Mommy Dearest

April 29, 2008

My child hates me.

Okay, maybe she doesn’t hate me, but I am certainly not her Most Favorite Person Ever. That title goes to HBF, aka Daddy, who can do no wrong. (Last night, at bedtime: “I love Daddy” “Of course you do, sweetie. Do you love Mommy?” “Nope. I love Daddy. And medicine.” Don’t ask.)

Me, on the other hand – I’m persona non grata. On a good day, she tolerates my presence with a polite firmness that makes perfectly clear that she has boundaries and that I am to respect them (NO, Mommy, just me and Daddy gonna play outside. NOT YOU. THANK YOU.) On a bad day, she wants me as far away as possible, and tells me so in the fiercest of terms. (GO AWAY MOMMY. GO. A. WAAAAAY!) Sometimes, she pushes at me with her little fists and furrows her wee face into a scowl and issues her command that I retreat in a terrible little voice that is somehow at once deep-throated and high-pitched. More than once, she’s thwacked me with her Toadstool (aka Phallic Lovey), as punctuation to her commands. More than once, she’s thrown her entire little being into the effort of getting me away from her now. More than once, she’s growled and scowled and faced me like an enemy.




And, you know, even though I know that toddlers go through these phases, and even though I know that her behavior is probably even more understandable now that I’m in the late stages of a pregnancy that has taken me away from her – in spirit if not in body – far more often than has been tolerable for me, even though I know that of course she still loves me, even though I know all of this, it hurts, and the pain of it cuts deep. She scowls at me and tells me to go, go, go away don’t stay here go away I don’t want you here BECUZ and throws her wee body against my legs in an effort to just get me away and it’s like a million tiny knives cutting through my skin and into my bones and it takes every ounce of emotional energy that I have left to not burst into tears right in front of her.

Do you want to give Mommy a kiss?


Do you want to give Mommy a hug?


Can Mommy sit down next to you?


She’s not like this all of the time, of course. She’s been quite happy to go out for coffee with Mommy on occasion and go to the bakery with Mommy and go buy treats with Mommy (which, you getting the picture here? If Mommy shoves cookies or candy or mock lattes in her pockets, Wonderbaby is quite happy to have Mommy nearby. Otherwise, not so much). But these remain exceptions to the general rule, which is Mommy go away. And that breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart because now, more than ever, I want to just snuggle up with her and really revel in these last days of exclusive togetherness. I want her to be Mommy’s girl for just a little while, so that when her baby brother comes (she now pats my tummy and refers to him by name, loving him, it seems, a lot more enthusiastically than she loves me) all I’ll need to do is grab her hand and whisper Mommy’s girl and she’ll know that ours is a special love and that we’ll always, always have it, just between us. But she doesn’t want that right now. She wants her dad. And she wants Mommy – slow, belabored, distracted Mommy – out of her face.

And that hurts. It really, really, hurts.

I almost didn’t write about this – because, in part, I’ve been something of a cranky-assed downer of late, and am getting sick of my own bitching, but more so because I feared hearing anything, from anyone, that might suggest that this is not normal, that I must be doing something wrong, something to make her justifiably angry with me, something to make her want to keep her distance. Something beyond just being pregnant and distracted (which, if it is the pregnancy? Is bad enough, because whither our mother-daughter relationship when the baby comes, and I’m even more distracted?) Something wrong with me, something bad about me, her bad mother. And I just didn’t think that I was up for hearing that, even as the gentlest suggestion.

But if it is me, I need to hear it, because I need to change it. And if it’s not me – if lots of children go through this – then I need to hear that even more. Because I need some peace.

Mommy fought the Law but the Law won.

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    Kate April 30, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Oh boy, Im right there with you. My boy arrived 3 months ago, only now is my jboo (2) liking me again, suddenly she is referring to me as “My mummy” but she talks of her brother as “My Q”. My pregnancy was as hard as yours has been and I was overjoyed when I finally went into labour. I had to always remind myself that they only push away the people who they trust and who’s love they know is unconditional. Take heart, its not you at all.
    Big hugs

    the other elle April 30, 2008 at 1:20 am

    Yep. They all do it at one time or another.

