Motherhood

What If Your Child Has a Favorite Parent? My Mom’s Brilliant Advice…

What To Do If Your Child Has a Favorite Parent

Last night, Anton casually told me…

… that he prefers Alex. (Zoinks!) And after birthing him and everything!

I immediately turned to my own mom and sent her this email:

Anton said tonight, ‘Mommy, is it okay if I tell you that Daddy is my favorite parent? I just love him a little bit more.’ I laughed and said, ‘Of course it’s okay; you loved me the most when you were a baby, so now it’s Daddy’s turn!’ I’m mostly feeling okay about it. But I am still a little bit sad!

My mom, who is a sage in all ways, wrote me back this amazing note:

Here’s an answer that is probably longer than you want!! LOL!!!

It is okay. And it doesn’t actually mean he loves you less. Anton would be devastated if he thought you didn’t love him or were disappointed or upset with him. The very fact that he could confide that to you means he feels safe and secure with you and trusts that you love him! He was making sure that you were okay with him being obsessed with Alex right now because your opinion matters. He was asking for your okay.

He is just really saying that Alex is his role model right now. That does NOT mean that you aren’t the one he wants or loves more when he gets hurt or if someone is mean to him at school. He wants Alex’s approval right now and knows he has yours.

Anton got permission from his rock that he can share his feelings and scamper off and have fun with Daddy and not feel guilty or risk your not loving him. You showed him you love and accept him as he is.

What if your child has a favorite parent?

How great is that advice? I thought might be helpful for other parents, too, in case you find yourself in this funny situation!

P.S. My sister’s awesome dating tip, and six words to say to your child.

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Carla says...

    Your mom is the best! ❤️

  2. Maywyn says...

    Your Mom is a hero. I am proud of you both as well as Alex and Anton.

    • maywyn says...

      Proud of Toby as well. You all make a family that trusts each other enough to trust each other.

  3. Chantel says...

    I see a weekly advice post from your mom on here in the very near future! :)

    • clare says...

      THIS IS WHAT WE NEED

    • M says...

      I would love this!

    • Mariah says...

      THIS!!!

  4. Erin says...

    1. Your mom is the next ‘Dear Abby’. It’s never too late to take up a new career, and she would slay an advice column/blog.
    2. Offering another perspective as the *most loved* parent to both my children going on a year now …. it is incredibly draining to be the constant go-to parent. My kids (ages 2 and 4) are so little and so needy and all they want is mommy. Poor dad, sure, but also, poor mom! It’s a lot to deal with everyday, especially since they love to fight over me, their precious resource. All I can say is thank god I only have two – because mama only has two legs to perch on and two arms to hug.
    **I fully recognize that ‘most loved’ is just a phase and it boggles the mind because dad is the absolute shit and I’d choose him over me any day (he’s got patience for days …. I have a short fuse!)

  5. Samantha says...

    Can you do an “Ask Joanna’s Mom” series?? This advice! What an amazing role model!

    • K says...

      Yes please!!! I’m not even a parent but I would love the heck outta this!!!

  6. Liz S says...

    Moms are like water. Water sustains us, nourishes us. We drink multiple glasses a day. Water keeps us clean and healthy. Without it we would die.

    Dads are like chocolate milk.

    No one ever says water is their favorite drink.

    • Erin says...

      amazing.

    • Pat Martin says...

      This is so true!

    • Rosie says...

      Oh come on. I’m a lesbian with a wife and a daughter and I find it so insulting that you would imply that dads can’t do all of the things you attributed to a mom. Not every kid has a mom. I’m all for supporting moms, but not if it means dragging dads even in the most superficial way! Not cool.

    • Neela says...

      Rosie, just subsitute ‘one parent’ for mom and ‘the other parent’ for dad. Works for me! And pretty funny, too =)

    • Liz S says...

      I really did not mean to offend anyone. This is based on my own experience. Mom was my water and dad was my chocolate milk. I adored them both.

  7. Jennifer Love says...

    Sobbing as well! What a lovely wise mum you have! These words should be printed and saved forever. Though they will indelibly be imprinted in your heart always!

  8. Meg says...

    So… can we all email your mom?!

  9. Monika says...

    This made me cry for so many reasons…I can imagine the pang you must have felt and the immediate emotional readjustment you made to not put your feelings on his loving honesty. There is so much love in this story already. And then your mom added her gorgeous wisdom and it made me happy that you have her because it’s such a meaningful relationship in child-rearing years and it also just a little/lot made me ache for my own mother who is no longer with me. It’s a real gift, for people to share their beautiful and tough moments with strangers and create a community out of this generosity. So thank you for this!

  10. Rusty says...

    Serendipity?
    A couple of days ago, I was scrolling along and a photo of you and Anton (baby) caught my eye. I stopped and scrolled back up to really look at it. It’s one where you are smiling directly at him as you hold him …. heart melt!
    The photos you share, contain immense love and connection with your boys. They tug at my heart.
    There’s that one with tiny baby Anton tugging on Alex’s hair too!
    When I scrolled back, I heard thoughts, “She truly, truly loves them, like breathing air.” It is so very tangible.
    I had the thought then, and today’s post required me to share it.
    What a privelege, to have and share such love! 🥰

  11. Anonymous for this says...

    When I was a kid I preferred my father because he was the “fun” one. My mother made us eat our vegetables and get up for school. Now that I’m an adult, I realize the imbalance in our society and in a lot of marriages that leads to this and have so much appreciation for my mom (and other moms) for weathering the unfairness of this with grace. Nowadays as an adult I’m much closer to my mother.
    To me this is something we could fix as a society by expecting more from fathers, the “fun” dad/“mean” mom thing is perpetuated by men who let it continue by not stepping up when they could because their role models didn’t. It’s easy to be “fun”, it takes much more to be the one keeping someone safe and taken care of. I wish now I had appreciated that more as a child for my mom’s sake. Better late than ever.

