When You’re Not The Favorite Parent
This is not something that’s new, or something that seems to be a phase (from my vantage-point).
And I’d be lying if I said it’s just a Moment in Time and that surely (surely, please) I will be her favorite eventually.
It is a low-down gritty hard-scrabbling difficult thing to consistently find yourself sidelined as the Second Choice, the person sought out after the first option has been exhausted. I go into my daughter’s bedroom each morning and am greeted with, “Where’s Dada?!” This is not meant to be a glare in my toddler’s direction; just a lingering sadness mixed with (I’ll be honest) jealousy.
I wish that I had a balm for if you’re in the same boat with me, dear reader. Instead, all I can offer is a nudge of solidarity that this is a hard thing, for a mother to have a daughter besotted not with her, but the other parent.
I wonder sometimes if it’s something to do with me. Late at night, when she’s long been asleep, I ponder if there’s something I could do differently; bribery? More of her favorite activities together? More hugs and kisses? But no — I do all these things. There’s a deeper fear that our love languages are simply not the same; that my husband’s extra time spent with her due to our work schedules being what they are is somehow interpreted by this little person as his having more love for her than I do. That when she visits me at the library where I work, my being at work while she’s with her dad is somehow interpreted as me not wanting to be there with her too. Or maybe I don’t say yes to tea parties enough, or read her favorite book aloud another time enough. A thousand maybes, all floating up into the air like little candles, flickering as they disappear.
And maybe, maybe, just maybe it’s a phase. I heard someone ask the other day (in relation to a different issue, but still) that if you knew a difficult situation would be the same in two weeks, a little better in two months, and solved in two years, would you do anything differently? So that’s what I’m hanging onto as I navigate being sad mama chopped liver; it might be the same two weeks from now (I am quite certain of this really). It might be similar two months from now. But two years from now…well, who knows?
And who am I to say I know my little daughter’s heart? Maybe I am an equal favorite, and it just comes through in ways I read as relegating me to second-best. She’s a little person! I’m sure one day I can ask. And maybe by then, things will be so different and better, I’ll have forgotten entirely that I ever wondered what I was doing wrong. Maybe everything is more right than I think right now, and I just need to look at it a different way. I don’t know — I’m new at this motherhood thing too, just as my daughter is new at being a person. We’ll figure it out. We’ll scrabble onwards together.