    NOW I know that when my darling daughter pulled this at age 2.5 upon the imminent arrival of her baby brother, it was really only a trial run. She’s just about to become a teenager…and suddenly I am the most annoying creature on the planet again. She’s screaming, slamming the door of her bedroom, and hollering “JUST GO AWAY!!!”

    Only this time, there’s no cute and tiny baby as a consolation prize.

    I hope.

    My mother just snickers and says that it’s called “The Great Circle of Life or What Goes Around Comes Around”…Personally, I think she is delighted to see those threats of “I hope you have children JUST LIKE YOU when you grow up!” come true.

    It’s okay, HBM. We’re here for ya.

    kittenpie April 30, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Even my Pumpkinpie, sweetie that she normally is, went through a LOOONG stage of saying to me, “I don’t love you mommy, I only love daddy.” I know you are not supposed to really let them see that this gets to you because then you are handing them a stick to beat you with, so the first few times, I walked out of the room to go tear up elsewhere. Then I grew a thicker skin and noticed that thre were other times when she was okay with me, so I now I just reply, “That’s okay, honey, you’ll love me tomorrow.” And usually, she agrees. It still surfaces on occasion, but it really lasted a good few months back around 2.5 or 3, if I remember correctly. She’ll move on some day, after she’s tried it out for a while and it’s lost its power.

    But in the meantime? WE love you.

    Not-So-Super-Nanny April 30, 2008 at 1:57 am

    The Beast did this to me today, while I was attempting to wrestle him into his carseat after kinder gym.
    ‘I don’t like you’
    ‘I don’t like you SopHEEE’
    and my big comeback?
    ‘well I don’t like you either…’
    But it still does tear you up inside just a little, untill they love you again cause you take them skateboarding…

    Beck April 30, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Nature is kind of a jerk sometimes. I HAVE found that my current baby grew increasingly more pissy with me as each of my pregnancies wore on (and I think our kids are spaced the same distance apart), which I think is nature’s rather mean way of helping current baby deal with the upcoming baby storm.

    And in the meanwhile: BRIBERY WORKS. A few M&Ms while whispering “You are my FAVORITE girl” can go miles towards softening grouchy toddler hearts… and it’s never remiss for daddy to step in with a stern “Do NOT talk to my wife like that”, either. This is the age when lil’ ones figure out the boundaries of decent behaviour and what they can and can’t get away with.

    Tracey April 30, 2008 at 8:27 am

    NORMAL. So, so normal. Doesn’t make it easier to hear from your toddler, but take heart in it’s nothing personal against you.

    Her Bad Mother April 30, 2008 at 9:48 am

    God, this all makes me feel so much better. Not about the feelings provoked by my-child-the-hater, but about the fact that I’m not alone in it.

    I asked whether it was me, because there was a fear that this behaviour was unusual, that this was just *her*, and that maybe I’d caused it. Knowing that so many of you have gone through the same thing calms my heart immeasurably.


    Vicki April 30, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I have just found your blog about a week ago and I want you to know I am trying to get pregnant with my 3rd, I have one set of twin boys so this is only my second pregnancy, and I am so dreading hearing those words too. I know every kid goes through this phase but I’ll tell you I made my mom cry one time when I was little and I’m still scarred by it. I felt like such a terrible person and I still find myself apologizing to her for it when it gets brought up. Funny how life works out, isn’t it? I absolutely love your blog. You are so honest. Your post about fear made me absolutely bawl my eyes out and I was at my desk at work having lunch. You rock girl!!

    Mitzi Green April 30, 2008 at 10:33 am

    this is the one occasion on which the whole “it’s not you, it’s me” rejection rationale is actually the truth. it’s not you–it’s her. separating herself from you, demanding her space, creating her own person. it’s 100% normal. which doesn’t make it suck any less, but it’s still The Way It’s Supposed to Be.

    sweetney April 30, 2008 at 10:34 am

    dude. seriously.

    she doesn’t hate you. she loves you. maybe she feels a little uncertain about the new baby, maybe she’s just going through a cranky phase, maybe she’s just going through a daddy phase (M’s been there and back a number of times). but it isn’t YOU, i can promise you that. it’s her processing changes in the only way she knows how.

    hang in there. and needless to say, you rule. xoxo

    HerImperialMajesty April 30, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    We know who we can push, and how far and indeed where to push them from a young age, we funny human types. just hold on tight and know that underneath, she’s still your wonderbaby

    Jenifer April 30, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    This one somehow bypassed me, but I have several close friends with toddlers just like yours and they do grow out it. I have witnessed it with my own eyes!

