Q: My husband and I have a 4-year old son and a 22-month-old daughter. I am a stay-at-home mom, but my husband is a very involved father. The problem is that both kids have been in a long stretch of “Mommy do it.” It’s terrible to see how my husband’s face falls as night after night the kids scream “mommy, mommy” as he tries to put them to bed or read them a story. Is there anything I can do to help the kids get past this stage?
A: The dynamic you’re describing is very, very common–and very, very painful to the non-preferred parent. In this kind of situation, your husband may be tempted to back off as a way of avoiding the hurt. Don’t let him.
Try to arrange as many activities that not only include your husband, but that require his participation. And whenever he’s not around, talk about him to your children. Tell them how much you miss daddy and how much you’re looking forward to his coming home. If the kids have a problem during the day–say something breaks–tell them that daddy knows how to fix it and he will as soon as he gets home. The object here is to build your husband up and to get your kids to look forward to seeing him.
The role of ‘preferred parent’ usually switches back and forth as children get older, which means you’ll probably have to deal with a lot of ‘Daddy do it’ in the not-so-distant future. So cut this column out and keep it someplace safe so your husband can refer to it when it’s his turn to be the one who can do no wrong.