I don’t think there’s enough support for fathers and stay at home dads. Men also don’t share their issues and feelings as readily as women for some reason. As a result, I’d like to change this by sharing more fatherhood stories and raising awareness about what many fathers go through in silence. This post is about a son who doesn’t love me, but a daughter who hopefully will. My daughter is over 1 now and I feel blessed to have her.
After publishing my post, Nature Will Dictate When Is The Best Time To Go Back To Work, a reader named Mike reached out to empathize with my situation. In the post, I had written about constantly being rebuffed by my then 27-month-old son, despite only wanting to love and play with him.
As a father to a three-year-old son, Mike told me he hasn’t been able to connect equally with his son as his wife has. When his son was born, he decided to quit his job indefinitely to take care of him. He was burned out from work after 10 years and thought now was as good a time as ever to take a break.
At about the 16-month-old mark, however, he noticed a change in his son’s behavior. No longer did his son latch on to him. His son started developing a stronger preference for his mother, despite she having stopped nursing at the 12-month mark.
As the months went on, his son’s ambivalence towards his father grew. At first, his son would want to play with him for two hours before calling for mommy. Then that time period shrank to one hour, then to 30 minutes, and now only to 5-10 minutes.
It didn’t matter if he greeted his son with a big smile and a bowl of his favorite yummy foods. He couldn’t capture his son’s loving attention for longer than 15 minutes. At least 60% of the time, his son would also end up crying while with him to the point where he’d have to go away to prevent a full-blown, head-banging meltdown.
This, in turn, put a strain on his marriage. He started getting jealous of his wife for receiving so much of their son’s love. They were also constantly exhausted and never had any alone time.
Mike felt like a tremendous failure because not only did he feel like an ineffective father, he was no longer providing financially for his family.
After 18 months of being a stay at home dad, Mike gave up and decided to go back to work. He didn’t want to get rejected everyday anymore. He would much rather face the stresses of work.
A Son Who Doesn’t Love His Father
Mike then told me something powerful, “I have a son who doesn’t love me, but a daughter who hopefully will. My wife is seven months pregnant and I’m praying things will be better the second time around.“
In this moment, I realized, I too, longed for a second child. I wanted to try again, this time, as a wiser father who has learned from his mistakes.
I congratulated Mike on #2. But I could sense his trepidation that his daughter may develop in the exact same way as his son.
It’s safe to say that a toddler doesn’t know what love is. Their minds are racing at 100 miles per hour, trying to comprehend emotions and all that’s happening in the world.
But when you are a father who gets constantly rebuffed over and over again, eventually you might feel that your child does not love you. You cannot help the way you feel. You just do.
As someone who put his career on pause for 18 months to spend every day taking care of his son, Mike wonders whether it was all worth it. After all, kids don’t remember much before the age of three.
Undaunted, Mike hopes that he should at least get a precious 18 months of bonding with his daughter before she, too, no longer wants to spend time with daddy.
What’s dangerous about how nature can create this lack of bonding dynamic with the father is that the father may want to spend less time with his children while young. If a child was always sweet and wanted to spend time with his/her father, surely fewer fathers would abandon their families.
Take a look at this chart by KidsCount.org highlighting the percentage of children under age 18 who live with a single parent either in a family or subfamily. It does not discriminate between single moms or single dads.
Roughly 34 percent of all children in America live in a single parent household. The data somewhat makes sense since the national divorce percentage is somewhere around 40 – 50 percent.
Below is research by the Pew Research Center which shows that roughly 21 percent of children under 18 live with a solo mother, up from 12 percent in 1968
Below is a further break down of the percentage of children who live with a solo mom by race. Anothet Pew Research Center analysis found that 30% of solo mothers and their families are living in poverty compared with 17% of solo father families and 16% of families headed by a cohabiting couple. In comparison, 8% of married couple families are living below the poverty line.
I never understood how a father could abandon his wife and little one. It made no sense to me why couples would divorce before their kids even entered kindergarten. But I absolutely understand why now!
Kids are exhausting. They create a wedge between parents. Resentment grows when there is perceived or a real imbalance in workloads. And it certainly doesn’t help when a hard-working, loving father, can’t receive the same amount of love back from his children.
It is only natural to want to spend time with people who want to spend time with you. If a child, for years, rebuffs his father’s love, maybe the father might become more distant. Maybe the father might even leave.
By the time the child comes around to realize how great it is to have a father, it may be too late.
Men Are Trying To Be Good Fathers
Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of men who feel the tremendous pressure of being main breadwinners, great husbands, and terrific fathers. It’s just not talked about enough.
A dad guilt epidemic is spreading because most fathers are not stay at home dads. As a result, they are constantly struggling with the guilt of working too much and not spending enough time with their children.