    Sometimes it goes the other way too and you have a Dad who is shut out for a while…it all goes around it seems.

    Keep trying and she will come around again. Lattes don’t hurt either.

    Alissa April 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I can relate, for the first second 1.5 years of my son’s life (right after I stopped nursing) it has been all about my husband. “I’m Daddy’s Boy” “I want Daddy to put me in the seat” Daddy has to do everything. I think as a mother you are needed on such a deep level that it’s easier to be mean to you. At least with my husband, he is always at work or doing work at the house and maybe my son has a greater need for his attention because he feels like it’s harder for him to get. I tried the bribery route too but ended up feeling bad about that. And then about 2 months ago I embraced it, of course you want Daddy. And then it changed. Now I have to do this and that. Not sure that helps but you are completely normal at least.

    Her Bad Mother April 30, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Jenifer – the lattes are for me. I order her milk, and tell her it’s a latte, just like mommy’s, and then pray that she doesn’t ask to check under the lids.

    Which is maybe why she hates me. She knows that I’ve been swapping out her lattes.

    Phoenix April 30, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    64 comments full of love, well hopefully. I thought you might need one more.

    My niece is, well from everything you’ve said in the past few years, exactly like WB. Although, now that’s she’s six and in kindergarten, she’s mellowed a bit with age. Still, she isn’t really a mama’s girl most days. There are moments where she is and she’s gotten more tolerant of her mom, when she’s not in a mommy mood, but she’s a Daddy’s girl through and through. Truth is, that’s a great thing too. For her Daddy at least.

    It’s not just you and it’s not just WB. She just seems to adore HBF. All you can do is be you and be her mother. She’s still so tiny and ruled by the emotion she feels in that exact second. But she won’t be two forever. Your special relationship with her will find it’s way eventually. I’m sure you will, just as sure as I am that you’ll find that parenting a second baby, won’t really change your love for her. That teeny boy will just add too it and maybe even make everything with WB easier. Who knows for sure, but most second kids change a family in wonderful ways that you didn’t think possible.

    One thing though, keep hugging her anyway. She needs it and wants it, whether she knows it or not. Hugs to you HBM.

    crazymumma April 30, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    She cuts like a knife don’t she? But she loves you HBM. And you have made her feel extremely safe and confident that she can show you her will in such a way.
    And my guess is you will not be able to peel her away from you after baby comes.

    Becca April 30, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    My God, I’m scared about this part. Right now, my daughter is 8 months old, and I’m her universe. I’m so scared for the day when she pulls away from me and says those things, and I know they are coming. I know they are. I once told my dad I hated his guts (you know how mature 8 year olds are) and he said “Good, at least you don’t hate me, just my guts”. Looking back, I can see his heart breaking. Will I be able to handle it with such grace as my parents did? I’m not sure. It hurts my heart to even think about it.

    Karen April 30, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Yep, all normal…may I make a humble suggestion? You are doing nothing wrong, this is just a strategy suggestion on how to get through this time – in defense of your heart – avoid asking the pointed questions for a little while – it hurts your heart, goes a little ways towards teaching her that you think there may be some doubt. (try to) Rest confidently in her love, so that she will not see you sweat this (sorry, all toddlers love power), but rather experience her rubber-banding away from you as just one of many possible directions to take in life, always to return back to the safety of your love.
    You are giving her a gift in letting her have the power to choose you (and she will every time you sit down to feed her brother) so she knows what it is like to have relationships by choice. Also, she’ll reject HBF later, but that’s good schooling for when she needs to break up with a boyfriend! They usually break up with mommy first to figure out that they really do just belong to themselves first, then to us. That hurts, but I think you knew that about WB all along.

    Trillian April 30, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I recall my Mother telling stories about how I did the same types of things when my brother’s arrival was imminent. I think it’s perfectly normal. The Dads get off scott free, because hey they aren’t pregnant, it must be Mom’s fault this interloper is arriving. She’ll get over it eventually.

    the mama bird diaries April 30, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Oh those bugger toddlers! Totally have been there. It’s not you. It’s HER. HER. HER. And she will come around. I’m sorry she’s bumming you out. I always take it so personally too.

