“Taking care of the kids is easy. They are fine for me; I don’t see why you are always so tired and stressed.”- the last words of every husband every where.
We have all experienced it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your husband telling you that your kids are perfect angels when they are with him. It could be their teachers or their grandparents. Maybe even the babysitter. Either way, it is known among mothers that children act markedly different around mama than anyone else. But why?
Science tells us that kids look to parents (usually the mom) for their basic biological needs- food, shelter, and general care. In turn, that makes them turn into temper tantrum throwing jerks when mom is around because they are seeking the attention to meet their needs. Other people like grandparents, teachers, and babysitters, on the other hand, are symbols of fun, excitement, and playtime.
Stay-at-home moms are often what some people like to call the “default” parent. She is the one that meets the most of their daily needs (even if that means cereal dinner), and she is also the brunt of their total destruction. They fight, whine, cry, and scream a heck of a lot more with mom than when they are with their dad. There are a few other theories as to why this happens, and they have nothing to do with the whole “mom meets their biological needs and they are seeking attention for those needs.” For example, is it a biological need for attention when your toddler tackles you five year old? Or a biological need for attention when your five year old whines to you that I gave her a green apple instead of a red one? Probably not.
One reason that kids act differently with the default parent- or the parent that takes care of every child’s needs along with taking care of the household- is that they are kids. “Well, duh. But how does that explain why they are so mean to me?” you might be saying your yourself. The biggest difference between the times mom is with her kids and the times the dad with them is that daddy sits there and play with them. He devotes his attention solely to them. Moms, on the other hand, always have laundry to fold, lunches to make, a baby to feed, cleaning to do, and phone calls to make. If dad has other things to do guess who gets the kids? Mom. Dads are rarely in a position where they have the kids alone and has other pressing matters to attend to at the same time. All kids want to do is play, and they want to play with us. So when we are occupied with other things they will feel left out, disregarded, and ignored which in turn creates some wonderfully awful behaviors.
Parents (this goes for the moms and the dads, I think- not just the default parent) have it a bit harder because of something special we have with their kids- their trust. Kids trust their parents enough to allow us to see them at their worst (so sweet, right?). With others, they hold back from their not-so-nice behaviors because the trust just isn’t there. Even as adults we do this to those we love the most, right? Sometimes we are downright ugly to our spouses but you wouldn’t act that way towards a friend even if the situation was exactly the same. Although it seems like backward logic, it’s the truth- you trust you spouse enough to let him see me as your true self which is not always so pretty. The same goes for our kids.
Some ways you can help your child get what they need and not be entirely bratty all the time are:
- Try to be a more mindful parent when it comes to stuff like this. Try recognize when your kids need some one-on-one time with you
- Try to plan my daily routine around their schedule so you can devote a good chunk of time with them each day.
- Redirect so you can continue what I need to do but also show them that you are acknowledging them.
However, it is also important for kids to learn to play independently, and they have to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Leave your kids to have some open-ended play time where you are not involved. Encourage them to play with each other, get their own snacks from the snack drawer, and begin activities on their own. These types of independent play foster creativity and imagination.
In the end, your kids are pretty much going to cry, complain, and whine with mom a heck of a lot more than they do with their dad. They will always appear to be perfect angels who never talk back with their grandparents. Their teachers will look at you with a quizzical look when you recap some story about some situation at home because they could never picture your child acting that way in their classroom. You will get the brunt of their worst behaviors because you’re mom.
But since you’re the parent you’re supposed to teach them to recognize their emotions and process them in a positive way towards others so just do your best to foster those behaviors instead of the negative ones.
But also know that one day they will have kids of their own, and karma will come back at them.