Fatherly Stuff: Fatherly Stuff Mailbag: How Do You Bond With a Child that Only Wants Mommy?

Mar 15, 2013

Fatherly Stuff Mailbag: How Do You Bond With a Child that Only Wants Mommy?

Here is a question from fellow dad Mike:

Hey, any advice for getting through the "I WANT MOMMY" phase? I have a 2 and a half year old that almost refuses to let me do anything to help him/play with him (when Mommy is home/around). If it is him and I... (he) is just the sweetest thing in the world with me.

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your question. I couldn't help but chuckle as I read this because I went through the EXACT same situation. To the point where if I wasn't there to personally cut the umbilical cord, I would have thought my son was still attached somehow.

For my son's first 8-9 months of life, mommy stayed home with him all day while I worked two jobs. This meant two things: 1) I missed out on a lot of the primary childcare duties and 2) When I was home, I only had a brief window of bonding time before it was time for bed.

Eventually I quit the 2nd job, but by then the damage was already done: We were great together when mommy ran errands or went out with her friends, but as soon as she came home, the tears would start rolling down his eyes and he would grab her legs as if he were being tortured.

So what gives?

Well, think about it from the little guy's perspective: Here is the person that carried him for 9 months, and was the primary source of food, shelter, warmth and safety during the post natal stages. So it's only natural that he is going to develop a strong bond with the mom.

I also think there is a gender component to this as well. Why do you think the popular terms are "mamma's boy" and "daddy's girl"? But I digress.

Here are some suggestions that helped me:
First of all, don't take it personal. In all truthfullness, being rejected by your own kid can hurt a little, but don't give up!
Also, when you, your child and the mom are doing activities together (cooking, arts and crafts, playing games etc), try taking the lead and letting mommy slowly take steps back until she is in the background. If he notices and starts with the "I WANT MOMMY", have the mom encourage/assure him to continue the activity with you. It's important to get validated by her.
If you are not doing this already, try incorporating yourself into his daily routines. Doing things like getting him dressed in the morning, giving him a bath and reading him his favorite stories at night will help develop a stronger bond with your child.
 The idea is demonstrating to him that like his mommy, you are also a reliable source of love, comfort and safety.
In the end though, you had it right when you called it a "phase" ' It is something that your son will eventually grow out of as he gains more and more independence. When that time comes, your presence will be crucial because he will be looking to you to help guide him into manhood.

I hope this helps!

Anyone else have a different take or additional pointers? Please share in the comment section below!