    Christina April 30, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    It’s not you at all. You’re doing nothing wrong, I promise.

    She’s at that stage where she wants to push boundaries, try out some independence, and see if she can throw her weight around and make things happen.

    You are the one she is closest with. You are the one she’s bonded with the most, and as a result, you’re the first one she wants to try pushing back against, because she knows she still has your love if she wants it.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but telling you to go away is telling you that she trusts you the most with her emotions. Toddlers love trying out their voice (and it sounds like she’s going to be a woman with a strong voice!), and they’re going to try it out in a “safe place” before trying it out with someone who might not react as well.

    It hurts, and it sucks. But try to look past the hurt and take it as a compliment. She trusts you, she loves you, and she feels safe with you. (And I promise they grow out of it – Cordy went through that phase, too.)

    Nic April 30, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Well, I’m not a mother and I’m too lazy to read through all of the other comments, but it sounds to me like she is just pressing her boundaries. The only reason she’s able to do it is because she actually feels secure and loved.

    But if she keeps it up, you can always put her on ebay.

    Her Bad Mother April 30, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Karen, your strategery suggestion is actually really, really helpful – I have been acting a bit like a needy girlfriend, which probably just stokes the fires of whatever little pot of bizzatchness she’s brewing.

    Maman April 30, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Oh fuck it! No one likes me at my house because someone has to enforce the rules and it sure as hell won’t be Fun Daddy..

    I am swell when I give gifts or hold their hair out of the toilet while they vomit… the rest of the time I am despised. And I think that is normal. For toddlers and teens

    Jennifer April 30, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I never, ever comment here, but I have to tell you that my son is doing the exact same thing. He is almost two and a half, so he is close to WB’s age. It is only really bad when Daddy is home for me to be compared to. I am not pregnant, so it’s not just the pregnant thing, and it’s probably not you. My son’s thing is to tell me to go into whatever room he is leaving. “Mommy go in kitchen, I go in living room.” “Now I go in kitchen, Mommy go in living room.” If I try to follow him, he will push me back into the appropriate room (or try to), or stomp his feet and cry. Everyone I have talked to says it is normal, but it’s hard when they tell you how much they love the other parent. I don’t know how much your husband is home, but I think my son gets bored with me because I am around all day, while Daddy is gone at work, so Daddy is just more exciting than boring old Mommy.

    loriedunn April 30, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    My 18mo is still in the clinging “mommy do it!” phase, but I have six neices and they ALL did this. I’m also pretty sure I hated my mother in varying degrees till my late 20′s. Now at 37 she is truly my best friend. Hopefully you won’t have to wait that long!

    I’ll send you a mental hug when my little diva is telling her dad “no – mommy bath” “mommy juice” “mommy diaper” “mommmy – mommy – mommy!” Oh, I sorta long for the day when I get to sit on the couch watching TV while he runs around all night looking after her…but… maybe not…

    Kyla April 30, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Even KayTar does it sometimes. Totally normal, Cath. Totally.

    Kristin DeLoach, Graco April 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Okay, maybe it’s because I too am in the late stages of my pregnancy and a bit emotional these days but your post has brought a tear to my eye. My daughter has given me the occasional “cold shoulder” (usually when I’ve been gone a few days on business) which is devastating even for a short period of time so I really feel for you. I hope it’s just a phase that she’ll grow out of soon – and one not to be revisited until the teen years!

    ScientistMother April 30, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I hate to be the only one to say this, but it sorta is your fault. What were thinking would happen when all you do is encourage WB to be a strong, independent, creative thinker / person? Sorry was that too tongue in cheek? I agree with the other comments, its only because she is secure with you that she doesn’t cling to you. She knows you love her, therefore she can be that way. Have you tried giving in to her? leave the room, don’t give her a kiss or a hug? I know it sounds horrible to pull away, but it may enable her learn that words can be hurtful – she’s a pretty preceptive girl especially for her age, so it just might be a good lesson. If it makes you feel better, the monkey is only 16 months, but he is already refusing to give me kisses, happily says buh bye when I drop him off at daycare and now does NOT come running when I pick him up. He only wants me when he is sick or hurts himself or at 2:30 in the morning.

