When you’re no longer the favourite parent
I walked into my daughter’s room to wake her up.
“Daddy?” she said.
“No, it’s Mummy,” I said.
Her face crumpled. “I WANT DADDY!” She buried her face in her pillow and threw her duvet over her head.
Well, this is new, I thought.
You see, ever since my daughter was born, I’ve been the default parent. I was the one who she wanted to put her to bed every night, to comfort her when she was sick, to take her to the toilet, to make her food, to put on her clothes, to read her stories. My husband helped out when he could, but he got “I WANT MUMMY TO DO IT!” screamed in his face a lot.
I’m not going to lie – being the default parent is exhausting. You start to resent your partner’s luxurious solo trips to the toilet and that extra half an hour they get to themselves at night while you’re putting the kid to bed. And when your child wakes up ill at 3am, there’s no question over which one of you is going in to comfort them. I spent a fortnight sleeping on a yoga mat in my daughter’s room when she had a chest infection. She woke up every few hours to cough in my face and demand that I wipe her boogers.
So that was fun.
But there are good bits to being the default parent too. The extra cuddles. Hugs so hard you feel like your heart might burst. A little hand that insists on holding yours as you walk down the street. I kind of liked it. And I was used to it. This was my role. Mummy does it.
And now, all of a sudden, she doesn’t want me to do anything.
I wonder if it’s because of our fraught mornings. Now that my husband has to commute to work, I’m responsible for getting her to nursery. That means waking her up at 7am to ensure we catch the bus that will get us there on time.
My daughter is NOT a morning person.
There are tears. Tantrums. Refusals to eat. More tantrums when I threaten to throw her uneaten breakfast in the bin. Refusals to get dressed. Or – the most annoying of all toddler protests – when they decide to do everything really slowly.
“You need to move faster if we’re going to catch the bus!” I say.
“I’m just going a bit slow right now.”
Yeah, I see that, kid.
Daddy gets to be the fun parent, the one who whisks her away from nursery in the afternoon and takes her home to play. I’m the one who says things like, “If you don’t start eating your breakfast right now, I’m going to give it to the cat.” The stern one. The impatient one. The occasionally shouty one.
It’s not like she’s pining away for Daddy all the time, though. While he was away this weekend, I took her to Loch Lomond one day and the beach the next, and the two of us had a cracking time. We played on the playground, threw pebbles into the sea, built sandcastles and ate ice cream – all proper kid stuff. She liked spending time with me – I mean, there was soft serve involved – but as soon as my husband came home, it was Daddy time.
I know kids go through phases where they favour one parent over the other. Her Mummy phase lasted for nearly three years, so I suppose it’s time to let my husband bask in toddler adoration for a while. And the next time she wakes up in the middle of the night, I’m just going to give him a nudge and roll over – because it won’t be me she’s calling for.