No Dad – I want Mom
It can be so painful to be a dad when all they want is mom! It’s so easy to take it as a kick in the gut and feel insecure about our ability to be a good dad. It feels so lousy when the person we love most in the whole world seems to be repulsed by us. Unfortunately, how we respond to these moments can make it a lot worse. A lot of us men in this dilemma, collapse inside and go off to work or our computers or sports to distract ourselves. Others get aggressive, blame the kid or try to force an interaction. All these options are really unattractive and off-putting to our kids and this lead to more rejection of us. This can easily spiral into a very stuck situation that overburdens the moms and turns what should be an amazingly joyful relationship into a source of deep pain.
If we respond in unconscious ways, the kid isn’t getting a parent who feels secure in themselves as a parent and so of course they want mom if dad is being aggressive or insecure. Just imagine being in their shoes with someone who clearly feels awkward, collapsed or aggressive. It’s very unappealing, especially if the option is a mom with whom you feel safe. They are used to mom’s comfort and typically, they have spent more time with mom and thus have an easy path to connection that builds more and more trust with time. We often have to make effort to build this trust and connection.
So how do we move out of that stuck role and into a position where the child is comforted by our presence as much as our partner’s?
1st Step: Feel your Feelings.
The first thing that you can do is to experience that feeling of rejection. Rather than move away from it with distraction, just close your eyes and breathe into it for three breaths. Notice how you respond to it. Do you feel aggressive? Do you feel inferior? Do you collapse or have the impulse to distract yourself with your phone? By feeling into the experience, we stop wasting our energy trying to get rid of the feeling. Since we aren’t using our time and energy to avoid the feeling, we have the space to think effectively about what is happening for us and how we could best respond. It may help to share your feelings with your partner or friend. Or perhaps write about it. These are all methods for bringing contemplation into the feelings so you can regain inner control.
2nd Step: Get back in the ring.
From this place of increased clarity, go engage your kid. Be with their rejection and keep breathing in the midst of the discomfort of it. If you repeatedly respond to their rejection with playfulness or even just your warm presence, they will come to trust you and you will increasingly trust yourself. This may take getting knocked out of the ring a few times. I’ve seen dads who felt deeply dejected and inadequate due to years of rejection, find their way to a beautiful connection with their children through repeatedly showing up again and again in this way.
3rd Step: Schedule Regular Time:
By scheduling regular time with your child, it’s much easier to maintain a connection and trust. Whether it’s one evening a week, where your partner goes out and you feed them and put them to bed, or a part of the weekend where you take the kid out, find some time where you have a chance to just be with one another and make it a scheduled part of each week. Perhaps there is a day a week when you can pick them up from school. These little routines make an immense difference.
The beginning of those times can be quite painful, as your child may really not want to be left with you. Once again, if you get flustered and upset in that moment, then you are being a very unappealing parent which will make them want you even less. Soothe your kid by acknowledging the situation and being with them in their distress. Say something like, “I understand you really want Mom, but Mom’s going out. It’s sad.”
Don’t get upset with them for their natural desire to want to be with the person with whom they’re most likely more comfortable. Instead show them that you are okay with their upset and the situation by being emotionally validating and present. Your calm and acceptance of their state is deeply soothing and they will move through it within a matter of minutes.
If you feel like you are extra disconnected with your child, take a weekend to do something special and fun. Go camping or take a ski trip. Find any way to connect deeply with your child where you can both work out your awkwardnesses and find that love that is innately there.
4th Step: Moms, Give us a Chance!
We need help from the moms. Moms have an instinct to come and soothe their child in these moment, but that doesn’t give us a chance to find our way. Ask her to let you run the show for a bit and find your own power. If we communicate with our partners outside of the difficult moments what we are trying to do and how they can help us, that allows them to modulate their impulses and give us the space we need to build the connection with our kids. When moms resist that instinctual response to take care of the situation, it allows us to find empowerment, shows the kid they can trust us and gives the moms an often much needed break!
Use these Four Steps to find your joyful connection with your child:
• Master your feelings.
• Keep getting back in the ring.
• Schedule regular time.
• Moms, give us a chance.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I’d love to hear your ideas about how you handle these types of moments! Please join the conversation below, but let’s keep it friendly, because parenting is hard stuff.
I’ll see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. Thank you!