My Son Prefers His Father and It Breaks My Heart

Rebecca and Holt

My son prefers his father to me. And, yes, it hurts. I never wanted to admit this before to anyone, let alone myself. After all, my son is now five. Is this a phase that will eventually end? I’m not so sure.

Surely, by now, my son should articulate how much I mean to him, or how much fun we just had, playing hide-and-go-seek, for hours on end. Surely, the kid has got to like me, since I’ve even told him I go to work to buy him toys, which I do with abundance. I’m actually even the Good Cop. But, nope. My son makes it perfectly clear that he would rather hang with his Dad. Ouch.

I remember a few years ago, I was talking to an acquaintance at the gym who also had a son a couple of years older than mine. When she told me how cute my son was, I responded, self-deprecating, that yes, my son is super cute, adding, ‘Too bad he doesn’t seem to like me all that much.’

This acquaintance said that she felt the exact same way as I did, and that it wasn’t until her son turned 5 years old, that he really started to want to hang out with mommy and not her spouse. Well my son is now five and still prefers his father. If I walk in the door after coming home from work, I’ll hear my son excitedly yell out, ‘Daddy’s home!! Daddy’s home!!” To which I then have to break the devastating news that, ‘Sorry. It’s just me. Mommy’s home.’ My son will not run to the door, like he does when he hears his Dad come in. When he realizes that, nope, it’s Mommy who just came home, he’ll let me kiss him, but then he’ll turn back to his iPad.

When it comes to bathing or showering, my son prefers his father. When it comes to playing X-box, my son prefers his father. When it comes to bedtime – when I really, really want to cuddle with my freshly bathed son – I hear, ‘I want Daddy to turn off my lights.’

Over the holidays, when I was alone with my son for a few days, I literally built sandcastles on the beach for hours, collected shells, took him to a fun place for lunch, took him to the toy store, bought him ice cream, and even play fought with him with pillows. It was glorious. After those few days alone together, I felt like a huge weight had lifted and that finally, like my gym friend had told me, I felt completely and utterly bonded with my son. And, it seemed like he had a great time with me. There was no whining. There was no crying. There was no asking for Daddy. There were many laughs. And many memories made. We had a blast. (‘He likes me’, I wanted to scream to the world, ‘He really, really likes me!’)

My son even said I looked ‘pretty.’ Trust me, no other compliment from any other male, ever, compares to the utter joy of getting a compliment from your own son.

A Rare Photo of Holt Preferring Mommy over Daddy…

But then Daddy arrived. And it immediately felt like I had “lost” my son, even after having such a good time together. In fact, having a child who continually prefers one parent over the other feels a lot like being a third-wheel on a romantic date. Inwardly, I’m both mad and sad. I’m mad because no matter how many fun days or activities I set up for just my son and myself, it always comes back to, ‘Is Daddy going to be home when we get back?’ So, yes, inwardly I am mad and sad.  I’m sad, because it hurts, especially after we have a fun day, that my son still insists that Daddy put him to bed.

Please don’t try telling me that I just have to spend more time with him. Because I do spend time with him. Rationally, I can see why my son prefers his father. His father watches football and my son is obsessed with football. They are both into all kinds of sports. His father has the patience to put together a lego set with our son. He teaches him to play poker. My son looks up to his father, as he should, as though his father is some sort of Superhero on a pedestal, while I’m left thinking, ‘But I baked you!’

I’ve always said that children are crap shoots, and that clearly is the case here. My daughter and I were so super close when she was 5 that she literally slept with me every night and I always, always, always had to hold her hand, wherever we went. To this day, even though she’s 14, we’ll walk arm in arm. If I ask my daughter to do something with me, even in her teenage years, she always says yes. Every night, she tells me how much she loves me. She texts me from school to say she misses me. I guess I expected my son to be the same. I never expected that I’d give birth to a child who seems to just…tolerate me most days if Daddy is around.

Make no mistake, even though I would trade pretty much anything to feel that my son prefers both his father and his mother equally, it’s not easy to be the parent that the child prefers either, but for different reasons. I asked my son’s father, ‘But doesn’t it make you feel so special that he always wants to be with you?’

