In-Laws for the holidays

Dear Is This Normal,

This is my first holiday with a baby and we’re planning to spend the week with my husband’s family at their house. I am incredibly stressed with the situation – they always seem to give me a hard time about being ‘overbearing’ or too fussy with the baby. I’m too rigid with sleep schedules, feedings etc. in their eyes and I’m feeling extremely anxious to be in their presence all week without being judged and called out for trying to parent my way. Any tips for how to handle? I really don’t want to create drama over the holidays and get into a fight with them, but I’m already gearing up for feeling ostracized.

Scrooge Daughter-in-Law

Dear Scrooge,

Ah, the holidays! A time for families to gather and spend time together, and bond with the newest member of the clan. What joy, what fun! Or … not. Listen, babies do weird things to people, and navigating the holidays with a new baby is difficult terrain, to say the least. The audacity of some people, to question a new mother or father on how they’re parenting their brand new baby, seems to reach EPIC levels during the holidays. Maybe because you’re seeing a lot of people you don’t normally see very often, but also because some people just don’t have the good graces or manners to mind their own damn business. I feel you, Scrooge, I really do. 

I get that you want to do what you can to keep the peace and not make a tough situation tougher. But it’s also important, MOST important, that you feel comfortable being the mom that you are, and are able to parent your new baby in the way that works best for your family. Do you want to piss people off? No, of course not. Do you want to compromise who you are as a parent, put your baby through undo stress, or be forced into situations that make you uncomfortable? No way, no how. 

This is going to require a united front between you and your husband, and it’s going to require setting some boundaries before you head to your in-laws’ home for the holidays. I’m sure they’re expecting a week of anything goes with their grandbaby, and while that plays well in theory, it’s just not the reality for an infant. Unless grandma and grandpa want a week of screaming ANGRY BABY, they should want structured naptimes & feedings, too! Communicate with your in-laws before the trip that while you respect their views and appreciate their advice and help (after all, they’ve done this before), neither you nor your husband will tolerate your parenting choices being judged because they don’t align with your in-laws’ expectations. Expect some hurt feelings (but don’t feel guilty over them). As you’ll soon discover MANY MANY TIMES on this parenting trip, someone else’s hurt feelings are not your responsibility when it comes to doing what’s best for YOUR baby. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that you be a complete hard-ass on the trip and try to rule them like a drill sergeant. As important as it is to set your own boundaries, it’s also important to give in a little, when and where you’re comfortable doing so. This is their grandbaby! You want to give them as many opportunities as possible to be doting and helpful grandparents (key word being HELPFUL). There are plenty of ways you can do that! Rather than you or your husband always being the one to hold or rock the baby, hand them off to your in-laws and give your arms a rest. When it’s time for a nap or bedtime, ask your MIL to help get the room ready. Make her part of the Team Sleep – let her know what baby’s optimal sleep sitch is, and put her in charge of preparing the environment. And if you notice little things they do that aren’t exactly what you’d do, but aren’t derailing your own parenting goals or style in anyway, be like Elsa and let that ish goooooooo. You can absolutely maintain your own boundaries and set your own expectations without being nitpicky about stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. 

Best of luck to you this holiday season, Scrooge! It isn’t easy to balance being a new parent with wanting to keep everyone happy, but remember, that isn’t your job. Your in-laws will get on board, or they’ll be missing out on some bonding time with you, their son, and their new grandbaby. Put the ball in their court before you get there, and keep doing what’s best for your family.

Bah Humbug,

Is This Normal

Nanny Guilt

Dear Is This Normal,

My husband and I both have demanding jobs. One might say mine is more demanding, with off-hours calls to other continents, international travel, and a higher intensity work environment. Yet, our nanny, whom we generally adore, assumes I will be the one to plan birthday parties, bow out of work to attend dance class, be the primary decision maker on all questions related to our daughters, take the girls to the doctor….you get it. 

