She Says… Putting Him Through The Ringer

Benjamin has been traveling a lot lately. Thankfully travel for my job is relatively infrequent (once every two months or so, usually), and planned far in advance. So 99% of the time, I’m the one at home, holding down the fort with Owen.

I think he’s gotten used to it. I think we’ve both gotten lazy with trying to balance who does what, even when Benjamin is home. Owen and I have our groove, so even when Benjamin is home, I tend to take the lion’s share of the Owen responsibilities. Even though it’s not 50/50, it works for us. And Benjamin does 100% of the dishes and dinner clean-up, so I’m pretty sure I’m getting the better end of the deal.

However, I left Wednesday afternoon for a 4 day trip to Chicago. And it’s the first time that Owen has really put Benjamin through the ringer. He’s always been a Mama’s Boy, but usually when I’m actually gone and out of the house, he falls right in line with Benjamin and they totally love having some one-on-one time.

But this time? This time he’s not happy that I left. And he’s taking it out on Daddy.

The first night I was gone, Benjamin had a job that ran late, so Owen’s Grammy and Grampy picked him up from school and did our evening routine. We had prepped Owen about it for days, so he was totally prepared and even excited for them to pick him up, and apparently he was a total angel. The next morning went ok too (which I was a little worried about, since I always wake Owen up and he can be a little ornery to anyone other than me when he’s waking up). But last night at pickup, well, let’s just say it didn’t go so well.

Benjamin was late. Really late. His work is not nearly as predictable as mine, so while I always pick up by 5pm on the dot, Benjamin was stuck in traffic until 6pm (the latest we can pick him up from daycare). So Owen was tired. And hungry. And I bet he was expecting to see me. So he cried and yelled that he didn’t want to go home. And “I don’t like Daddy”ed so much that Benjamin felt like he was kidnapping him to take him home from school. I imagine the night continued to snowball as Benjamin reported he had a terrible time flossing, brushing, and bedtime-ing in general.

Poor guy.

I think we’re squarely in the stage where leaving is not as easy as it used to be. This too shall pass, right? I sure hope so, because the next few weeks our calendar is so ridiculously full that I feel like we are having a babysitter more than we have all year, combined. I’m hoping Owen can change his attitude, or at least get over the fact that it won’t always be ME putting him down at night and getting him up in the morning.


14 responses to “She Says… Putting Him Through The Ringer

  1. We have a hard time with balance too! My husband is a teacher & basketball coach so this time of year is especially tough. He sadly hears lots of “I don’t like daddy” too. This year we’re trying to carve out a little more bonding time for the two of them, but its really hard. Its so much easier for me to put her to bed when she’s having a daddy meltdown at night or for me to change her when she’s flailing around because she only wants mommy to do it. I’m also hanging on to “this too shall pass…”. I keep remembering friends say that they go through phases while growing up where mommy is the favorite and then where daddy is the favorite. I’m trying to remember to savor the moments when I’m her favorite because when she is a teenager, I am most certain that I will NOT be her favorite!!

  2. I’ve got no personal experience to offer here, but I know this too shall pass. I know you know it, too. But I’m just going to say it out loud here so you hear it from someone else: This, too, shall pass.

  3. My poor husband hears, “I don’t like Daddy” at least 25 times per day. Poor guy. I feel so badly. As much as we try to remind her that that’s mean and it hurts Daddy’s feelings, she continues. Time for some “discipline” for that I think.
    I agree with Jenny’s comment above – I am enjoying my time as the favorite since I know in high school, I will be in last place!

  4. It most definitely will pass. Cameron has been 100% a Mommy’s boy and had no bones about showing he only wanted Mommy to do bed time and to retrieve him from his crib in the morning among other things. I attributed it to the fact that I truly do 99% of the Cameron routine because of hubs work schedule. HOWEVER, just in the past 1-2 weeks, he is already showing what seems to be the natural shift to a new preference & new found affection for Daddy that I have been expecting to happen with little boys. He simply adores him and now every day when we leave for day care, he wants to know if Daddy is coming with us (which he isn’t) and on the drive home at the end of the day, he always asks “Daddy home yet?” and when I tell him “He’s on his way” (he gets home about 30 mins after us), he starts to whine and cry because he’s not there as soon as we get home. So I see it, the shift is on the cusp. While it kind of makes me sad, I’ve been expecting this day to come since the beginning *sniff*

    That would definitely be super tough for Benjamin. It would feel terrible trying to pick up your toddler & having that type of reaction from him :-/

  5. May I suggest mixing it up a bit on the nights you are both home? Even if you are there and available, I would have your husband do the bedtime routine etc. every couple of days. My first son was the same way…and then I got pregnant with #2. You will not be physically able to do all that you do now when that time comes, so you might as well get Owen used to Daddy taking charge at times. It’s also good preparation for when the second baby comes because you won’t be able to devote 100% of your time to Owen like you do now. Although, you are right…this too will surely pass.