His answer is both yes, but actually, mostly no. Because my son prefers his father to me, he literally can’t do anything for himself when he walks in the door. Immediately my son is stuck to him, like a barnacle, or like a person you meet at a cocktail party and can’t get rid of. He can’t relax at all, because my son is always on him and wants to be with him. I hear the frustration when he says, ‘Holt. You know you can ask someone else to get you that straw!’

The preferred parent gets frustrated that he has to ‘do everything,’ which is true, but neither of us can face a tantrum at the end of a long work day, and so my son’s father will play football with him, will read to him before bed, will have to brush his teeth, help him get on his coat and boots, or else we’re facing a tantrum that doesn’t seem worth it.

Meanwhile, I just want to know when my son will prefer me. I want to be the one who HE wants to put him to bed. I want to be the one my son runs to when I walk in the door. It’s not a competition, of course, yet still it feels like I’m losing, as if I’m on the Bachelor and am competing for love, but with my own flesh and blood.

Even though I know how hard it is for my son’s father to have my son stuck on him like gum on the bottom of a shoe, almost all the time, I think I would still rather be the preferred parent than the rejected one. Another friend told me it took her daughter eight – EIGHT – years before she preferred Mommy.

Are you the preferred parent…or the tolerated one?





  1. Sarah on January 9, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    I am not sure I can relate in the same way as I am a stay-at-home mother but my son prefers his dad as well. I don’t think of myself so much as the tolerated parent but as my son’s rock. He wants daddy because daddy isn’t always home but I am so he never has to be scared that I’m not. My son’s 2 but I knew he bonded with his daddy when he was a baby and not so much me. I’m ok with it because I know he still loves me.

    • Louise on March 16, 2024 at 10:27 am

      I’m the preferred parent for all 4 kids. I am the one who gets asked for everything m, their fixer, their shoulder to cry on, their confidant etc.
      We have three girls and one boy. Out of the girls the oldest loves me and her Dad the same (husband 1), the second girl feels. nothing for her Dad and loves me (husband 1) loves her step Dad (husband 2) but not quite as much as me, the youngest girl loves me and her Dad the same (husband 2).

      The boy. He comes to me when he is hurt, sad, wants something, wants help. I have all the “jobs” of the preferred parent. Yet he openly tells me he loves his Dad more and would much rather do fun times with his Dad. So my husband gets none of the “jobs” from being the preferred parent for any of them, has fun with all but mis of the fun with one. My kids are 18, 16, 7 (the boy) and 5

  2. Melissa on January 9, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    I’m the preferred parent, and as a stay-at-home mom, it can be extremely overwhelming. My daughter will literally interrupt me in the shower to ask for something when her dad is sitting across the table from her. When I have to work in the evening (very rare), she will cry & whine & ask dad every 5 min when I’m coming home. Things are a little better now that she’s nearly 8 & in school full days but I have never spent a night away from her and sometimes wish I could!

  3. Alicia on January 9, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    I’m the preferred parent and I LOVE it. But I’m expecting that to change when he gets older and into sports and boy things. I have 2 boys, one im super tight with and the other just a baby so hoping it’s the same. I want to soak up all I can get from them now cuz I feel like I’m gonna lose them to their dad in a few years and then their wives when they get older. I have a small window of time with them now.

  4. Brad on January 10, 2018 at 12:00 am

    It’s tough yes. But at 5 it’s perfectly natural for him to have a stronger bond with his father. My son was exactly the same with me

    Eventually I had to actually stop accommodating him. Not in a mean way but in, what I called, a realistic way. I would literally say no to requests like this playing, or helping with the evening bedtime routine.

    And it worked.

    My wife works with children and always knew it was a phase. I just wanted to help him move through it.

    Be patient. It will get better if both you and his father work together

  5. SL on January 10, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Definitely the tolerated parent, for BOTH my kids who are 8 (girl) and 4 (boy). It has been years of dealing with feelings of guilt and shame and wondering what is wrong with me that my kids don’t want to be with me. Usually it is bearable and not so obvious. But there are phases where it is very intense and the kids make it very obvious that they prefer their father. I sought therapy for it during one of those episodes and the psychologist helped me put my feelings about it in perspective. It is a constant battle but now I have some tools to deal with my own shame and my own negative feelings. It doesn’t seem to matter that I spend more or less time with them, they always prefer their dad. It hurts.