There must be some truth to the sayings, “mama’s boy” and “daddy’s girl.” My hope is that Mike’s son and my son will one day realize that having a doting father is awesome.
But until then, we’ll keep our heads down and focus on being the best fathers possible. I’ve slowly seen my son show more affection as he gets closer to three. I’m hopeful his affection will only continue to grow before he wants nothing to do with me as a teenager.
For fathers out there who feel like they aren’t connecting with their young children or making a difference in their children’s lives, here are some bullet points to consider.
When You Feel You’re Not Being A Good Father
- The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” No matter how ineffective you feel as a father, your presence, guidance, and love makes all the difference during the early years.
- It is natural for your child to bond more with mommy in the first three years given the biological connection. A child will gravitate towards the parent who spends the most time, provides the most love, and provides the most food.
- Sooner or later, if you are a good parent, your child should come around to appreciate your presence. You must hold on long enough until he or she does. Don’t give up. Give your child at least seven years to come around.
- While waiting for your child’s affection, keep busy by being a provider in other ways. You can always improve your household’s finances and provide for a better living environment. The separation of tasks is important.
- Ask mommy to encourage your little one to spend more time with you. Not only will she welcome the relief, it may encourage your child to open up more. You’ll also feel better that mommy is trying to balance the love scale.
- Don’t look back and regret not having tried your best. Even if your son or daughter turns out to never show the affection you want, at least you’ll know there was nothing more you could do. The same goes for having a child who doesn’t do well in life. The only way you can avoid letting guilt eat you up is by trying your best at parenthood. If your best isn’t good enough, then so be it.
Fathers, do you have a son who latched onto his mother and rebuffed you no matter how hard you tried to connect? If you have a daughter or also have a daughter, did you notice a better relationship with her? Is there a scientific reason why a son mostly just wants to be with his mother after the nursing period is over?
Update 4Q2020: My son is 3 years and 5 months old now and he’s still hot and cold. Sometimes he’s extremely loving, other times he wants to do his own thing. Now that I have a daughter, I’m putting a lot of hope in her that she will be loving.
Related: Career Or Family? You Only Need To Sacrifice For 2 – 5 Years At Most
It’s nice to hear that men (thank you Mike) in this generation (born around the 80’s) are aware of their feelings and more importantly desire to share and learn from other men in their community (whether online or local).
I have 4 kiddos age ranging from 1 – 11 and each kid is completely different from the other and their relationship with me or my wife is also unique. I had/have so much to learn and recently I gathered a nugget while spending time with a few older men who I allow to speak into my life.
They often reminisce; stories past of life with kids at home, too much work not enough time to give to each one and the very normal complication of married life coupled with their own expectations, yet again cast aside for someone else’s “emergency”. Recently tho, one of those kind gentlemen described how love is so very different to us all and kids are no exception. They way we offer love correlates how we receive love and thus how we receive love is multi factorial, whether family roots from (how your parents received or gave love, their parents, ect) or life circumstances (trauma, negative life events) or just our DNA.
And so, what I gathered was this: love is subjective to the giver and receiver and identifying the way our kids give and receive love is important on a level equal to discipline or emotional support. So, the quest to find how they love they most effectively receive love is a crucial part of the parenting journey.
I have 3 kids under 7 and they def gravitate towards their mother, but that is nature bc mothers are nurturers. As my oldest learns more, he gravitates toward me. We play sports and do things his mother won’t or doesn’t like……men def lose their priority with the woman though as kids come, instead of being the main focus he is now 3rd or 4th in the depth chart. Men leave bc they feel unloved, unvalued, and as a money tree. Limited sex and burning cash will make any man go crazy. Not to mention working for some lunatic boss to earn a check that is swallowed hole by the dependents. Having kids in America no longer makes sense to me, they are amazing but the cost of raising them plus the power women have w the courts make having kids and marriage a losing proposition.
Now that I have two boys now(3 y/o and 6 month old) I try to be a great dad by feeding, playing talking and just being there for them. I expect when they older especially when they get to high school to detached from me and my wife for a bit just because they are teenagers but also have them be aware that we are always going to be there for them.
Currently, our 3 y/o is probably attached to both my wife and I about equally(maybe 60/40 in favor of my wife) but he loves being around us. When we discipline him, he simply forgets about it almost instantly and wants to hang with us but I’m sure that will change when gets to grade school and will resent the parent that discipline him.
I’m pretty sure you’re a great dad so far to your son Sam and doing the best you can. I mean you write posts about your son’s development and his preschool so it shows you really care for him. Just keep doing that and I’m sure you’ll be just fine.
Financial Samurai says
Hi Kris! Congrats on number 2! :)
Hope you and mom are getting some sleep. If you have some tips on the best way to raise two kids, I’m all ears.