  6. That’s sad they still haven’t bonded. Totally time for Ben to step it up and help raise the kid! I don’t know what it is about people still living in the 50’s. I’m a SAHM and I *still* expect my husband to help me with the kids and chores. What I do all day (and night) with the house and kids does not compare to his sitting in an office for 9 hours. I would love the opportunity to switch him sometimes. Your arrangement is really unfair, no matter how you word it.

  7. I agree with Jennifer. When I was expecting baby number two I forced myself to step away, even getting out of the house for a walk or errands, during bath and bedtime just so I wouldn’t be available. I didn’t want that unavailability to come when there was a baby in the mix when jealousy was setting in and sleep deprived tensions for mom and dad were on the rise. It really doesn’t help them (or you!) to not see others as capable of helping them sort through feelings, manage tasks, etc. I imagine it will pass, and is certainly associated with the age, but it sure would make life easier on all if you could ease him out of this phase a bit more quickly.

    It was hard for a few days, on the three of us. There were tears from everyone at some point or another! And with my husband’s work schedule we sometimes find ourselves in a “Mommy only” mode from both boys, and so I find myself doing the same thing…doing more things away from the house when I’d rather be spending time as a family of four in the name of reestablishing roles.

    Good luck. This mama gig ain’t easy.

  8. I agree with those who have mentioned the potential difficulty when you add in baby #2. Ethan was a total mama’s boy – and then Miles came along and he had to deal with Mommy being occupied during bath and bedtime. This actually became extremely difficult, because not only did he eventually get used to Daddy doing the routine, he then turned his preference to all-Daddy-all-the-time, which was hurtful to me, especially during the throes of newborn baby sleep-deprivation!!! We eventually figured out a balance — on nights we were both home, we started “taking turns” with bath and bedtime — and Ethan and I are “back together” again. We’ve kept the balance of taking turns with Ethan, but of course, we didn’t think about creating a balance with Miles (I was nursing, on maternity leave, it was easier for me to take care of the baby, my husband was dealing with Ethan, blah, blah, excuses, excuses), and now we’re suffering the exact same problems with Miles!!! He wants nothing to do with my husband. Sigh. Maybe we’ll get smart (finally!) with #3! 🙂

  9. @Jenny, At least I know I’m not alone. I feel your pain!

    @Iphy, Thank you 🙂 I know it’s true, but it’s still incredibly helpful to hear it.

    @Megan, Yes, I’m sure the pendulum will swing the other way… someday. And I can already tell I will NOT be as good as my husband is about letting it roll of his back.

    @Angie, I’m glad to hear you’re seeing the flip side for a change. I hope it isn’t hurting your feelings too much!!!

    @Jennifer, Absolutely. I know this is something we need to do, I think I just kept putting it off. When Benjamin is home, we do split it up, but it doesn’t matter because most of the “Daddy parts” (I do flossing and brushing, Daddy does bath, we both do pj’s and diaper and I read his book) are spent asking where Mommy is. Sigh. It’s very clear we need to switch off nights entirely, as the chopped up routine seems to not fly with Owen right now.

    @kate, My instinct was to delete your comment as soon as you posted it because not only is it not worded very respectfully, it’s completely off base. In the spirit of open and honest dialogue, though, I will respond. It seems clear to me that you are not a regular reader of this blog or you would have a better idea of how Benjamin and I balance our responsibilities. Saying that Owen and Benjamin have not bonded “yet” could not be farther from the truth. From Day 1 Benjamin has been as hands on with Owen as I have been (and stayed home with him 1 day a week for most of his life so far). There has never, not once in almost 2 1/2 years, been a time when I have felt that I was responsible entirely for Owen in an unfair way. We both work full time, and we both travel, and we both take on a heavier load when the other person has too much on their plate. We are partners in everything we do, including raising Owen. While I think there are many couples who may have an imbalance of responsibilities like “in the ’50s”, as you say, we are not one of them.