Somehow my brain’s first response to these scenarios is guilt (of course) because, no, I can’t skip my five calls this morning to go to story time with them, and no, I don’t plan on throwing a Pinterest-inspired birthday bash for my toddler. I don’t have the time or energy! Is it normal that my nanny, who sees me running around like a madwoman to keep up with work and all the demands of parenting on a daily basis, treats me as if my job is an optional activity?

Signed, 

I Won’t Be Shamed for Being a Working Mom

Dear Working Mom,

UGH. Ok, I want to first say: GO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF. I know this working mom thing isn’t easy, not by a long shot, so the fact that you’re doing it and succeeding at it deserves an immense amount of credit. I am also very intimately acquainted with the working mom guilt you speak of, and it’s the worst. Working moms, whether they work by choice or necessity, are doing what they need to do for themselves and their families. And rather than shame us for it, it’d be SUPER great if people could be more supportive and just worry about their own selves, yes? Yes. 

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about this nanny situation! This is really really indicative of a broader, societal problem where people assume that women—because we are women—will just automatically take the reins when it comes to parenting, home life, and anything kid-related. And that is not the case in so many families, especially modern families with at least one working parent. We went in on those kids 50/50, so dammit, we’re splitting the work. 

I don’t think your nanny means any harm by it, but sadly, I would say it’s normal to assume that the mother will be the one to drop what she’s doing to tend to the kids, or plan the parties, or call out sick when their kid is sick. Perhaps your nanny has some deeply-held beliefs about motherhood and working moms, and has a hard time separating that from the work she does for your family. Or perhaps, she just assumes that (again) because you’re a mom, this stuff falls under your umbrella. All things considered, if this is the only issue you have with her, you may be inclined to let it slide. But that doesn’t mean you and your husband shouldn’t address it with her.

If you and your husband are on the same page as far as handling kid stuff as it comes up, then it’s time to have a sit down with your nanny and get her on the same page, too. Is it possible that she just doesn’t know that he can do a lot of the stuff she assumes you should do? Because he can! He can totally take the girls to dance (dance dads are awesome), and he can 100% take them to doctor’s appointments. 

It might be time to gently remind your nanny that your daughters have two capable, involved parents, and that rather than single you out for this kind of stuff, she should start alerting BOTH of you and letting you guys hash out the details. Some days, you will be the one around to go to story time. But their dad will be around on some days, too, and not only is it burdensome on you to put it all on your plate, it’s actually kind of a slight to dad that she doesn’t even consider him in these situations.

Finally, I want to just say: screw the working mom guilt. Screw it! Don’t feel guilty for working, for enjoying your work, or for putting a lot of yourself into your work. There’s nothing shameful about providing for your family, and there’s nothing shameful about enjoying your job. You’re juggling a demanding job while raising your kids and you should be incredibly proud of that. It’s not easy, not by a long shot, but if it’s worth it to you, then it’s exactly what you should be doing.

No Shame in Our Game,

Is This Normal

Why does your hair fall out after having a baby?

Dear Is This Normal,

Why does your hair fall out after having a baby? I’ve been noticing more hair coming out and my front hairline is receding. My child was born over a year ago, too. Any advice would help please. 

Signed, 

Losing It

Dear Losing It,

Ohhhhhh yes. The dreaded postpartum hair loss! It’s just another one of those delightful side effects of pregnancy and childbirth. And I realize there is no sarcasm font, but just so you know, I am using “delightful” VERY sarcastically. No one likes to lose their hair, especially all at once. Unfortunately, it is totally normal. But there are some things we can do to lessen the blow, so to speak.

Let’s talk a bit about why our hair falls out after we have a baby. See, one of the NICE things about pregnancy is that it gives thick, luxurious hair. We’re taking these amazing prenatal vitamins, for one thing. Plus the hormones our body is producing actually keeps our hair from falling out. The average person loses about 100 strands of hair a day, but not during pregnancy! That hair stays put, it’s all shiny and beautiful, and everyone is happy. 

