She Says… Mommy Phase

First of all, I have to say I am loving the discussion in the comments of my post on what kids should call adults in various situations. So interesting! A little update from our end: yesterday Owen’s daycare teacher showed me that he has learned all of his teachers’ names. He came up with a solution I hadn’t even considered — he calls them only by their last names. I assume this is because they are saying “Ms. Last Name” to him, and he is just skipping the “Ms.” part, but I think it’s a wonderful way to combine familiarity with the beginnings of formality. Cute boy.

Now that Owen has so many words, it’s pretty easy for him to express what he wants (and, perhaps more passionately, what he doesn’t want). We’re constantly working on “using our words” instead of grunts and whining, and to be honest, I think it’s going really well. He’s a natural communicator. But one thing he’s been communicating recently isn’t so nice.

When we came home from daycare last night and had a little time to play before dinner, Owen grabbed my hand and led me over to his play kitchen and said, “Gub!”. (Come). “See-DOW”. (Sit down). “Peh”. (Play). I sat on the floor and we pretended to cook together. Benjamin sat down with us too and almost immediately Owen was pushing him away and shouting, “Nooooo! No! No!”. No Dada.

Unfortunately for Benjamin, this is kind of the norm. When Benjamin kisses me; Owen whines. When Owen brings over a book that he wants to read, he demands, “Moooooommy”, even when I say, “Can Dada read you that book?”. At meals he only wants me to sit next to him and cut his food and give him his cup of milk. I get cuddles and hugs and kisses and pats; Dada gets none. Even when he asks nicely. Thankfully I think this dissipates when I am not around, but when there is a choice, the answer is always Mommy.

Someone is going through a bit of a Mommy phase.

Which shouldn’t be a big deal. Right? I mean, it’s totally normal for kids to choose one parent over the other at different times in their lives. I’m sure there will be days (months? years?) that he chooses Benjamin over me, especially given that he is a boy and there will be guy things that he just won’t want Mom to be a part of.

And, to be honest, Benjamin takes this behavior WAY better than I would. Oh sure, I would play it cool and say, “Ok, go play with Dada” and try to enjoy having the opportunity to do something else, but I’m pretty sure it would sting. Like, a lot. But the truth is, that hasn’t happened yet. It feel like Owen has been going through a Mommy phase since he was born.

On one hand, I love being the chosen parent. It’s undeniable that Owen and I have a special bond. Hopefully we always will. But on the other hand, it’s kind of exhausting. Even when the whole family is together; I’m the one who takes the lion’s share of Owen duties because he wants me to. Usually I want to too, which is good all around, but once in awhile I’d like to be the one checking my email while Owen and Benjamin play blocks together. And, frankly, it makes me feel bad for Benjamin when I see Owen quite literally pushing him away.

We’ve been trying to push back on this behavior a little bit. I’ll say, “Dada can sit with us. Pushing is not ok” and we’ll go from there. Or “Dada can read with us too”. Usually there’s not a big temper tantrum about it, so I’m using it as an opportunity to practice compromise. I don’t want to ignore Owen’s wishes entirely, though, because it’s important to me that he feels heard and understood. I think that is essential to why he is such a great communicator. We listen. Err, we do our best to.

I know some people will probably say that we’re letting Owen “boss us around” or run the show. But I think that letting him make some decisions for himself is a very powerful thing. It shows him that when he expresses himself (with words, appropriately, without temper tantrums), things happen. It’s the same philosophy behind giving him a few choices of what he wants to eat (when it’s practical). Practice making decisions and communicating them. I love the opportunity to let him decide how things will go, whenever possible, because so much of his life is out of his control. It must be tough being bossed around and moved around and talked over all the time by everyone else, so I try to empower him when he expresses his feelings.

Unfortunately in this case they are at the expense of someone else’s. Poor Dada.

I’m sure almost all parents experience this at some point. Right? RIGHT?! Please tell me I’m not alone. How do you react when your kid chooses one parent over another? Does it hurt when you are not “the chosen one” or do you appreciate the time off?