  6. Lynda Haddon on January 11, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Children need both their mother AND father, for different reasons. And it isn’t unusual for the same-sexed parent to perhaps have a slight lead. I enjoy your articles, Rebecca, but I am so sorry you feel so left out and are having trouble handling it. I would never say, “Sorry it’s Mommy.” How about “Guess again!” and leave it at that. IMO, and I am only going by your descriptions, you are putting a lot of pressure on your little guy, with “like me, please LIKE me” tattooed all over you. Sit back, relax and enjoy without the pressure. It sounds as if you are an awesome Mom, safe, available, reliable and more. Most times it needs to be about our children and not the pressure we (parents) put on them to be something else. Best wishes

  7. Melissa on January 24, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Has this improved over time? My first born and the absolute love of my life has always preferred his dad no matter how amazing I am or how much time I spend with him. This was amplified when I had my second child and daddy took on full duties for nighttime requirements, co-sleeping, bathing, entertaining, etc.
    When I have to be strict with my son, he starts crying and asks for his dad. This hurts so much I often snap ‘he’s not here, nor would he tolerate this behaviour either’ which simply makes me look more horrible in his eyes I imagine. He’s turning three in a week but I just don’t see an end to this.

  8. Raven on March 29, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    What is this obssesion over being the favorite? Why can’t women understand that being the mother doesn’t mean that your kids are automatically going to adore you the most? Mom and dad are equally as important in a child’s life, and any of them can be the ”preferred” parent, and that’s OKAY. It’s not your ”right” to be the favorite just because you are a female. Get over yourselves.
    And also, I think there’s nothing more disturbing than hearing adults comparing a parent-child bond with a romantic one. Gross.

  9. Liz on May 29, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Oh my goodness!! Thank you soooo much for this. My heart is literally breaking every. day. Not only am I a stay at home parent but I closed a (mostly) successful business to be more present with my son because if I was going to succeed in the way I needed to, then it would require more time away from him. It’s so frustrating. Each day I feel like I have to break this cycle of being upset over it and try to find compassion and love and hope that helps to build a trusting relationship-I’m type and roll my eyes, though…

  10. Jess on August 8, 2018 at 1:53 am

    I am the ..tolerated one 🙁 Started the month i stopped breastfeeding him at 19 months and I am still there after 2 years. Your article made me cry yet again, as I do most nights. I work a full time job and my husband works a full time job but from home, and has a lot of flex work hours. My son wakes up and cries for daddy, if I’m around, he will push me away. If he wakes up with me and doesn’t find daddy, he will walk off the bed to find daddy. The first thing he utters on waking up is daddy. When he’s hurt he cries out for daddy. Only daddy can clean up after number2, only daddy can bathe him, only daddy can put him to bed.
    And I only have the one son and wont have any more 🙁 Whoever said its an obsession over being a favorite doesn’t know what it feels like to be so unloved by your own flesh n blood. I wanted a child so badly, while my husband didn’t, and now I almost don’t have a child.

  11. Y. on September 4, 2018 at 10:44 am

    @Raven, great job judging! You haven’t the slightest idea what it feels like to be the “tolerated” parent apparently. How dare you? There are no disgusting metaphors here. The only disgusting comment has come from you.
    I feel with all you mommas whose kids prefer daddy. It’s completely heartbreaking and all we can hope for is some evolution as they get older. I am in a situation where I am the disciplinarian in the family while daddy is super fun! I shower my children (though only one prefers daddy, the other is not showing clear preference yet) with love, cuddles, kisses, play, toys, etc. but I refuse to let on when it comes to nice/appropriate behavior because their development and social readiness is more important to me than them liking me more. It does not change the fact that it’s painful though, so I guess we can just love them to pieces and hope that we can at some point find our peace with being the less preferred one.

  12. Emily on September 16, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you for writing this and sharing it. I have felt like there was something wrong with me for so long because I ache so deeply over this. From the moment my son was born, he and his father have had a deep and intimate bond which has not wavered in 3 1/2 years. To say that I adore their relationship and love my husband even more because of it, is an understatement. Every day I feel honored just to be able to witness their incredibly beautiful and sacred relationship. But, BUT, on the flipside, so often I feel the pain of a mother’s empty arms and the deep ache of just wanting to hold him close without him screaming for his dad. Reading some of these comments aggravated me; this is not some surface level, petty jealousy where we just want to be liked by our kids. It’s the pain of so often not being able to act on our deep and primal maternal instinct to connect on a deep level with our children who, for nine months, were literally right next to our beating hearts. Oh how unburdened I feel, just to know that I am not alone. <3

  13. Jane on September 24, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you, thank you for writing this. The preference my son shows for his father breaks my heart. I have no idea what to do with this and since he’s our only child, I am the 3rd wheel. It has caused me so much pain and I sometimes find myself counting the years until he’s out of the house so I don’t have to feel this way anymore.