But then … you have the baby. And those pregnancy hormones come to a screeching halt. You see where I’m going with this, yes? So you have your baby, your body starts getting back to normal, and all that hair you’ve been hanging onto has to go somewhere. It can definitely be alarming, because it doesn’t come out in wisps. For a lot of women that hair falls out in chunks, consistently, for weeks and months. Plus you’re tired and stressed and maybe your diet isn’t so great. All of these things can contribute to the problem. If you breastfed your baby and recently weaned or switched to formula, you may notice the cycle start all over again, albeit not as bad. Some women hang onto that extra pregnancy hair during breastfeeding and start to lose it when they stop.

While there’s nothing you can do to keep it from happening (SO SORRY), there are some things you can do to help. Eating well and taking your prenatal vitamin (even after you’re no longer … natal) can improve the health and strength of your hair. Don’t wash your hair too often. Use a good quality shampoo and conditioner. After washing your hair, use wide-tooth detangling combs to comb your hair out and try to avoid putting your hair up in tight rubber bands. Scrunchies are all the rage teens right now, and they’re much gentler on your hair! During the shedding phase, skip the chemical processes at the salon and try to minimize heat styling. 

If you’re still experiencing significant hair loss more than 12 months postpartum, make an appointment with your doc to see if there might be something else going on. Hair loss, when accompanied by other symptoms, can be a sign of other postpartum conditions like hypothyroidism or iron-deficiency anemia. A blood test can determine if there’s something amiss with your thyroid or iron levels, and the sooner you get that addressed, the better you’ll be in the long run! 

In the meantime, try to be as gentle as you can with your hair. And don’t stress over it too much. Stress can also cause hair loss, which is just so rude.

Thin-Haired Moms Unite,

Is This Normal

How do I let my child explore their gender expression?

Dear Is This Normal,

How do I let my child explore their gender expression? 

Signed, 

Supportive Parent

Dear Supportive,

You know that meme? The one with the horse rubbing their sweet face against the fence post that says, “I love this post”? I wish I could put that meme here, BECAUSE I LOVE THIS POST. I love that you asked, because it shows a willingness to learn and adapt (which is not easy as adults, let’s be honest). It shows that the times, they are a-changin’! It shows that this is a thing we as parents are thinking about now, instead of just going along with the status quo. It’s called growth, baby, and we really love to see it.

Let’s first define the difference between gender and assigned sex, because they are two very different things. When your child is born, they are assigned a biological sex based on their external gentalia. People are also born intersex (this is when they have biological characteristics that are considered male and others that are considered female) and may be assigned a sex through surgery if the external genitalia aren’t obviously male or female. 

Gender and gender identity, on the other hand, refer to a person’s sense of who they are, and can be developed through many factors like biological traits, societal construct, and environmental influences. Gender and biological sex are not mutually exclusive. They are independent of one another and don’t always align.

So let’s talk a bit about those societal influences. We all heard them growing up: boys wear blue, they play in the dirt, they’re rough and tumble, they don’t cry, they love trucks and pretending things are guns. Annnd girls wear pink, are dainty and fragile, play pretend mama with their dolls, and are ruled by emotion.

Everywhere you look, those stereotypes are drilled into us and our kids. In the kids’ clothing and toy sections of stores. In bookstores. On television and movies. Hell, we even see it in products aimed at adults, who should presumably know better! Two different kinds of razors for men and women. Pink tool kits filled with all the same tools that you’d find in a “men’s” tool kit. Nevermind the fact that the pink crap is usually more expensive too (different gripe, different post, AMA).

Our jobs as parents is to push back against those gender stereotypes by  letting our kids be kids while exploring who they are as humans. Gender identity generally develops in stages and by age four most kids have a good idea of which gender they identify with the most. But all kids need to be able to explore different gender roles freely and comfortably and with the support of their parents and loved ones. And that starts at home, with us. 