21 responses to “She Says… Mommy Phase

  1. your approach sounds good to me. you can’t force it on him anyway.

    my husband is a sahd so of coursehe’s the fave. it used to make me super sad but I’ve just adjusted to it now (though, Clara doesn’t ever push me away! she just always goes to/smiles at him). I tell myself if I was home with her, I’d be the fave. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it makes me feel better 🙂

  2. It’s the exact opposite at our house- L has been in Daddy mode for almost 4 months. Some of it is pregnancy/baby related & some is just normal for his age. Rob is more of a novelty to him b/c I spend much more time with him. L never pushes me away, but occassionally when I’m holding him will reach for Rob instead. I try not to take it personally & instead, enjoy it when I’m tired! It’ll pass. 🙂

  3. I have no clue about his age, but **I** remember going through mommy and daddy phases as a kid. Sometimes I wanted ONLY my dad to come tuck me in, and other times ONLY my mom. There was no reason that I remember why I had certain preferences at certain times, I just did.

    I’m sure it’s just a phase!

  4. And PS- weren’t you JUST away for kind of a long time (whether you were away the whole time or not, you didn’t get to see Owen a lot right?)

    He probably just misses you and needs some extra security that you’re there.

  5. Ryan is going through a mommy phase right now, too, although it seems to be easing up a bit over the past couple of weeks. I know what you mean about it being partly kind of heart-warming and partly exhausting. And I totally agree about giving them choices whenever appropriate. They’ve constantly got someone 4 times bigger than them telling them when they have to eat, to sleep, to play, to go here or go there. If there’s an opportunity for them to choose between cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, I think it’s a good way to reinforce that their thoughts and feelings matter, too.

  6. My kid has been in a Mommy phase for a while now too. We don’t worry about it because we can already see the shift. Now DADDY has to read the book and Mommy doesn’t do it right. I just can’t wait until I can convince her that only DADDY can change her poopy diapers the right way.

  7. Ha! I was actually just writing a post about how Eli is a total Daddy’s boy! Funny.

  8. total daddy phase here. life long daddy phase!

  9. Big time Mommy phase in our house right now too, but more in the “must always been in Mommy’s arms or lap, let’s cook in the kitchen while in your arms” kind of phase. He is going through another “don’t leave me” during day care drops offs again too. Right now, if we’re home, I can’t do a single thing by myself or he freaks. He wants me on the floor playing with him at all times. He isn’t pushing Daddy away though and he will randomly go over to him and hug and kiss him, which is the cutest thing ever and I always make a special point of praising him and making a big deal out of it when he’s showing affection to Daddy. Even still, it’s quite obvious that it’s all about Mamma. And ya know what? I give in to it too, cause I’m his Mama! 🙂

  10. I think if anything we have a bit of a daddy phase going on, but really, I haven’t noticed Elle playing favorites much, and I think it’s because (sadly) she rarely has the two of us together because of our work schedules. So it’s often her favorite is the one who isn’t there, haha. I tell DH that she calls “Daddddyyyy” all the time and is constantly asking “Where did Daddy go?” – he tells me she does the same with “Mommmmmyyyyy.” When we’re both with her, she looks so ridiculously excited and says “DaddyMommyDaddyMommyDaddyMommy” looking back and forth at us. I used to be the comforter – when I was nursing, I think DH felt a little left out because I could provide the boobs and he couldn’t. But DH is the totally more “good cop,” too, so I think she knows that if she needs a pushover or a cookie, she wants to go to him 🙂

  11. Oh, I miss the mommy phase — Ethan was my number one fan from day one…up until we brought the new baby arrived in July! Then he was kind of forced to spend more time with my husband as I became a nursing mommy again, and his affections seemed to shift. I think some of that was natural and might have happened anyway. But I think some if it was Ethan “punishing” me for bringing another little one into the house and messing with our perfect relationship! He seems to have evened out in his affections a little bit more recently, though he still has moments where he shows me that he’s a mommy’s boy at heart (and I admit, I LOVE that). My husband and I have recently instituted a policy of “taking turns” when it comes to Ethan’s bath and bedtime — he takes care of it one night, I do it the next night. I think this is good for everyone in our family, for flexibility and for a little time off for the grown-ups! Of course, that does mean there are some nights that my husband is completely “off,” since I always put the baby to bed since I’m still nursing. Hmmm, what to do when Ethan realizes that his baby brother doesn’t ever have to “take turns”? 🙂