    Aprylsantics April 30, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Hi. A delurker speaking up. Mine went through this, too, and I was beside myself. Honestly, though, she’s still a Daddy’s girl. It’s tough to be seen as the “fun one” when you’re running the business part of raising your children–mostly due to exhaustion!

    Miscellaneous-Mum April 30, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    I blogged about this last week or so. Wait until she comandeers the loyalty of bubs away from you too, once he’s old enough. Both of mine now stand against me sometimes, clutching hands and acting strong in sibling defiance.

    ‘Tis quite draining. :(

    mo-wo May 1, 2008 at 12:33 am

    It’s a spring thing. They are all psychopaths for a bit it seems.

    Christ you have a lot of flagellation going on. I wish it was other sweetheart.

    Especially Tanner. Oh dear ones. What kind of reality can be had around that.

    mo-wo May 1, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Hey I just had an idea. You should start watching the SuperNanny show 3x a day. That will give anyone a new lease on not sucking, any day.

    OvaGirl May 1, 2008 at 2:19 am

    God this post made me cry. Mine bit me, hard, when I was carrying him and he wanted his daddy instead. Hang in there.

    Bri May 1, 2008 at 3:34 am

    I was a total daddy’s girl and I can’t remember having any real connection with my mother until I was a teenager. This may not be much of a comfort (don’t panic and think that she’ll continue this way until puberty!) but I thought it was important to say what I’m sure everyone else is saying. It’s totally normal. Heartbreaking, but normal.


    Rayne of Terror May 1, 2008 at 8:06 am

    I call it the chopped liver stage and for us it last, oh, about 18 months. From 18 months to 3 years old. Now it is tapering off and I get more snuggles and I love yous than Go Aways.

    Her Bad Mother May 1, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Mo-Wo – watching Supernanny terrorizes me. Yes, in theory, it should make me feel better, but really, it only makes me feel better in the same way that Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes me feel better that I don’t live in Texas with a chainsaw-wielding neighbor.

    Omaha Mama May 1, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    My sister stayed home with her kids and they all preferred her husband. He was the hero, she was the bi-otch. It just goes that way sometimes. Just keep offering the love, she’ll take it when she needs it. I think it’s just important that she knows it’s there. That it’s unconditional. She wouldn’t treat you that way if she didn’t know.
    It will get worse before it gets better. She’ll be pissed when you bring baby boy home. My girl was almost three when we brought home her brother. Now he’s two and they’re happy and we’re a family. It all works out.

    But when I brought him home and she punished me, I cried. I told my Hubs that we had ruined it. That she didn’t love me any more. But she did.

    This too shall pass.

    Commander Mommy May 2, 2008 at 8:52 am

    There is a reason that my Trooper was referred to as “Darth Toddler” for about two years of his life! It is discouraging when they go through the “I only love Daddy because he doesn’t tell me ‘no’ nearly as often as Mommy” stage but they do grow out of it. I promise.

    Anonymous May 2, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    So, two things to think about…
    as soon as you have your new little one- she will want your attention back…. it’s temporary and inconvenient.
    Maybe more useful, little ones her age want to feel like they have some control, even about when they get attention/affection, so try giving her space (even though it’s hard knowing baby is around the corner) but she may just want to hug you and kiss you when she feels like it not when you do.
    My little one (3) will not tolerate being hugged and kissed unless it’s his idea, being all grown up and not babyish anymore, but still wants to snuggle between star wars battles and important construction work.

    gwendomama May 3, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    This is nature. This is the continuum concept.
    This has happened with my daughter each time I have given birth to her baby brothers.
    IT broke my heart. But when the baby was born, I saw the necessity of it and the magic in the ability of a toddler to self-protect.
    If she breaks away from you through her autonomous instincts, then it won’t be all about YOU pushing her away when OMFG she has to share you.


    Kerry May 6, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    I just went through the same exact thing with my 3 y/o daughter. I had my baby son last Friday. For the last couple of weeks and even to this very minute, my daughter is “daddy’s girl”. She left me in tears at the hospital when she was leaving I said “I miss you”, and there was silence. “I said “do you miss Mommy?”, she said “no”. And the entire time she wouldn’t even come near me, let alone look at me. She’s made me cry more times in the last month than I’ve cried in 5 years.
    You are doing nothing wrong. This is the way it is for now. For now. Then one day she’s going to relate more to you and copy everything YOU do.
    xoxo Good luck!

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