Learning how to love when you’re not your child’s “favorite”

Sometimes my heart aches a little when I watch Ryan and Levi playing together.

They are so close. Levi is so utterly in love with his daddy. It makes my heart melt; I really do adore it.

A woman could have no deeper desire for her husband and children than to see them enjoy such a close relationship.

But still, my heart aches a little.

I used to think that the ache meant I was jealous of their relationship… and that made me feel ashamed. How could I be jealous of something so precious and so right?

But I’ve come to realize that I’m not jealous.

There is a strong emotion there–tinged with the smallest sliver of sadness–but it’s not jealousy.

It’s longing.

I long for what they have. I long for my son to reach out to me they way he reaches out to his dad. I long for him to sometimes say “Mama, mama, mama!” when he hurts himself or wakes in the night.

You and I both know that we can’t force ourselves on people.

We can’t force them to love us.

We can’t force them to choose us first.

We can’t force them to pick us as their favorite.

I know these things. I’m a grown-up – I’ve had many years of relationships to learn this first-hand.

But if I’m honest, I’ll admit that these are the very things I sometimes yearn for – to be “picked first for the team” so to speak.

No one wants to hang back on the sidelines waiting for their name to be called.

Of course I don’t want their relationship to change – I hope that my husband and son will always share such sweet and intimate connection. But I also want in. I want that same depth that is obvious between the two of them.

I sometimes just want Levi to choose me first.

But love can’t be forced. Love—real Love—is always freely given and freely received.

God doesn’t pressure us to choose him or to love him. He just loves us and gives us the opportunity to love him back as we’re able, and as we choose.

My responsibility as a parent is the same – to love Levi with everything I’ve got, regardless of if he ever chooses me first or not. (And of course he does sometimes… just not often.)

I’m glad that Someone’s gone before me and shown me what it looks like to love like this.

And as I learn to love, and even grapple with the longing, I must guard my heart from comparison, from insecurity, from rejection, and from jealousy. For those are the things that so quickly drown out and destroy all that is good and lovely and pure.

Real love sustains, whether you are the favorite or not.

Dear friends, I almost feel silly writing this post. That, as an adult, I shouldn’t even begin to think such things. But I figure if this is something I wrestle with, then maybe other parents out there do too. How about you? Do you sometimes wish that your relationship with your child was more like your spouse’s?



P.S. If you haven’t already entered to win a copy of The Pregnancy Companion, you still have time! Entries close Wednesday. Enter for yourself or for a mom-to-be friend!


Have you checked out my new blog yet – Clink Clink Five? It’s very simple. And fun. And quick.

The week’s most clicked posts were my husband met another woman, and i’m ok with that and sitting on the bench like bookends.


The Mommyhood Memos is a blog by Adriel Booker. | 2012 All rights reserved.
Adriel also writes for Click Clink Five. | Five minutes a day, unedited.

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Anne
    17 January 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I sometimes long to be “the fun one” not… pick up, tidy up, shower time…

  • Queenie
    18 January 2012 at 4:01 am

    If only we could pick and choose our way through relationships. Take only the best, leave the sad bits, the longing bits. Unfortunately, you and I both know we can’t. Not even in our own families. But it’s loving in the midst of the parts we don’t choose that make life rich. So even if you’re never “first”, keep on loving anyway. I think a bond between mama and child is easy. But a bond between daddy and child? That’s a blessing. Hold on to it, cherish it.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      19 January 2012 at 9:16 pm

      It is a blessing.. and I wouldn’t trade it. I think maybe these early days – in the trenches with littles – can be tough, and it’s easy to feel unappreciated. That’s a whole other topic, but I suppose is also part of the longing (or part of not feeling loved as much). I’m glad Levi loves Ryan like he does. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Life As Wife
    18 January 2012 at 4:35 am

    My son ALWAYS goes to daddy when he wants fun/to play.

    Just once I want to be the fun one…

  • Luna
    18 January 2012 at 5:55 am

    Aw, he just has to go through a daddy phase, it’s a gender developmental thing. You’re the one with the spiritual umbilical cord. Daddy’s fun but if he really needed someone it would be you.