Now, how do you give your child the freedom to explore their gender expression? Honestly, by just letting them EXPLORE. As parents, we must resist the urge to confine them to mainstream gender roles. Let them play without your influence or interference. Introduce them to different non-conforming gender roles through books and television shows that show, for example, men as nurses or women as construction workers. Provide them with a wide range of toys to play with, and don’t limit them. Offer your sons baby dolls and your daughters dump trucks. 

When your kids are babies, move away from the traditional blue and pink clothes and opt for more gender neutral choices. When they get old enough to start participating in sports or activities, let them choose! Your daughters can play football and your sons can dance, if that’s what they want to do. If your child starts expressing a gender identity that’s different from the sex they were assigned at birth (through their clothing or hair styles or chosen name, for example), then just be supportive. That’s really what it all boils down to: support and love your kids. And be prepared to adopt a zero tolerance policy for bullying, disrespect, deliberate misgendering, and negativity aimed at your child from society, or family, or friends. Your kid needs to know you have their back, no exceptions. 

You got this, Supportive. Just asking the question and demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow in order to best support your kids is HUGE. Keep asking questions, too. So much of parenting is being able to constantly evolve as our kids grow and develop and their needs (and our methods) change. Best to you and yours, now and always.

Here’s to Kids Being Whoever They’re Meant to Be!

Is This Normal

My baby only wants to breastfeed

Dear Is This Normal,

I have tried feeding my 7.5 month old baby several things and she turns her nose up at it all. She won’t do formula, she won’t try rice cereal, she won’t eat fruits or veggies. So far she only wants to breastfeed. What can I do? 

Signed, 

No Solids

Dear No Solids,

As a mom to two girls who both loved the boob more than anything else on this big green earth, let me just say that I can understand this on a very deep level. One of my daughters took to solids right away, but the other one … let’s just say that if she could have continued breastfeeding through preschool and kindergarten, she would have. But, I’m happy to report that she isn’t a nursing 9-year-old, so there’s hope for your little girl yet! Just because your baby is not eating food right now doesn’t mean she won’t start when you try doing things a bit differently.

It sounds like you’ve tried the usual suspects, and she’s not a fan, clearly. It’s easy to confuse your baby’s food preferences as just a general disinterest in solid foods. It’s really, REALLY common for babies to refuse solids when you first introduce them. See, they’re not born with the skills required to conquer this new stage. Chewing and swallowing, even understanding the act of eating, these are learned skills! And every baby learns them at their own pace. 

While most experts recommend starting solids between the ages of 4-6 months, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to your baby’s feeding timeline. For many parents, it’s a long process with a lot of failures along the way. Since she’s refused purees and grain cereals, consider that it might not be the food itself, but the texture. Some babies prefer more variety in the textures of the foods they’re eating – so not just simple purees, but purees with some oomph! There’s a pretty wide range when it comes to textures, and if your little one is looking for something more substantial, try purees that are thicker (like mashed potatoes) or ones that contain whole bits of cooked food. Or take the guesswork out of it and go with a company like Little Spoon, who tailors menus to your baby’s age and developmental needs and has you covered with a menu that offers everything from simple purees to more adventurous ones that are the final step before table foods.

There are plenty of safe, whole foods she can also try! You want to stick to soft foods she can gum down and mash along with small pieces she can pick up with her fingers. Diced bananas, scrambled eggs, cooked fruit and veggies cut into bite-sized pieces, tofu, even boiled chicken or deboned fish. Just make sure the pieces are all soft and cut into small bites, and then let her go nuts! She’ll have control over what she tries, what she eats, what she picks up. This is key for so many babies who turn their noses up at spoon-feeding. 

The final thing to remember is that refusing a food once or twice doesn’t mean your baby doesn’t like it. In fact, experts agree that you can’t really determine if your baby likes a food or not until they’ve tried it about 15 times (and that means 15 separate occasions, not in the same sitting). 