  14. Amanda on December 10, 2018 at 12:53 am

    I’m feeling like this so often these days. I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way. I feel almost selfish for feeling this way. My son is 2.5 years old and had actually always preferred me, up until maybe 6 months ago. All of a sudden he doesn’t care to sleep with me at night and sometimes when I come home and my mom is baby sitting him, he will actually tell me to go back out! It’s unbelievable! This is the same kid who was once attached to my hip! All I know is it’s making me feel incredibly awful lately! I also have a 3 month old daughter. I really feel that plays a huge part in the situation at the moment. I’m having a hard time trying to balance things so that he’s not feeling left out or abandoned and she’s getting the attention she needs also… my goodness is it hard! Hopefully I can find a balance sooner rather than later and things will even out. I miss my baby. 😔

  15. SAndy on December 27, 2018 at 2:35 am

    I only have one son, 7 with no sibling and his Dad is his favorite. I’m there when he comes home from school, have him do homework, bring him to his activities, have him eat dinner before his Dad gets home. I’m the boring one, stating that I’m not cool because I don’t know all the video games, I get things wrong and ask him to do his chores. It’s quite annoying. At least, if he had an older sister who would treat me like number, I would maybe think as a younger brother, he wants to do the opposite of his sister? Hang out with his dad because he’s the boy… We can have other children. I hope it will come around a bit… Good luck!

  16. Melissa on January 20, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    A year ago I wrote a comment that my son who just turned three, very obviously prefers his dad. He’s almost four now and nothing has changed. What happens now is that he has periods of time where he states that he prefers me or only wants me to put him to bed, etc. but it’s purely to get ‘revenge’ on his dad who had to return to work after an extended holiday. I’ve always been emotionally and physically 100% there for my son and I’m home most days, taking both him and his younger brother out to drop in play centers but no matter how strong I am as a parent, when my son is sick or scared, he completely rejects me and will even scream and cry if I attempt to provide comfort as though I’m some sort of monster. I hope to read future comments about how it all comes to pass eventually…

  17. Nicole on February 2, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Goodness…. this has really made me feel better about my situation. 2 boys and they prefer their dad often. It hurts. But in trying to make sense of it in thr way that they need that make influence in their lives and that (appatently from these comments) its normal. Being a mom is a tough job. And you dobt aways get paid back. Love to all the mom’s out there. Prayers for everyone

  18. Steve on March 2, 2019 at 3:46 am

    Hi there, I’m a father of a 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter and I was looking for some information to help me better understand my wife as I can relate with this story but on the father side. I want to support my wife. I am trying to be sensitive in hopes that I can help the situation change a bit as I love my kids but hate to see my wife hurt by the rejection as well as I don’t feel it’s healthy. Maybe it’s okay for the Dad to be the more nurturing one? I’m still trying to figure it out but this helped my processing so thanks

  19. Kaycee Beames on June 14, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    My only son is 5 now and I coparent with his dad. Before we got divorced I noticed that after work his dad would run through the door excited to see him, but he constantly rejected me. I also noticed that other abuse I was fielding from my then husband was toward me and not toward our son. I confronted him one day and said, “I feel jealous of your love toward our son, but I know how important your love is for him so I am going to choose to protect the love you have for your son.” He looked at me like I was nuts, but those words freed me from those jealous emotions. We got a divorce 2 years ago, and he still doesn’t get it, but I am so thankful that I figured it out. So many parents don’t figure it out and get horribly lost in parental alienation syndrome.
    My son tells me that he loves his dad just a liiiitle bit more than he loves me, and I say, “I am glad that you love your dad so much! And I am glad that you love me, too. Do you know that I love you to the moon and back infinity times, and there is nothing that you can do to end that love?” I reinforce my love for him. That is the best possible thing I can do, and the way I fill it up inside me is through an active relationship with a loving Savior God. I overflow with love! If I counted on love from my child to keep me going I wouldn’t last a day, but since I count on the endless, constant love from a God who loves me more than anyone else on this planet, I can remain in, and pour out, that constant love that my son needs so much.

