What to Do When Only Mom Will Do?

Family Matters on 04.22.11
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Image credit: Sami Grover

My daughter Lilia (18 months) fell over the other day. She picked herself up, ran right past Mama, and held out her hands for me to give her a cuddle instead. Before becoming a parent, I would have thought this the most normal thing in the world. (But then, before becoming a parent I was terrified of poop too, which just proves how little I knew!) But make no mistake, this was a monumental moment for us all. And I have to confess that my heart melted. Hugs for Daddy just cannot be taken for granted.

When Baby Just Wants Mom

Like many young families, in the early days Jenni - Lilia's mom - was everything to her. She was the main source of comfort and food, and because she was also the primary carer staying at home, it was easy for Daddy to get a little left out from time-to-time.

Luckily, I work from home and was able to take some flex-time while Jenni also worked part-time, and this allowed us to build our own relationship and our own bond. Nevertheless, even up until fairly recently, it was common for Lilia to run to Mama if she needed comforting, or just a warm body to climb all over.

Feeling Left Out is Normal

I'm not normally the jealous kind, but I must confess that there were times that I felt like the Dad in the old TV show The Dinosaurs. (For those who don't remember, Dad in that show was referred to by the baby as simply "Not the Mama!" Sound familiar?) And this was far from easy for Jenni too - it can be hard enough for a Mom to work without guilt without the added pressure of a constant cry for attention. There were many a time when Jenni was trying to check emails, work, clean, cook, or (gasp!) grab five minutes to herself and would have loved nothing more than for Daddy to keep Lilia entertained for while she did so - but Mama was the only person that would satisfy our little monster.

Tips for Dealing with a Mama-Centric Baby

It seems this is a common situation, as evidenced by a discussion over at BabyCenter on what to do when your infant just wants mama. From socializing more with other adults, to having your child leave the room before you do, there's some good ideas to try here. I often found that rather than trying to carry Lilia off from Mom, if I instead sat down with some of her toys or books, she would eventually want to see what was going on and try to join in. Similarly, it sometimes worked to just lay down and pretend to be sleeping - this inevitably piqued her curiosity, and she would come over and try to wake me up. (Lilia has always enjoyed waking us up!) Sometimes it was also just a case of taking Lilia outside or upstairs and away from Mama. Sure, she might cry for a few minutes, but as soon as Mom was out the room and out of mind, she would soon find Daddy to be a perfectly adequate substitute.

Every Phase Passes

Ultimately though, the best advice for both Moms and Dads seems to be to remember that this phase too will pass. As I've experienced with Lilia's recent uptick in enthusiasm and love for her Dad, when those hugs to start flowing, there is nothing better in the world. And Mom's too - it can be a tiring experience being the "star of the show", but it might be worth focusing on the fact that a year or two from now, you may not hold that position anymore - so enjoy it while you can!

Just know that you love your child, and that he/she loves you back. There will be times when Mom gets the brunt of the attention/affection, and there will be times when only Daddy will do. But it probably won't be too long before Justin Beber - or whoever the latest hearthrob is by that point - usurps both of you from your rightful place in your child's affections. Hugs from your baby are too precious a thing to be worrying about who they are directed at. Just make sure you keep hugging.

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