Their palates are changing and developing, and you’d be surprised how one of the foods your little one quickly rejected turns out to be her favorite after the third or fourth go around. With the green light from your pediatrician, give baby-led weaning a try and see how she does! You may be able to skip right over the cereals and jars of purees if this works out. And she may find something she likes almost as much as your boobs.

Give Solids a Solid Try,

Is This Normal 

Need to put the co, back in co-parenting?

Dear Is This Normal,

My baby girl is sick. We haven’t slept in two nights, I can’t get my work done. I hate being a woman in this society it’s just not fair. It’s not fair for women to work the first year of a kids life. It’s a joke. Our country is a f***king joke. My husband goes to work all day with no guilt b/c he’s a man and nothing else is expected of him. Is it normal to feel this way?

“Co” Parenting

Dear "Co" Parenting,

First, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way mama: you are absolutely right.  

What you’re feeling is just so totally normal and valid. It’s NOT fair how normal it is. Motherhood is a glorious, wondrous thing. But it’s also incredibly (wait, let me stress them some more, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly) hard. Mentally, physically, emotionally—it’s heavy. And one of the reasons it’s so heavy on our shoulders is because we’re carrying most of the weight. 

Even though we also have jobs and lives and interests outside of motherhood, we’re somehow just supposed to magically balance everything flawlessly and without complaint. . . because as women, motherhood is OUR job, not our husbands’. Well, I don’t know about you, but I say: eff that! 

Sure, we might have a biological advantage in some areas of parenting. We do all the heavy lifting – pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum recovery, breastfeeding. In fact, research shows that our actual brain changes to make us more suitable for this role, and those changes manifest in how we multitask, our ability to empathize, and how we regulate emotions and hormones.  We are, quite literally, bearers of life. And with that distinguished title comes some massive effing responsibility. If you’re breastfeeding (even if we’re not) and your babe is sick and can’t go to daycare, who do you think will draw the proverbial short straw and have to call out of work to stay home? Moms. Why? Because we’re moms, and society has decided that only we can put out fires on the homestead. BUT, and here’s the real kicker: every single time a woman is called away from her role in the workforce to handle something related to her kids, she’s judged for it. Or dinged for it. Or outright punished for it. Moms are fired for rescheduling meetings when their child is sick, and demoted for taking their federally-protected pumping breaks at work. Astonishingly, two-thirds of breastfeeding discrimination lawsuits result in job loss … for the mom. Paid parental leave in this country is, at best, a joke (25% of new moms go back to work after 2 weeks because they literally can’t afford not to). The tide seems to be shifting, and many companies are increasing or extending benefits to their employees to make that transition a lot easier. But real policy change, real mindshifts, don’t happen overnight.

It’s absolutely a societal problem. But here’s the deal mama, fixing it starts in the home. While society may not expect more from him, you as his partner can and should. I’m a real big proponent of talking ish out, especially as it applies to creating an equitable and beneficial partnership at home. Maybe your circumstances are such that it can’t be 50/50, that’s fine! At the very least him understanding that the current set-up is not working for you is the first step in finding a scenario that works for you both. Splitting midnight baby duty down the middle, scheduling time for you to focus on your work, just stepping up in general at home to lighten your load – they’re baby steps, but with forward momentum. 

Women are still handling the bulk of childcare, but the tides are changing because moms like you are stepping up. You’re saying: I may be a superhero, but I am not superhuman. We are making ourselves vulnerable. We’re saying: we need help. Trust the process mama. Open up to your partner. We’ll get through this together. 



Putting the “Co” Back in Co-Parenting,

Is This Normal

Age & Dating

Dear Is This Normal,

In response to the “Dating as a Single Mom Post” , one problem I often encounter is that I, being in my 40s, can’t find any men in their 40-60s who will want to date a woman with a toddler. My daughter is 2, and I’m 44. Most people my age or a bit higher have kids in college etc. and don’t want to deal with someone who has a two-year-old. They’ve been there, done that. What do you suggest in this situation? 