    • Diane on November 28, 2023 at 10:00 pm

      Kaycee thank you!!
      I coparent as well and my 5 year old boy suddenly prefers Dad.
      So much so that he doesn’t want to sleep at my home. It’s brutal. I have him during more day hours, but he sleeps at his Dads more then at mine. It organically happened that way and I try not to be too upset.

      I too have leaned on God so much more through all of this. And I feel too that we all must make sure that we don’t have our expectations of love put on any human – especially our children. I didn’t bring my son here so that I’d have unconditional love from him! I can only fill my cup with Gods infinite love.

      Being a parent requires a great letting go – which has to happen that much faster with coparenting. It’s a hard road but praying about it daily is the best thing to do.

      Great jobs out there parents!

  20. Lindsay on November 3, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this article. I found it while googling (literally) “my nine year old loves his dad more than me”..
    I feel selfish for feeling this way. But it hurts. I don’t feel like I can go to anyone about it. Like no one understands. My heart feels like it’s literally breaking. It kind of solidified the fact that should his dad and I get a divorce, he’ll clearly want to be with his dad primarily. So cool, the every other weekend I’d get him he’d be wishing for his dad the whole time.
    I’m a good mom. Not the greatest, but I’m decent. My house isn’t always immaculate, but it’s clean, and I have a hot meal on the table every night. My son has everything he needs, and most that he wants. I provide love and support daily, and never- ever- do I fail to tell him how loved he is.
    It makes me want to go two ways- to back off and no be as much of a lovey hands on mom that I’ve always been, or, be even more over the top in terms of affection and support. But ultimately, what breaks my heart the most, is I know deep down it won’t matter what I do, I’ll always be the third wheel.

  21. Dawn on December 4, 2019 at 6:27 am

    My son is five. Shortly after I started a job in Dec ‘18 (after being a stay at home mom for 17 yrs), he wanted nothing to do with me. It hurts! High fives to all the rejected, tolerated moms out there!

  22. Anna on December 13, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    My significant other and I split up 3 yrs ago, my son is 6 now. We share custody 50/50. I just picked him up from school yesterday (on my day to get him) and the second he walked out of his class and saw me his look changed and he started sulking. I tried to brush it off and talk to him on the walk to the car and he said “I wanted daddy to pick me up. I want to be with daddy.”
    I cried the whole 40min drive home. That was so hurtful. I miss my son so much when he’s not with me.
    I feel like time at dads house is a free for all and fun fun fun. He gets whatever he wants, does and says whatever he wants. But when he’s with me, Im cooking, cleaning, prepping, doing all the “mom” stuff and I’m not fun. I take him places, do activities with him, stimulate his mind. But it’s not same as Arcades, go carts, trampoline, entertainment parks that his dad takes him to.
    I know this is probably just a phase, but I don’t know what to do or say when my son says these things to me or looks at me with a scowl and disappointment

  23. Megan on December 23, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    I am so sorry to all of the moms who feel like this. I have a four year old boy and a two year old boy. The four year old (soon to be 5) tells me straight up I don’t like you mom, I only like dad and my brother. I always say that is fine, but you always need to love me because we are family.
    He does still say I love you back to me at night. I am the “fun” parent who plays with him but daddy gets all of the hugs and kisses…I am lucky to get one before bed. I have been very sick since his younger brother was born and I know this has impacted the whole family. The worst thing he has ever said was “Mom, I wish you would die and go to heaven so it would just be me and my dad and my brother living here.” He didn’t say it in anger he just said it very matter of factly. It was the straw and I wept for days. When my husband explained that if I died they would never see me again my son did cry and say he didn’t know what dead meant…but it still crushed my soul. I know he loves me. But I pray every night that one day he will love me AND like me.