    @NOLAGirlie, Great points. He does do 100% better when I am out of the house entirely, rather than just downstairs, so getting out around bedtime is a helpful suggestion.

    @Carly, Thank you! Does this mean you’re pregnant with #3?!?!?! This is very helpful to hear. We currently take turns when we’re both home, but lately Benjamin hasn’t been home much at all, so there was no choice but for me to do everything every night. It’s definitely something we work on when he is home, and need to do more of as we begin to plan for #2.

  10. What I’ve learned through Liam is that there’s little you can do about this toddler phase of preferring one parent over the other. As a (mostly) SAHM, I spend far more time with the boys than my husband does, yet my husband is definitely Liam’s favorite. I know that this is largely in part to the fact that they don’t get to spend as much time together as we do– when Daddy’s around, L wants to be with him every second. Yet, when hubs is gone, L has no issues being affectionate towards me, playing with me, etc. And like you, we’ve fallen into certain roles because they make our life & our routine flow as smoothly as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as it works for everyone!

    To suggest that a parent hasn’t bonded with their child simply because the child is playing favorites (something totally normal at this age) is ridiculous. Despite Owen’s “I don’t like Daddy” comments, I know that he adores Benjamin, much like I know that Liam loves me despite his constant assertion, “I want Daddy!” Toddlers don’t know how to fully express their feelings in words & I’m certain that “I don’t like Daddy” translates into “I don’t like that my routine has changed.” And that’s understandable!

    Big hugs!

  11. Kudos to {blog author} Kate. You are one classy woman, and far more eloquent than I could ever be. Just one more thought…someday being the non-preferred parent will actually be enjoyable! Case in point: both my boys are in a “dad’s my fave” phase right now. When we go out to eat they both want to sit next to him, so it’s the 3 of them squeezed together on one side of the booth, and me on the other side with plenty of space and no one to help 🙂

  12. I really, really, REALLY hate this favourites thing that toddlers do. I know it’s age appropriate, and nothing personal, and BLABLABLA but it’s SUCH a pain. So, I feel your pain. My husband also is not patient at all with this mommy-preference, which makes it even harder for me, as he just gets frustrated with Amber and stomps off, leaving me to do whatever she needed doing. We had a chat about it, but as I have not experienced the rejection, and we both have different parenting styles, I’m just hoping and praying the phase will end.

    We do bedtime together, which I’m sure will have to change with #2. It’s just when it comes to care (putting on clothes, jackets, brushing teeth) she only wants mom all the time.

    Tiring. But what I have learned so far, is that whenever you reach the end of a trying phase like this, a new one always starts that makes you yearn for the good old previous phase 😉

  13. Dear Commenter Kate: I don’t normally respond to self righteous comments, but honestly, I feel somewhat compelled, even though it’s obvious that, as Kate so eloquently pointed out, must be a result of not following this blog for very long. How can you even begin to draw those kinds of ignorant assumptions of a full time working family on how responsibility is shared when clearly this family juggles not one but TWO working partners who travel with their jobs? Coping with one parent with, in your words, a standard “sitting in an office for 9 hours” job hardly compares to juggling two parents with schedules that fluctuate.

    I guess your comment strikes me because I assume that every mother knows and respects the job of a parent and what it entails, whether they stay at home or work out of the home and it is incredibly presumptuous of you to judgingly accuse this type of very MODERN family dynamic of being “back in the 50’s” or adding “sad they still haven’t bonded.” Really?!?! You are a mother and you jump to THAT conclusion over the fact that this it is very normal behaviour that will pass? No offense, but not every working schedule allows for equal sharing 100% even though, apparently, you are lucky enough (or a good enough mother?) that yours does.

    You should be embarrassed for saying such a thing, honestly.

  14. The “only mommy all the time” phase is, like other commenters stated, is especially difficult when you have a second child. It is so taxing. I don’t have much advice to provide because we are in the full throes of it and I am unbelievably exhausted but I will tell you something that I have realized- when baby #2 comes along (finally, fingers crossed for you) you will feel compelled to employ dicipline in those frustrating moments. Don’t. The harder you are on the toddler the harder he/she will be on you. Try try try to establish Benjamin as the second primary caregiver asap. He’ll be hurt for a while (mine said “No Daddy!” for a long time) but Owen will eventually get the point. It is just a phase. An awful phase but time will cure it. As for “kate”-bitter much? That was unnecessary. Hm.

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