Preferred Parent Of The Week

This is the term my husband and I used frequently when our older children were smaller:  preferred parent of the week.  You are probably familiar with this phenomenon if you too  have small children whose temperaments are not so laid back…”no, no, MAMA DO!”  or “I don’t want you!! I waaaaannnnntttt Daaaaddddyyy!!”

I honestly wonder, in those of you with big families, does this occur much past the third child?  It seems to me, by necessity, that the youngest members of the family often get used to older brothers and sisters helping out, and the flexibility that develops from that precludes the “Preferred Parent Of The Week” syndrome.  I would love to hear from you if you have a comment on that!

Parents always want to know how to handle this.  In our family, we didn’t argue about this for the sake of arguing (“No, you must have Daddy put your fork on the table!”) for small things, but there were certainly times when a child’s desires could not be accommodated.  Mama had the wailing baby, so yes, little four year old, Daddy will have to give the bath.  And yes, there would be wailing.  But Daddy is a parent too.

It can be hard for parents going through this for the first time to  not feel baffled and hurt, especially fathers.  One has to carry on in good humor, this is a small child!  They say all kinds of things and have all kinds of feelings!  Once fathers realize this can be a very normal phase, I think many of them can sort of shore themselves up and not take it so personally.  Whenever our children would go through that, we would just look at it other and shrug, “Guess you’re PPW this week!”

It is important to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing and also a very matter-of-fact, less words, less explaining kind of manner when things are not going the way the child wants.

I have a very astute friend who pointed out that if Dad is never on the “preferred list” for baths, ouchies, bedtime, etc that she wondered if the father and child were doing anything positive through play at all first.  It is hard to expect the child to want Dad during those tired, hungry, hurt and whiny kind of times if the child and father have no positive bond together during happy times.  There should always be time in the family schedule for FUN, with BOTH parents. Build on a happy platform of play as a foundation!

I would love to hear your experiences with “PPW”.


4 thoughts on “Preferred Parent Of The Week

  1. Love it! Yes! It does happen in big families, at least in ours. Now granted we have a five year gap going on here, twice, so that may have something to do with it. I found it interesting this time around that Sariah preferred Erik from an early age of a few months. He spends so much time with us each day and there are some days when I am working, that he becomes the PPW (love that!) but I wasn’t prepared for the baby to prefer him. From about 4 months of age to about 10 months of age, I was just the “num-nums” and otherwise she wanted Daddy. It was hard because most days I finish working at 8am, go on with our morning rhythm and hold school while he goes down to his office and does his end of business stuff. She didn’t want any of that! In the last month something interesting happened. I was out one day and my older daughter got her to take a bottle of breast milk. First time ever. I came home and suddenly I was the PPW! She seems to realize that I am more than the “num-nums” and that I might be good for snuggling and tickling and getting dressed.

    An odd situation, but honestly, SO glad I got to experience it. I think it warmed Erik’s heart to have PPW status since this is our last time around this block 🙂


  2. Your comments remind me of what seemed like endless status as Preferred Parent when my kids were babies and toddlers. Exhausting! My husband used to say that he longed for someone to cry for HIM, to reach little arms up to HIM rather than to mom. It didn’t occur to me for years that I was probably fostering that behavior. I’m sure it’s natural for nursing babies to prefer mom. And I’m sure that, especially with the first, I was too convinced that my way was right (too much helpful advice like “hold the baby this way”) when I should have stepped back knowing that each parent forms his or her own unique relationship.

    Gradually we figured it out. My husband became the bath guy most often, giving me a break that I insisted on using to ride my bike or read a book on the porch, anything to be alone. And when I got pregnant with my third while my two-year-old daughter was still nursing he made it a dad-daughter ritual to go read to her and lie down till she fell asleep, something he still remembers fondly. By the fourth we were more relaxed overall.

  3. Ha! Ha! This is a good one. I have 6 kids and I think we have PPM (preferred parent of the moment). For us, it doesn’t seem to go in big spurts like ‘weeks’. Sometimes, the younger kids just want dad or just want mom. We pretty much just roll with it. Sometimes, both parents are occupied and the child who is demanding the particular parent gets an older sibling instead! I don’t think we really take the issue too seriously. My memories are somewhat foggy, but I don’t remember this phenomenon every being bothersome. If a kid wants, mom, mom tries to accomodate. If a kid wants dad, dad tries to accomodate. If the particular parent is occupied with something else, we just explain to the child that that parent will get to them when they can. I definitely agree with your statement about having a good sense of humor and the less words, the better. I think, in general, it is an issue that should be taken pretty lightly.

  4. This post made me laugh, Carrie! Our three children have certainly let us know who their preferred parent of the moment (!) is. Our youngest – two and three quarters – still does this sometimes. And like you, my husband and I smile at each other, and if the request is small, we oblige. If the situation is a little more complex – Dad has to go to work right now so Mum will need to pour the milk – the request is kindly but firmly ignored.

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