  24. Suzie on March 29, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    I found your story here after googling ” why does my son prefer his dad” . My son has always clearly showed his preference for his dad but today he told me ” dad is my favorite parent”. Ouch that stung. I went outside to take the garbage out but really went hiding for a couple minutes so I could cry. He is 6… anyways I just wanted to say that it felt good to read that someone else is going through that❤

  25. Elsa on May 8, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you for being candid. My son is 2.5 years old and he tells me that he doesn’t want me and wants daddy. Before Shelter-In-Place, when I picked him up from school, he would ignore me and not even acknowledge me. When daddy picked him up, he was so excited. He always tells daddy “I love you” and only somewhat says it when I ask. He pushes me away and sometimes, even hits me. It breaks my heart. Being a mom is absolutely the best thing ever happened to me and I love my son to the moon and back. The worst thing is I think I’m the better parent. My husband doesn’t try to keep a schedule and my son goes to bed so late on days when I can’t put him to sleep. My husband lets our son watch way too much TV when I’m not around. My husband, who does very well with his career and justifies his long hours by saying he sees his role as a parent as someone who comes in “once in a while”. Meanwhile, I took a less paying and less demanding job when I was pregnant because I knew I wanted to be with my son and do almost all the child care. On a family trip last year, when my son was having tantrums, my husband called our a son a mistake!!!! On the other hand, I labored for 36 hours with no epidural, and had tearing so severe that I needed 1.5 years of pelvic floor physical therapy. I will never do anything to hurt my son and even if he doesn’t love me, and he is not a mistake. I’ve read the blogs/articles on how to turn things around and tried everything. I’m at the point where I sometimes just lay in bed and cry. My mother tells me to practice acceptance otherwise I will continue to feel miserable. When I tried to share my feelings on this topic with friends, sometimes people tell me that I should be grateful that my son has such a wonderful father and I am just being silly. Well, that may be true, but it still hurts. So, thank you for sharing.

  26. Jenny on May 21, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Hi as I read this I couldn’t help but cry. My son is 21 months and has always prefer his dad over me and it breaks my heart every time. I exclusively pump since birth pretty much he never latched and I always blamed that for the reason he prefers his dad thought since they spend so much time he would do the overnight feedings I always say that was my mistake for wanting to give him breast milk which he still drinking I stopped pumping when he was 15 months. Even with this quarantine we were both working from home we are in NJ and he started to call me mommy before he would call me baba and I was so excited. I got called into work since I work in a hospital and he stays with daddy and I come home and he looks my way and keeps playing it breaks my heart that he doesn’t look one bit excited of me being home. Meanwhile my husband goes to throw the garbage out and he goes crazy because he can’t see daddy and stays in one spot waiting for daddy. It hurts me so much.
    for bedtime is the same I want to hold him and caress him while he falls asleep but he tells me noooo dada… 🙁 I know there is nothing that we can do but I wish there was because I feel so lonely as he is only child. My husband knows how I feel and I feel bad bc he feels bad and tells me he is being a brat a toddler but I know is not he is being like this since he was born. hope we can soon feel to be wanted by our sons 🙁

  27. Emily on June 26, 2020 at 11:11 am

    I am so happy that I am not the only mother who is going through this. I cried reading this just knowing I’m not the only one who feels like an unwanted mother who tried so hard .. When my son & his father & I lived together my son would run to the door screaming “daddy daddy daddy!!! Yayy daddy!!!” While I just sit on the couch and act unbothered . I saw someone comment here saying they would always feel like They were a third wheel on a date .. and that is EXACTLY how I would feel every time all 3 of us went somewhere. My son would want to sit on his dads shoulders & joke & run around & laugh … while mommy just follows all lonely like. Sometime I would have to fight back tears because I would feel so left out . I would be mad because I would try so hard with my son.. before Covid I would take him for ice cream, take him to the park, trampoline parks, chuckecheese, water parks, museums ANYTHING!! I’d buy him a small toy every time we went to the store buy his fav snacks & drinks .. but he still would ask if “daddy is gonna be there”.
    Right now my son is 6 and when I go pick him up from his dads .. EVERYTIME my son has some kind of treat in his hand that his dad has to practically bribe him to go outside & get in my car , and when my son gets in.. he doesn’t look at me or speak. I always say hi & tell him I missed him but he just nonchalantly buckles himself in. And his father sees our son act that way and I’m sure his father loves the fact that our son prefers him over me . Even this morning when I met his dad , so he could pick up our son, my son gave me a quick hug but as soon as his dad opened the back door … “DADDY!! YAYY!!!! What do you wanna do for 4 days daddy?!?” (4 days because this is his weekend with our son) I even remember his father arguing with me about our son & he said something like “he wants to stay with me. You force him to stay with you, why can’t you just let him stay with me??” broke my heart because I knew it was true ….. but what kind of mother would I be if I just allowed that and never got to spend real time with my son? I love him to death & I do feel like my relationship has gotten better With my son . But he still prefers his father

