't like it then he should stop imo.

To a lot of people it's just a throwaway comment, but it isn't to you & he should respect that.

SandyY2K Tue 24-May-16 11:05:09

I'm not quite sure why he poses it as a question though. Some would just say "look after mummy"

You know what kids are like. What would he say if your DD said "No". Kids are unpredictable.

I know some men who have sons have said to him when going out

"Look after Mummy and your sisters while I'm gone. You're the man of the house while I'm away "

Your DH has probably formed a habit of it now and it's hard to get out of it. He could modify it to "look after each other". .. but he has to think of that for himself, rather than be told what to say .

LazyCake Tue 24-May-16 12:01:33

Thanks for your thoughts everyone.

ravenmum, I think there are two things that bother me about it:

1. That DD will grow up feeling responsible for me and my low mood. (My Mum suffered with depression throughout my childhood and what happened then continues to affect my sister very badly).

2. That, either intentionally or unintentionally, DH is undermining my confidence as a mother, which has been at rock bottom at times.

sadie9 Tue 24-May-16 12:33:23

I would agree with you. It is telling the child that you are someone who needs looking after, and that is not true.
Even if you were, she is not the one to do it.
After he says it you could say 'what's that Dad is saying, everyone knows that kids can't look after grown ups, it's grown ups that look after kids!' Or 'Dad must think I am a pet hamster' (or maybe not or you will be asked can we get a hamster for 3 days....)
Does he always say it when you are in earshot?
Would he say it to her if you weren't there I wonder.

Lovemylittlebears Tue 24-May-16 12:43:17

It sounds like he is just trying to be nice. Sometimes it's tough for partners to perspective take on something like how that comment might upset you especially when suffering from depression. I see where you are coming from but equally see where your partner is coming from too. If it's makes you feel better saying look after mum doesn't mean taking responsibility for you. Her language and understanding is developing so the way that phrase could be interpreted might be - irony as in funny because mummy looks after me... Or caring as in I look after mummy and friends and family as we look after each other... Depending on her experiences of how she is looked after, played with and learns. Doesn't have to mean how you have interpreted it if she doesn't experience that herself like what might have happened with your sister. Best of luck smile

AndTheBandPlayedOn Tue 24-May-16 13:33:12

I understand the kidding around with a toddler to elevate their "role" to an over-important status to puff the little one up. Using mummy would of course be safe because mummy has her back. Would it be the same if you told a 3 yo that they were to be Prime Minister until Daddy got home?
But with that said...

2. That, either intentionally or unintentionally, DH is undermining my confidence as a mother, which has been at rock bottom at times.

Imho, this is it. It has nothing to do with your dd. He is belittling and degrading you to a level below a 3 year old. <<ouch>> Using the realm of "mothering" is a soft underbelly target.

Key consideration : Does he put you down in other ways? For example, does he often ask "Are you sure?" about anything-which could make you doubt yourself.

This may seem petty. But the cumulative effect is a sort of Death By Ten Thousand Cuts. The petty-ness is a strategy to make you feel unreasonable if you complain ("Quit being so sensitive"...you are not being too sensitive-he is being insensitive.)

When he does it, jump in, in the moment, and revise his instructions to something like, Daddy doesn't have it quite right does he? You take care of your dolls and toys and I take care of you. (Que buying a special $$ doll at dh's expense. wink ) (Or use the above scenario about being the Prime Minister for the day instead.)

You could coach your dd and tell her that "mum doesn't need her to take care of her". Say it enough so that eventually your dd will parrot it back to her daddy. This might seem like using your dd for a tit for tat...but it would be an example of thinking for her (and him too). And true tit for tat: he is using the dd to put you down; you use dd to communicate back that this is not going to work.

I had a version of this from my sister when I was pg (she was not happy about it) and she told my 13 yo dd to take care of me. It was a part of a wider and long term campaign to degrade me. Sorry if I got a little bit triggered there. blush

goddessofsmallthings Tue 24-May-16 13:54:59

As you've said your depression began after dd's birth, were you diagnosed with pnd and, if so or if not, what treatment are you receiving?

Your dd is highly unlikely to be adversely affected by her df's comment if she's unaware of your condition and presumably you take steps to ensure that you don't exhibit any overt signs of depression or other malaise when she's around.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Tue 24-May-16 13:57:24

I used to say 'look after daddy' to my ds- I say it ironically now as ds is taller than dhgrin

MsMims Tue 24-May-16 13:58:47

Just to reassure you OP, my Dad used to say this to me (still does infact, I'm now in my twenties grin ) and it didn't make me feel responsible for my Mum or anything. It's just a general look out for each other and be caring reminder. I'm sure your DD won't be affected smile

LazyCake Tue 24-May-16 14:50:02

Thanks to those of you who have offered reassurance, and also to those who can see where I am coming from and have given tips on how to respond grin.

sadie, I'm not sure if he also says it when I am not present. Not sure if that would make it better or worse!?!

goddessofsmallthings, I wasn't diagnosed until DD was 2, when I sought help. In the first couple of years, I was quite scared of doctors (seems weird now), and very, very anxious about any contact with professionals. I have received CBT and am on meds.

AndTheBand, re: belittling to the level of a small child, he also calls me and DD 'his girls' which, come to think of it, I don't much like either! (He is 12 years older than me).

On a more serious note, I do find the 'Look after Mummy' thing very undermining. It's just too close to reality for comfort. Truth is, I have struggled to cope with the day-to-day work of caring for my daughter. He has always insisted that I'm a brilliant Mum, but about a month ago, the day after I told him that I thought we needed to look at separating, he wrote privately to my family to say he had concerns about my parenting, and that I couldn't be left alone with DD for more than a few hours (I know this because my Mum told me and suggested I start keeping a record of the care I give my daughter). Since then, I've been on the defensive.

Ps. I am sorry you had trouble with your sister during your pregnancy, AndTheBand.

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