Are you a stay-at-home father or father who spends a lot of time with his children? If so, you may be second-guessing your decision to spend so much time with them during their early years. Without some reciprocating love, you might be wondering whether your effort is worth it.
You see, the more time and effort a father commits to parenting, the more disappointment he may experience. Feeling disappointed is why so many people don’t try to pursue their dreams. It may be better not to try at all than to experience rejection.
Children usually gravitate more towards their mothers during their first two years of life. Why wouldn’t they, given mothers have provided their first homes? And whether or not a mother breastfeeds, the bond between baby and mother is stronger because a baby associate its mother with food and survival.
In the eyes of a baby, due to biology, a father is an inferior being to a mother in many ways. As a result, no matter how hard a father tries to care for his baby during the first year of life, he will never be the main target of affection.
As the bond between mother and baby grows, the now toddler may continue to find more comfort from the mother during their second year of life. Getting constantly rebuffed during the baby’s second year of life might logically make fathers want to try less hard.
But hang tough dads! Feeling like you’re chopped liver doesn’t last forever. Better times are coming.
Evolution Does Not Look Kindly At Stay-At-Home Dads
I’ve been a stay-at-home father to two young children for over five years. There have been great moments. However, it has also been hard hearing cries and tantrums everyday for 1,900+ days in a row. Finding more peace at home is one reason why I’ve been looking for larger homes with better floor plans.
During this time period, I also lost confidence in my ability to be a good father many times. No matter how hard I tried, my son would often reject my care for the first three years. It was demoralizing.
To console myself, I rationalized it must be evolution that is causing so many rebuffs. Otherwise, how can any child reject a loving father who is so full of smiles and kindness? Evolution must want one parent to stay at home to take care of the child and the other parent to go out into the woods and forage for food.
Having two stay-at-home parents may actually decreases a family’s chances of survival! Evolution is not fortified with the concepts of work-from-home, passive income, and financial independence well before death.
Evolution doesn’t seem to care if a father spends eight hours a day caring for their baby. If the mother is also a stay-at-home mother, the preference will always be clear. It’s a way for mother nature to push the father to go to work and earn. Divide and conquer seems like a better solution.
This realization is why I strongly considered taking a vacation from fatherhood by going back to work. I figured, if I wasn’t going to get the love that I wanted at home, I might as well feel more useful by spending my time earning.
Now if there wasn’t a stay-at-home mother, I posit the love a baby or toddler would have for their father would be stronger. With no choice but to attach to a father all day, this is what the child may very well do. However, I still think most baby’s will prefer their mothers over their fathers, no matter the home scenario. You tell me!
Children Will Start Loving Their Fathers More Around Age Three
If you feel like giving up as a dad, hang tough! At around age two-and-a-half-to-three, your toddler will start gravitating more towards you more often. It might not be the majority of the time, but you will feel more of the love you’ve always wanted.
By age three, your child is likely no longer breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. As a result, fathers have more opportunities to feed their children. In turn, this creates a stronger affinity with the father. And the yummier the food a father feeds their children, the more children will want to spend time with their fathers.
Of course, there’s a limit to the types of food fathers should be feeding their children. Cake and ice cream all day is probably not a good idea. But they work if you want more affection from the kids! Instead, try offering a variety of healthier foods to keep things varied and interesting.
By age three, a child has begun to exert more independence. They are able to think better and decide for themselves. As a result, if a caring father who is fun to play with is always around, sooner or later the child will want to spend more time with their father.
More Time Equals More Love For Fathers
All any of us really want is to be rewarded for our effort. Hence, for fathers who put in lots of time and effort into raising their kids and frequently get rebuffed, it hurts a lot. The effort and reward correlation isn’t strong during the first two-to-three years of a child’s life for fathers.
However, around age three, the more time and effort a father puts into raising his child, the more reward he will experience. Not only this, but memories begin to form in three-year-old minds that really start sticking by age five.
So after age three, the value and importance of being more present as a parent skyrockets.
For the survival of the family and greater happiness all around, this MIGHT be an ideal childcare arrangement:
- Mother stays at home for her baby’s first two years of life. The return on effort will be highest during the first two years because this is when dependency on a mother for survival is highest. Meanwhile, two years is generally not long enough to derail a career if the mother wants to return to work.
- Father stays at home or works from home after their child turns two or three, whether the mother goes back to work or not. After age two, the return on effort for fathers starts growing more rapidly. By around age three, the child will finally begin to better appreciate a father’s efforts. Meanwhile, the household’s finances are better fortified.
- When the child or all children go to school full time (age five or six for kindergarten), one or both parents can go back to work. With seven-to-eight hours of free time to kill, one or both parents might as well start earning or working on some creative endeavor that pays.
Obviously, a working parent can still give plenty of love and attention to a child. And there are all types of household arrangements that work. However, dad-guilt is also real. With the above arrangement, dad-guilt may be partially alleviated while household financial security grows. But by embracing evolution, dad-guilt might get eradicated entirely.
If some guilt still persists, however, then parents will find ways to adjust their work schedules or forego some income in order to be able to spend more time with their children.
If you are older parents, you might even discover you can actually spend way more time with your children because you are more financially secure. Given we had kids late, we’ve been able to regularly spend more than four times the average amount of time an American parent spends with their children.
Fathers Abandoning Their Children
For the longest time, I couldn’t understand how some fathers could abandon their children as babies or toddlers. Even if your child is a result of a fling with someone you don’t end up loving, there is nothing more moving than seeing and holding your baby for the first time.
But now I do. If your love is not reciprocated, the logical move is to quit and move on. After all, we quit our jobs when we don’t feel appreciated. Given how strenuous raising a child is, it’s all the more reason to stop the pain by walking away. At the very least, you may reduce your childcare efforts.
Hence, if you’re a mother who’s seen the pain of unrequited love felt by the father after he’s tried so hard, please acknowledge his efforts and pain. If the father can just hold on until the child turns three, things should get better.
Think about all the divorces that might be saved if parents could better manage expectations. Parents have 18 years to maintain a happy home. But boy can keeping things together be so hard sometimes.
Every child is different. Maybe your child still won’t be as loving as you like at age three. But have faith that you’re getting close and things will get better if you continue to try.
Here’s a sweet clip of my boy at age 3.5 wanting to play even though I just wanted to sleep.
From Side Dish To Main Course
I will continue to write about fatherhood because it is the toughest job I’ve ever had. The endurance and patience required to be a full-time parent to little ones are Herculean. I’m sure there will be many twists and turns in the future. I seek and need as much help and perspective as possible from more experienced parents.
Today, I’m happy to say I’m no longer chopped liver to my kids. Now, I’m filet mignon to my son and salad to my daughter!
No matter where I go, my kids want to follow and play. They even listen most of the time too. And because they now show so much love, they’ve increased the chances of me sticking around until they leave the house. Wise move kiddos!
Let us cherish the time we have with our children before they no longer want to spend so much time with us.
Readers, I’m curious to know your thoughts about what type of love your children have given to their fathers at various ages. When did their love for their father become equal to or greater than their love for their mother? Or maybe, you have a child who preferred their father from the very beginning. Did this cause tremendous strife for their mother?
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