Signed, 

Single Plus One

Dear Single Plus One,

Ooooooh, this is a bit of a sticky wicket, isn’t it?! Listen, toddlers are great. Toddlers are like very small, ornery adults with terrible hand-eye coordination who say whatever comes to mind. I love them to pieces, but they are an acquired taste, and you can’t really blame someone for not wanting to go down that particular road again, you know? But does that mean you’re destined for solitude until your kid starts kinder? Not necessarily.

I think it’s important to first establish your dating end goal. Are you dating for fun, or are you dating in the hopes of finding a long-term partner/potential spouse? Because your goals are really going to determine how you go about dating while your little girl is a toddler. And those goals can change! No wrong answers here, but it can definitely influence how to do this with a toddler. 

If you are dating STRICTLY for fun at this point, my advice to you is this: keep your love life and your mom life separate. Well, as separate as possible. But when I first started dating, I wasn’t comfortable sharing/involving my kids. So while I made mention of being a mom on my dating profiles, I set some pretty clear boundaries up front about how much/little I shared about that part of my life. 

I made it clear that my kids were off-limits and that part of my life was private. I wasn’t looking for a parenting partner (I should mention I did this across the board, not just with men who didn’t have their own kids). Because at that point, I wasn’t looking for one! I was looking to get out of the house in real clothes, meet other adults, have adult conversations, and just get my newly-single feet wet. I met some guys, had some fun. It worked the way I needed it to work, and if that’s what YOU need right now, there is no reason you can’t put some boundaries in place to make it work for you.

Now, let’s discuss the possibility that you’re hoping for more than just a few dinners or booty calls out of this dating game. You’re ready for someone to share your life with, and that means every part of it. A lot of us want the same. But as you said, having a toddler can be a tough sell, especially for people who are past that stage in their own lives. 

You mentioned that you’re 44, and it sounds like you’ve been fishing in the 40-60s pool. Have you considered casting a wider net and having a go with someone a bit younger than yourself? I’m not saying you should put up flyers on college bulletin boards looking for recent grads. But perhaps lowering your range to, say, 35-40? Date someone younger, you say?! Blasphemy! But hear me out. Men in their mid-late 30’s will probably have young children of their own, or could be more open to dating someone with a young child. They may not have the same “been there, done that” mentality as men your age or older. Not to generalize here, but in my experience, older men tend to be a bit more set in their ways and less likely to adapt to living and dating in the 21st century.

Finally, here’s a little advice I like to give my single mamas: you’ve got to broaden your horizons and get more creative about where and how you meet other eligible single people/parents. 

The dating apps are great, but if you want to meet someone who’s OK with you having a toddler (or even has one of their own), you’ve gotta go where the kids are. Play dates, toddler classes, local parent group meet-ups. If your little girl is in preschool and they have a parent association, join and go to meetings! Even if you don’t meet a ton of eligible single dads, you WILL meet lots of other moms… and moms have friends. And moms talk. And moms can set you up with their super cute and successful friend who loves kids and has a golden retriever–Just sayin’. 

Keep at it, Plus One. I know dating with a toddler is hard. Hell, doing ANYTHING with a toddler is hard. But if you adjust your game plan a bit, and commit to going outside of your comfort zone, it can really pay off. 



Sending you good dating (and toddler-parenting!) vibes,

Is This Normal

Is it normal to not feel a connection yet with the baby?

Dear Is This Normal,

Is it normal to not yet feel a connection yet with the baby?

Signed,

Not Bonding Yet

Dear Not Bonding,

Oh mama, this is so so so so very normal, I can’t even tell you. We have this very romanticized view of pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood that makes us believe it should all be beautiful and magical and transformative from the very beginning. But you know what? Pregnancy is hard! Lots of moms did not enjoy it (myself included). I mean, just look at childbirth. The most RIDICULOUSLY hard thing, like, pretty much ever? And don’t even get me started on postpartum recovery. 

