From the moment Emma was born, she was a Daddy’s girl. My postnatal notes mention several times that she would settle on Daddy very well and we often hear friends and family comment on it. At first I found this really difficult, especially during those first few weeks when I was recovering from my c-section. For some reason it made me worried that I wasn’t bonding with her, that I wasn’t doing enough as her mum.
Over time this feeling faded as I could see that my relationship with Emma was completely different. I was the practical one who made sure she slept and ate her breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was (usually) the one who changed her nappy and picked out what she would wear each day. I could see that when she fell over or was feeling poorly, it was Mummy she wanted. Recognising those little things made it all worthwhile…until a few weeks ago.
Suddenly there was a shift and all she wants is Daddy. Hearing Daddy’s voice and resting on his shoulder is what makes her feel comforted. She screams when he leaves the room and laughs and jumps for joy when she sees him again. When she’s having a tantrum, Daddy can make it all better in a way that I just can’t. I know it’s not personal but somehow it hurts – it feels like a rejection from my own daughter, who I simply couldn’t love more.
I can sense that my other half knows this is hurting me as he often mentions to me that he’s not sure why she’s doing it and that he’s a novelty as I am with her more. I’ve read before that toddlers often do this, and attempt to play their parents off each other. After weeks of brushing it off, it’s sort of got under my skin all of a sudden; it’s made me question whether I’m too strict with her, or perhaps I’m not enjoying our time together and not a lot of fun. All I know is what’s staring at me in the face: she just doesn’t want Mummy anymore.
Even though it’s the last thing I want, I feel guilty.
Guilty for going to work in the morning and not seeing her again until 7pm. Guilty for having to work late and occasionally not be able to do the bed time routine. Guilty for taking a piece of my old life back. Guilty for taking her to nursery on Friday mornings, when I have the day off, as I need a couple of hours to sort my life (laundry) out. Guilty for just not being there.
I hate feeling like this, so I’m hoping it is a toddler phase that will pass eventually. And part of me feels that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, that there’s no reason to feel guilty at all. Why is it so easy as a Mum to let that guilt creep in and yet for my other half, he really does shut the door on it. Maybe Emma knows too on some level that I feel like this – kids can sense everything and maybe she knows I feel bad, that some days I’d much rather stay with her than be sat in an office. Maybe sometimes I just need to remind myself not blame myself for everything.