Menard Solve says
I’ve been reading your blog for many years, but I believe it’s my first time to comment. I just can’t resist because this post resonates well with me. I have a grown-up son who I love dearly, but hasn’t talked to me in four years; it’s really sad. His mom and I divorced many years ago, but he spent most of his teen and collegiate years with us. My wife and I sent him to college debt-free— we paid 100% of the tuition. Shortly after graduation, he took a job in the city where my ex lives and never heard from him ever since. Last time I heard of him, he was doing very well. I’m very happy for him, but we somewhat feel betrayed. I try not to look back because I honestly tried my best to become a good father to him.
Financial Samurai says
Sorry to hear. What about sending him an email or calling and ask if you can take him out to dinner or something and catch up? Or does he just not respond?
Surely a son would love to have a relationship with his father…. no?
Our son used to prefer me, his mom until he was 6 years old or so. My husband is an amazing dad and it was hard to see how our kid would sometimes rejected. When I was away on business trip things were different. They got along great and enjoyed their time together. Now that our son is older he likes spending time with the dad more: they go fishing, run errands, work in the yard and etc. It’s so nice to see them finally bonding. It’s possible that in the few years the attachment will shift and I’ll be seeking attention I’ve been enjoying for years. :)
Financial Samurai says
Great to hear! I’m hopeful the same shift will happen with my son. But I also don’t want my wife to feel the rejection that I felt at times since she’s invested everything in our boy.
It is great you see joy in their relationship!
When my wife gave birth to our twin boys I was constantly on the road and I was home only three nights in a week. After one year I started my own business and ever since I have been at home every night. I did notice our sons were closer to my wife at the time when I was constantly absent but that is normal. After I stayed at home more, one of our sons started being really close to me and I don’t think there was a particular reason for that. The other one was really close to his mom, and we kind of got used to it and even made jokes about it.
They are 7 years old now and that is still going on. One of them really likes me and the other one really likes his mom. They are not identical twins and one has my looks and acts 100% like me and the other one has my wifes looks and my wife’s character.
Funny thing is that the one that looks and acts like my wife prefers me over her, and the other one prefers her. Isn’t that interesting?
Two years ago we got a third son and he likes both of us equally. To anyone out there that thinks their children “don’t like them”: I really would not understand it like that. It’s just a preference and a matter of comfortability. I wouldn’t worry much about it because kids tend to change a lot over time and while they might not want to play with you, they will eventually show their love fo you in one or another way.
Some food for thought, whether you agree or disagree. Best of luck Sam!
We have a 5 year old son and a 1.5 year old daughter. Sometimes, they prefer my wife, and sometimes they prefer me. We just roll with it and provide the best love, care and warmth that we can. It’s nothing something I personally stress much about. I try to be fit in the four F’s….Family, Fitness, Finance and Faith.
I have a son and a daughter. My son is the sweetest little guy to everyone but not liking his dad too much. My daughter is definitely a daddy’s girl. Kids changes and go through different stages.
I am planning to resign next year to dedicate fully to my daughter’s education and well being as she is now 6. For many families, the decision of who to stay home is base on income. As my husband makes more than I do it does not make sense for him to stay home. (a side note is us paying more than 200K in taxes and hit with AMT which didn’t seem to make sense for me to work, as my whole income had contributed to taxes, while no one really looks after the kids)
My daughter definitely prefer her dad. I am stricter and not playing with her as much as I also work full time and a lot of my weekend time dedicate to house chores. But I am looking forward to spending time with her and give her the gift of my time. All parents can do is to give unconditional love and try to provide the best for the children no matter what happens
Off-topic, but how does your “whole income contribute to taxes” and just curious on your thoughts on timing working/not-working vs. income/taxes.
My wife’s income of $10k per year is taxed at the highest rates across the board, so we have this discussion all the time. At this point she is working part-time because she enjoys the work, talking with her adult patients and the short “break” from the kids.
Not sure if you have the chance for part-time or not, but you may want to consider, if possible. For her, it’s not about the money, but the mental reward.
Financial Samurai says
I think you will have no regrets leaving your job to spend more time with your children.
The time really flies and I have no grass myself. The moments are priceless.
I feel for this dad, even thou I’m a mom I’m in the exact same situation. My 2.5 year old son has a strong preference for my husband over me. Play time, bath time, holding him, making him a bottle, reading a book … if dad is around he wants him to do all of it. When he was born we both took our parental leave, I breastfed him for 9 months, we both work full-time and he was with nanny since 6 months old. I have no idea why things are the way they are, it’s very hard, but it happens to moms too, it’s not exclusively a dad problem.
Financial Samurai says
Sorry to hear that. It must be very difficult for you. Some of the advice in the comments section are great. Please have a look. I think things will get better!
Best of luck.