If we’re being honest, the first weeks and months of motherhood are … sort of underwhelming? At least in terms of beauty and magic. In terms of level of difficulty, it’s off the freaking charts. You’re dealing with this immense upheaval in your life and now you have to keep this other strange little person alive as well? Plus, in the midst of all that, you’re expected to form this immediate and unbreakable bond with a stranger. Bonding happens differently in every family. In fact, studies show that approximately 20% of new parents don’t feel an immediate emotional attachment with their new baby. You are far from alone.

I think it might help to let go of that romanticized (and often unrealistic) version of bonding that you were expecting. It can take weeks or even months to begin to feel a connection to your baby, especially if you had a traumatic birth, a c-section, had trouble breastfeeding, or suffer from postpartum depression. Right now, when you’re in the newborn trenches, don’t get caught up in the fact that your heart doesn’t swell when your baby cries at 2 A.M.,  and don’t feel guilty over the frustration you feel when you have to feed them 20 minutes after you just finished feeding them (because breastfeeding a newborn is bananas). You ARE bonding with your baby. Just think of all of the little ways you tend to them, the ways you soothe them, and the gentle care you take when changing their diaper or giving them a sink bath. 

Those are moments of motherhood and those moments mean something. Every time you touch your baby, you’re bonding. Every feeding, every diaper change, every moment spent rocking her to sleep. Your bond is built, brick by brick, in all the ways you care for your baby.

So, give yourself grace, mama. Don’t rush into this. Give yourself time to heal and adjust to this new season of life.  Give yourself a chance to get to know your baby! It’s OK to not feel a super strong emotional attachment with them just yet. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them, and it doesn’t mean you’re not a good mom. It just means that this process, for you, is going to take some time. 

Hell, I have friends who didn’t feel truly bonded with their baby until the first time the baby smiled at them! And as we know, that can take months. It’s going to look different for everyone. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t put any more pressure on yourself. You two will get there, in your own time.

All in Good Time,

Is This Normal

My son has a clear favorite parent and it’s not me

Dear Is This Normal,

My son has a clear favorite parent—it’s not me. In some ways, it’s easier. In other ways, I’m jealous. I thought the Mom was always the favorite. 

Signed, 

Second Best

Dear Second Best,

I hope you’ll forgive me for giggling just a tiiiiiiiny bit when I read your post. Because oh my god, we’ve all been there! And then not there. And then there again! And it’s incredibly sweet but also? It’s annoying as hell, because mom SHOULD always be the favorite (I kid, I kid). This is completely normal, healthy even. And believe me when I say that this is not the last time you will fall out of favor with your boy. I sincerely hope dad isn’t gloating too much right now, because his time at the top will be short-lived. 

Listen, kids are fickle little people. They love something, then they hate it! Carrots are great, then god forbid you try to kill them with a carrot at snack time. Kids love baths! Until they don’t and they react as though you’re trying to turn them into people soup. Their tastes and preferences change all the time, so it makes sense that this fickleness will apply to interpersonal relationships too, right? 

Your son having a favorite parent is not a personal attack on you, and even though it can sting sometimes, you really shouldn’t take it as anymore more than your son’s preference at the moment. Not only that, but parental favoritism is actually a sign of cognitive and emotional growth! Developmentally, he’s exploring different bonds and relationships, asserting his independence a bit, and showing off some decision-making skills that will serve him well in the long run. 

Kids also start to realize at a pretty young age that each of their parents has different things to offer. For example, maybe mom is better at reading stories with the silly voices, or maybe dad makes bath time extra fun. Mom might give the good talks, while dad puts band-aids on just right. By singling out each parent when he needs something in particular, your son is developing special bonds around shared interests or preferences, and that’s a good thing! Right now, dad might be his favorite parent, but that will change. Our relationships with our kids, even from a young age, are constantly evolving. Having a favorite doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for the other parent. It just means that he’s bonding with one of you more than the other right now.