  28. Amanda on August 12, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks for writing this article. I really needed to read this and not feel alone. I take care of my son full time, and have so since birth (he’s 18 mo old), breastfeed, and he still prefers his father. It makes me feel like the third wheel. I feel sad and mad too. It’s really hard and i feel like i did something wrong. I worry it will become more exaggerated as he gets older. Something i never thought i’d have to worry about.

  29. Jenny Volpe on December 7, 2020 at 3:27 am

    I literally cried reading this. My son is 2 and before he could even talk be has always prefer his daddy. I never get him running after going to work. I pick him up from day care and is not like other kids with their parents running to the mom. no as I get to the door his words are where is the daddy. it breaks me it really does and my husband hates that I get sad and cry a lot due to this but he doesn’t understand it. I pump straight 15 months non stop and I blamed that bc my husband was spending must of the times with him since he was born bc he did not latch but idk wish I knew how to fix it or how to feel wanted. sometimes he falls and he always ask for daddy.

  30. Rose on December 29, 2020 at 2:26 am

    I cried reading to. My son prefers Dad and is also 5. And yes Dad keeps saying it’s a phase but I say when does the phase end. A phase for three -four years to me is more than a phase
    I spend quality time with him . But yes let me leave he is ok it’s the end of the world when Dad leaves. And yep I want to be the one he comes to when he is hurt, I want to be the one he has to have by his side to fall asleep, I want it all.
    Immature yes but thanks for the article and the comments I know how each of you feel and glad I am not alone.

  31. Erica on January 17, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    I cried so hard. I want the love, fun, and snuggles. Every mom swore that boys love their Mommy’s so much and they are so much better than girls. I mean mom after mom told this this when I was pregnant. I wanted a boy and a girl, a girl and girl, and in last place was a boy and boy. I got boy and boy and love them fiercely. I haven’t had a mommy phase yet and they are almost 3. Neither one wants anything to do with me. I am a consolation prize and on some days I am punishment. Punishment days are the worst, when they cry and cry and cry because Daddy had to go take out the trash, or has to hand one off to me so he can grab something with his hand. I was just saying last night how much a felt like an outsider in my own family. Does anyone have a turn around story yet? I feel like I should just accept my fate and it might may the blow feel less painful after we’ve had a fun filled day and they come back and only want dad.

  32. Amanda on February 20, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    Ugh, I needed this tonight as I cry that my 5 year old son wants nothing to do with me. I will a whole heartedly admit I’m a FUN mom, I look at my friends and know that I’m the one who does the most, and has the most fun with my kids. My son could give two shits about that, he only wants his dad. From the time dad does to work he asks every hour – when will dad be home? Tonight was the complete heart breaker. Every night we all lay in bed together until the kids fall asleep – then we transfer them to their beds. This evening I told my husband to go downstairs and have a break and that I’ll put the kids to bed. My son refused to lay in bed with me, instead he went in his room and went to sleep by himself rather than me put him to sleep. He broke my heart. It’s been this way since he turned 1, it certainly hasn’t gotten easier; only more hurtful with each passing year. I realize that him and his dad have hockey and video games in common, but I do EVERYTHING else with him. Cook, play, arrange and host his play dates, do homework, go skating, sliding, hikes, parks, bike rides, nurf gun wars etc. I just feel defeated.

