By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
One of the last major taboos of motherhood was broken -- loudly -- this past week when Babble.com mommy blogger Kate posted about how she loves her son more than her daughter. While all the mommies in the room cringe, I'll add that this is not just my summation of her feelings; the post is titled "Mom Confessions: I think I love my son a little bit more." In an Internet-fueled world where confessions are a dime a dozen and many earlier parenting taboos have lost their stigma -- have you been to a playgroup recently? Everything from sex to poop to mental illness is on the table -- this confession tackled something previously untouched: a mother's love for her child.
In a survey reported by the Daily Mail, 1 in 6 moms admitted to favoring one child over another with an additional 50% saying they love their kids equally but in different ways (a fine line?). Dr. Christine Duff, a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Netmums online Parent Supporter, says that while there's very little research into this area "sadly, I hear this all the time. It is something which causes women intense shame and guilt. Mothers need to know that it is not uncommon to struggle to bond with one or more children and that it can be worked on." Justine Roberts, cofounder of Mumsnet, agrees,'It's entirely natural, after all - some children are easier to love because they're more likeable, they cause less anxiety and they make your life easier."
Says Dr. Alan Shore, assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA School of Medicine,"The child's first relationship, the one with the mother, acts as a template, as it permanently molds the individual's capacities to enter into all later emotional relationships." And the effects extend throughout the entire family dynamic. As Dr Martina Klett-Davies, who is a sociologist who specializes in families and sibling relationships, explains "If there is a favorite child, they probably become too spoiled and find it difficult in later life,' she said. 'But the imbalance could prepare siblings for unfairness in later life when you leave the family circle by teaching them to be fighters."
My heart broke a little for Kate when I first read her post. I think most moms if they're honest understand what she means on some level. While I wouldn't say that I love one of my five children more than the other over all, I would say that I have loved one above the rest at varying points in our relationships. My second son, for instance, had nuclear colic and screamed so much his first year of life that I remember turning to my husband with tears streaming down my face and saying, "I love him but I really really don't like him!" Thankfully he has more than redeemed himself in the intervening years and I've been known to sneak him gummy worms when the others aren't looking because by golly that child eats anything I serve for dinner and never complains!
No relationship is more fraught than the one between mother and child so it is no wonder this issue hits such a nerve but if we've learned one thing from all of this, it's that it's important to acknowledge your feelings and get help before they reach a toxic threshold.
Do you love one of your children more than the others? If so, do you try to keep it hidden or is it something you talk about?
Do you like one of your kids more than the others?
- No, I love and like all my children equally.
- Yes, but I would never tell anyone.
- Yes and I'm open about it.
- No, but I can see how some parents might.
- I don't have a favorite, but at points, I get along better with one of my children than others.
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything
More from REDBOOK:
Could You Go a Week Without Yelling?
Have the Hottest Sex of Your Life…with Your Husband
- 6 Shocking Reasons Why Men Stray
- 6 Ways to Tie a Scarf
- Get More on Love, Family & Fashion - Subscribe to REDBOOK & Save Up to 84%!
Connect with REDBOOK:
- Become our Fan on Facebook
- Sign Up for REDBOOK's Free Weekly Newsletter
- Follow Us on Twitter
- Enter to Win FREE Daily Prizes
Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.