Plus, think of it this way: your son preferring dad during this stage just shows that he is confident and secure in your love for him, and he knows that he’ll always be welcomed back when he decides you’re his favorite in a month or two. This definitely won’t be the last time he switches sides between the two of you. Remember, there are still the tween and teen years to deal with! At least when they’re young, we can bribe them back to our team with ice cream and no bedtime.

Your Time at the Top Will Come,

Is This Normal

 

I wish I had a daughter, not a son

Dear Is This Normal,

I have a gorgeous two-year-old boy, and I wouldn’t change one thing about him. He’s funny, super smart, gentle, kind. But I always pictured myself having daughters.

I recently lost my mom and my relationship with her was everything to me. Sometimes, I feel acute pangs of loss when someone announces they’re having a girl. It makes me feel terribly ungrateful and horribly confused. I don’t even know why I want a daughter—people are so variable, there’s no guarantee she’ll be the person I hope she will. Still, I can’t seem to let it go. Sometimes I think about the little girl I could have in the future, and it distracts me from the present moment with my son. Is this normal? 

Signed,

Missing the Daughter I Don’t Have

Dear Missing,

You know what? Thank you. Thank you for writing in with this question/concern, because I promise you, you are FAR from alone. The feelings you’ve described are so totally normal, and I wish more people would be as open about it as you’ve been here. It’s OK to feel disappointed or sad that your first child was a boy—it doesn’t mean you love him any less or would love your future daughter more. It just means that you were hoping for one thing, got another, and you’re disappointed. Your emotions are valid, and you have nothing to feel bad or ashamed about. We should all be this open and honest about our parenting expectations and disappointments, tbh.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, mama. You are not terribly ungrateful. I’m sure you are having a blast with your little boy (I hear 2-4 years old is prime boy age). You love him and are dedicated to raising him to be the best version of himself that he can be! Honestly, can we ask for anything more from parents? I can totally see how the feelings you have would be confusing, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting a girl. Or wanting a boy! Yes, yes, we’re supposed to love them no matter what, and we do. But hello!, We can have a preference. We’re allowed to have hopes and dreams about our future kids. Wanting one doesn’t mean you DON’T want the other, you know? 

I do want to touch on your relationship with your mom. I am so sorry she’s gone, I know how incredibly hard it is to lose a parent. My dad died when I was pregnant with my oldest. We actually found out she was a girl the day he died. And you know what? A not-so-little part of me was sad she wasn’t a boy. Because I had just lost my dad and it felt like this was my chance to keep him going. I thought, somehow, that I personally failed when I found out I was having a baby girl. 

The grief we feel around parent loss is weird and manifests in so many surprising ways. It sounds like maybe you’re grieving not only the loss of your mom, but the loss of that mother-daughter bond you shared with her. It’s a huge loss, I know. What I want you to do is focus less on the mother-daughter aspect of your bond, and more on what bonded the two of you together. Because it wasn’t the fact that you’re both women. Mothers and daughters don’t automatically have the best relationships by virtue of their gender. 

Parent-child relationships, like any relationship, are born of love and commonality and respect, especially as we get older. And there is no reason, none at all, you can’t have that same kind of relationship with your son. Take the most amazing parts of your relationship with your mom, and begin to foster those in your relationship with your son. Was she your sounding board? Then you’ll be his. Was she your guiding light? It sounds like you’re already doing that for your boy. The one you went to for advice? Listen, NO ONE gives better advice to a son than his mama. No one. You can be all of that, and he will be the joy and purpose that you were to your own mother. I promise. 

Let yourself feel those feelings about the daughter you don’t have (yet). No shame, no guilt. Your emotions are valid, and you are 100% entitled to work through them as best you can. When you’re ready to grow your family, and if that addition happens to be a girl, don’t stress about how your feelings for your son will change (they won’t). Just be thrilled that your little boy is going to have a little sister, and know that (because of his relationship with you) he will be the best big brother ever. 

Just Love Them No Matter What,

Is This Normal