  12. My son went through a daddy phase. He would literally scream bloody murder if I took him out of daddy’s arms. If daddy wasn’t home he was fine but as soon as daddy was in sight it was like I was the grimm reaper. I always told everyone it didn’t bother me but I spent many hours crying in the bathroom. Now my son is two and it’s pretty 50/50. All depends on his mood. So tell hubby not to worry!

  13. you might want to check out this blog post – immediately thought of it when I read this post 🙂

  14. My 19 month old has just this week gone into total “Mommy Mode.” I can’t brush my teeth or sneeze without him in my arms…and unfortunately, he isn’t as good with his words as Owen, so there are a lot more tears as I attempt to break away to do things that can’t be done with a toddler on the hip. Just another bump along the road…right?

  15. @seraphyna, Great article! Thanks!

  16. omg i am the complete opposite situ….. In the order of fav people for my 14 mnt gal is Daddy, doggie then me!!!! 😦 it sux

  17. Totally not your question, but something else stood out in your post to me: the choices. We have given Max choices almost from the moment he started communicating. He is and always had been a very strong willed child and giving him a voice in decisions has always made life a bit easier around here. The only disadvantage, he has struggled at school when his opinion doesn’t get asked. It might be an easier transition for Owen, different personality, been in daycare, etc. But I thought I would mention that we have had to change the way we parent a little so that school is a little less stressful for Max. Several times throughout the day I have to make a point of telling my kiddo to do something (ie. clean up, brush teeth, take a nap) and specifically say, this is not a choice. Even though a lot of the these things were never a choice, it has been good for him to be reminded verbally that sometimes you just got to do exactly what an adult is telling you to do! Just food for thought as Owen continues to grow and communicate.

  18. @Laura, That is a great point. Thank you for bringing that up! So far we haven’t hit that point (or at least, I haven’t heard about it), but I totally agree that we could run into some issues when Owen isn’t given the choice he is used to at home.

    Thanks to everyone for your awesome comments! Such an interesting discussion.

  19. The same thing is happening in our house, except that in our case Dada is Will’s best friend. I must admit that it sometimes stings a little when I lean in for a kiss and get a hand to the face instead, but it’s also kinda awesome to not be the one who bears the brunt of Will’s demands. My poor husband rarely has a free hand in the evenings! Will’s perfectly happy for me to give him dinner etc but when it comes to getting attention his father’s is much more valued than mine.
    When Dada isn’t around, I become the best friend again. It’s kinda win-win for me!

  20. Now he’s talking and communicating so much and you are being such good parents and giving him choices and control over parts of his life, I can offer something we learned with our articulate and opinionated daughter at the same age: Don’t always word things as questions.

    You spend a lot of the early years posing things as questions that really aren’t. Once they become more like little people, as your guy is, you might need to scale that back. So, I can hear myself in your “Can Dada read you that book?” and I vividly remember having to consciously shift to “Daddy is going to read you that book tonight” or “I would like Daddy to read that book for us” when it was important to me that Daddy get to do that or I needed a break or whatever.

    Obviously, not all the time! I think it’s important to treat children as humans who have desires and opinions which should be heard and respected and who should have some measure of control over their own lives. You know, an age-appropriate measure. But, also, sometimes Daddy really needs some snuggle with a book time.

  21. @Jamie, This is a great point! We’ve been practicing the phrasing of the questions for several months now and are very conscious of what we’re asking. We don’t say things like,”Can X happen” if we actually need it to happen. We say things like, “It’s time to go upstairs for bathtime. Would you like to ride piggyback or march together?” or “Daddy’s going to read you a book tonight, which one would you like to read?”. The Mommy/Daddy things are not posed as questions, or really up for debate, despite the protests.

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