  33. Anonymous on March 21, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    I came to the internet to search for stories of similar nature to mine. My son has always preferred daddy and it breaks my heart every time. I am such a sensitive person and I have to often leave as to not cry in front of him. I’m constantly told it’s just a phase but it is still this way after 3.5 years of him being alive and has been ever since he could talk. I try so hard to be fair, loving, present and also appropriately discipline him. My husband is by no means drastically more stern or lenient, he’s just not me. I do get moments where he is will love me and cuddle me and tell me he loves me and even OCCASIONALLY he will ask for me to do something over daddy, but I could probably count those instances on one hand. I hurts so bad when I work so hard to plan activities for him and play dates while also working full time and taking classes, only to have him want to do those things with dad. I make sure all of my class work is done at night after bed time which keeps me up all hours, so I’m not putting anything before the time I get with him when he gets home from daycare. In the morning if dad is up with him first when I come out he will says “mommy!” Really excitedly…and then whine if I talk to him. I do often feel like the third wheel on a date, or like I’m trespassing in someone else’s home. I hope this changes as he grows and he eventually feels close to me. Sometimes it’s so hard not to snap about how frankly rude and unloving some of the things he says to me are, but I know he’s just a child. His words hurt the worst, though, because it feels like they must be true.

  34. Ayan on March 25, 2021 at 2:38 am

    my son is almost 4 years now, he stays with me since we divorced with his father…but i feel like he loves his father more than me…it hurts a lot…he get exited whenever his dad calls him and he even kiss him through the phone…i always buy him toys and everything, i take him out although not every time since am a working mother….to be sincere it hurts me a lot

  35. Kahlani on May 18, 2021 at 1:55 am

    I’m going through this also and my son is 11 he thinks because I tell him he has a bed time , or me wanting him to focus in school is a bad thing or when he is talking back I take things from him and he constantly says I don’t want to stay here anymore it does hurt because as a single parent that never gave up on my kids when others did gets so much credit but someone that’s been there day and night every game every achievement every school visit ect gets un noticed

  36. Amanda Marek on July 21, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    I feel the EXACT same way! Expect my son is 9 and his father and I separated years ago. His dad gets him every other weekend and every Thursday and he can’t wait to see him he asks everyday what day he gets to visit with him and it breaks my heart 💔. At his basketball games, he doesn’t even notice I am there but always focuses on his father. I am the primary parent and do everything for my son financially, medically and all of his school things. It makes me so sad that he doesn’t appreciate any of those things and really would rather live with his father. I wish there was a way to explain this to someone else. I love my son more than anything in the world but its not reciprocated back 💔 😪.

  37. Jackie on December 4, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Has anything changed since you wrote this?

  38. hayley on January 26, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    alas, i am the tolerated parent. my husband and i recently separated and our son is only 10 months old, but i swear all the silly faces and sounds i make are nothing in comparison to our son just seeing dad. i do the same things, chase him around, throw him in the air, tickle him, even when i tickle him i get nothing😩!!! how!!!!!! i know, i know, he’s 10 months old it could change, but sincerely nothing i do compares to just dad existing. i spend so much time with him and scrape to get toys and clothes and take him to the park, play his favorite songs, read bed time books, you name it. it is beyond crushing, and if it’s any indication of the future, i just sincerely appreciate that it’s not just me that feels like chopped liver at the tiny hands of something i baked for 9 months.

  39. Sandy on February 10, 2022 at 12:15 am

    On days that my son is meant to go visit with his father he taunts me with it, saying “I’m so glad it’s today, it means I’m going to see daddy!” He also has told me more than once that his number 1 is daddy and that I am number 2. His father is an irresponsible person who has to live with his own parents after our separation and divorce because he can’t even look after himself, never mind a small child. When we were together he would always complain about my son asking for him to put him to bed and would ignore him in favour of his smartphone when at home while my son was desperate for his attention. My son gets whatever he wants from his father and those grandparents, but his father also tends to lose his temper at him for minor problems etc. I also know that those grandparents trash me to my child, or complain about me in his presence. It’s a long story, but they are not good people. I only allow this level of visitation because I don’t want my son to accuse me of harming his relationship with his father when he gets older. Like a lot of the other posters have mentioned, I’m the only responsible adult in my son’s life and I have done everything for him since his birth, often on my own with no help while trying to survive the emotional and psychological abuse from the father and his family. I do not live in my country of birth and it has been a nightmare. The only thing keeping me sane was my relationship with my son. We do have closeness but I can see in his mind as he ages, any time I ever get angry at him for doing something wrong (which isn’t often, I let a lot of it slide), he’s building up a case for why daddy is better. I know he is young and doesn’t understand why it isn’t good to be able to get his way all the time, and kids don’t care about how much work the parent does just to keep them alive and safe and loved. I take consolation in the times when he does show love to me and just hope that one day he will look back on his childhood and realize that his mom was always there for him with love and support, no questions asked.

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