I Feel Like a Horrible Mother and I Don’t Know How to Change

Modern Parent


My 2-year-old has always been a “daddy’s girl,” which I’ve never minded because kids are kids, aren’t they? There have been weeks here and there where she’s referred me, but the older she has got, the more she has been very clear it’s Daddy she wants.

We’re in the UK, and the first lockdown in March nursery shut. My husband was furloughed, and I carried on working. They had 3 months where it was just her and Daddy all day and all the little things I did for her, Daddy started doing, and their relationship really blossomed. It was lovely to see. I was stressed all the time as my work was hectic and my husband was amazing, but gradually he took over, I guess, most of the parenting tasks.

Since then, there’s no confusion; she absolutely prefers Daddy. It’s “Daddy sit down” when she wants him to play with her, it’s “Daddy come” when she wants anything, “Daddy book,” etc. I guess I started taking a back seat because I was so scared of being rejected by her. I thought as long as I’m always there and always ready to play with her, cuddle her if she wants me to, then she’ll know I love her.

It became easier to give my husband the tasks of things that she doesn’t like — teeth cleaning, for example. She screams blue murder if I clean her teeth, but if Daddy does it 90% of the time, she’ll just sit still and let him to it.

When I dress her in the morning, she’ll scream, shout and kick. When Daddy comes in to help, she’ll giggle and let him.

I have become a background. I make the bottle, get the tooth stuff ready, run the bath, fetch her pajamas, pick out her clothes, prepare her food, wrap her presents, and decorate the house for her birthday, but I don’t actually participate. Sometimes if we go to the park, I have to actually say to my husband, “can I have a go?” when he’s pushing her on the swing.

This is 100% my problem. It is not my daughter's fault, and it is not my husband's problem because other than being a great dad, he has done nothing wrong. And yet, the more this situation goes on, the more I remove myself. I am ashamed, guilty, and depressed.

I want a better relationship with my daughter, but I don’t want to force myself on her and make her recoil from me even more. I love her, I have done nothing but try to be a good mother, but I feel like such a failure. This morning she wouldn’t kiss me goodbye when she went to the nursery. I sometimes feel like they would be happier if I weren’t here at all.

I feel so ashamed. I question whether I’m just selfish and lazy, and that’s why I don’t have a relationship with her that I want. I often question whether my own mother's suicide when I was a child has contributed to this. Maybe part of me is terrified of dying and leaving her without a mother, so I purposefully distance myself in case I do die, and then she won’t have to feel the pain I felt. But maybe that’s an excuse. I don’t know.

All I know was I needed to get that all out somewhere because I don’t think I’m able to tell anyone in real life.

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