  • Lauren
    18 January 2012 at 8:04 am

    I can totally completely relate to feeling that way when my boys were younger….but time has shown that as others have just said….Daddy’s the one they choose for fun most often….but I’m the one they choose when the need is deep or they are hurt or sad. That says to me that the investment of unconditional love especially when I seemed to be the fun-police (calling time on the fun….so they could have baths/dinner etc)….has paid off. Ultimately I don’t want to be their buddy…..I want to be their Mother. The one they can trust, rely on and ultimately share their life with. And….you’re so right….there is nothing quite so special as knowing my kids have a deep and loving bond with their Daddy. That will serve them well in every part of life. xx

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      19 January 2012 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks Lauren. It’s encouraging to hear from someone farther down the track than me. I really appreciate it.

  • Rosilind
    18 January 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I totally know what you mean. I am facing the same thing with Robi. I guess I take heart in that Andrej prefers his mommy right now. And I read in the Dobson book “Bringing Up Boys” that this would happen…and that it is critical in a boy learning to become a man – which is ultimately what I want. So…while my mommy-heart aches for him to run to me first (and he does when “tata” isn’t here), I know that this is the way God ultimately designed it. It’s not easy, though, is it?

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      19 January 2012 at 9:20 pm

      Really? He talks about it in that book? I didn’t realize this was “normal” (not that I thought it was abnormal by any means). Hmmmm, maybe I should try to get ahold of a copy. Thanks Roz.

  • casey
    19 January 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I wonder what Judah will be like in regards to who he fancies:). My girlfriend has 3 boys ages 4, 2.5 and 9 months. The two older ones are total Daddy’s boys and she always ached and longed for that same affection as her hubby got…not jealousy, just longing as you said so well. Her 3rd…is a die hard mommy’s boy and in fact cries a lot when he is left with Dad and she is both caught off gaurd by this new feeling and in Heaven. I think she is eating it up and it is blessing me to see that she is getting that! So, I hope that you get that someday too:). I think I know exactly what you mean by the way. You wrote this post so well!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      19 January 2012 at 9:22 pm

      Oh thanks Casey. Yeah, time will tell of course. I want Judah to love his daddy as much as Levi does. But I wouldn’t mind it if chooses me first sometimes too. 🙂

  • Anna
    19 January 2012 at 11:29 pm

    I’m actually in the midst of a season that is completely the opposite. Both my boys, at this point, are total mama’s boys. Which means that when I’m around, they both have to be held by me or Isaiah has to have my complete attention every second or when I leave he has an “end of the world” meltdown. I long for Isaiah to share his affection with his daddy, for Dalton to be able to carry some of the weight. But alas, for now, he is a mama’s boy. But reading your post is helpful, because I know one day the tides will switch and he will prefer Dalton and I need to cherish this time.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      20 January 2012 at 9:23 am

      Oh, that’s so interesting! I do sometimes tell myself that – that if it was the other way around I might feel differently, even smothered (not that you are saying that). It helps to remember the flip side doesn’t it? Overall, I’m so grateful for their connection. But yes, cherish your time. That’s so, so sweet. xx

  • Branson
    20 January 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Wow… just wow. I love this, Adriel!

  • Courtney
    21 January 2012 at 5:55 am

    Darn it, Adriel! You made me get all weepy right after I put on my mascara!! So. touching. My heart aches for YOU! Thanks for the link, I’m really glad to have found you!

  • Pam @ You Are Kidding Me!
    25 January 2012 at 3:04 am

    I can totally relate. My 6 year-old son has an incredible bond with my husband and has since the day he was born. But I have to say, I love that when I go out for a girls’ night or something else where I’m out for a few hours or overnight, he never blinked an eye about mommy leaving because he got to hang with daddy. And that never made me sad because I knew that in the middle of a wild night of getting a bite to eat at a local chain restaurant with the girls I wouldn’t get a frantic phone call from hubby begging me to come home because our son only wanted me.


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