    • Carol Wayne says...

      When our children were little, I always told my husband that if we got divorced, he would get full custody and I would be good time Charley on the weekends!!!

  12. umm, can your mother write an advice column for your site? i always love reading her responses when you ask her questions, and i imagine others do as well!

  13. Johanna says...

    P.S. What a great mom/grand mom. Yours is absolutely brilliant, indeed.

  14. Alex Williams says...

    Either that or I’m just TOTALLY COOL! (Kidding!)

  15. Johanna says...

    What if their paternal grandparents have a favorite grandchild? Seriously. It’s so clear that they love my son more than my daughter.

  16. Emma says...

    Your moms words are wonderful, Joanna. I wonder if this amazing community of readers might have any advice for me as I’m in a bit of an unusual situation. My partner and dad of my baby is verbally and emotionally abusive to me sometimes and not particularly helpful or responsible with our son. Baby very oddly is super attached to him anyway and if he is around strongly prefers him to me. It stings a bit and worries me sometimes but I wonder if anyone had any advice about how to process this emotionally for myself. I see a lot of commenters focusing on taking joy in the closeness between their child and partner because he’s a wonderful person, etc. and wanting to nurture their relationship. What do I do when my child is very attached to someone who is not a healthy influence or role model?

    • Johanna says...

      It’s totally unacceptable that he is abusive to you. My honest advice is find the strength to leave him. I know it’s not what you want to hear. I am currently leaving someone like this and the truth is more of us are in abusive relationships than any of us would like to admit. Happy to talk offline if possible. You need support and not strategies for telling yourself everything is fine.

  17. Marcy K says...

    Brilliant!

  18. A.S says...

    I thought of something while reading this post and the wonderful comments. I think there is a difference between preferring one parent over the other and the love aspect. I love both my parents but I get along with and ‘prefer’ my mom. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love and respect my Dad. We just don’t have personalities that work well together and I feel like that is normal as we are each individuals. I love both parents, I just happen to get along with my mom better than my Dad.

  19. chrissy collins says...

    Smart mother!

  20. Emily says...

    when i was little, i once told my mom “you’re the meanest person in this house.” whenever she brings it up now (all the time, lol), i whisper “it’s still true”… you can’t compete with my softie, people pleasing dad for niceness, but i wouldn’t trade the open heart and lessons and love and character building from my “mean mama” for the world.

  21. Nei says...

    I am crying so much. i wish i would be that way too. I hope i will be one day. I am trying my best, but i do have so many insecurities from growing up with a mother who used ,,feeling pitty“ as a parenting tool. She was raising us by herself and was really hard working, i dont blame her. But now i am repeating what she did to me. My 4 year old feels it and says to me: ,,mum, i love you and my baby brother so much. Only you two“and does skip mentioning my husband. I think he feels my insecurities cause i know that he loves him so so much. Somehow i think he feels that i need to hear this and feel awful about it.
    I know this is really bad and i am working on this.
    So thank you very much for sharing this most beautiful, wise, strong and loving advice.
    I can not tell you how many times i was wowed reading your way of dealing with the every day life.

    • Anna says...

      I also feel insecure in my relationship with my kids, esp after divorcing their dad. I work hard to avoid hurting them the way I was hurt, but it is way harder than i thought before i had kids. It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s that i’ve never seen motherly love up close and everyday brings situations when i’m lost as to what is the right reaction or am triggered and fail to handle my emotions in the right way. Would love to hear more from moms who struggle.

  22. Your mom is an absolute treasure! Would love any and all advice she has to share with Cup of Jo readers!

  23. Jocelyn says...

    I was struggling with this too! My son is 13 and primarily lives with me but does see his dad regularly. Living with me means I DO EVERYTHING :). School, sports, laundry, you name it. I love it but it’s a lot sometimes. And yet who does he talk about more? Worry if he’s upset him? Strive to be like? His dad. My therapist assured me that this is perfectly normal, that children tend to favor the same sex parent, especially boys and especially from about 10-15 yrs old. Which means he’s developing exactly how he should, and that means I’m doing a great job. Be kind to yourselves fellow moms!

  24. Claire says...

    Sobbing!

  25. Stacey Bukuras says...

    I love love love this!

  26. Jenny M says...

    Can I send your mum all my curly questions? Wise woman

    • Kimberley says...

      Curly questions.
      I absolutely adore this phrase, Jenny. So perfect for the trickier stuff of life xxx

  27. Christine says...

    Your MOM! I love her! I love her wisdom. Once again, Joanna, thank you for sharing.

  28. Anna Granig says...

    OMG, can you your mom be by mom too? I have teenage boys who identify very closely with their dad right now. It HURTS!

  29. I says...

    And what is the problem with a child having his father as his “favourite “ parent?
    I don’t understand the problem…

  30. Hoiho says...

    Also, remember that things can shift over time. I don’t have children (maybe never will given that I’ll turn 36 this year), but I have a loving and close immediate and extended family. While I love everyone, relationships have shifted as we’ve grown up – and at times I feel closer to, or more distant from particular family members as dynamics change. I have no doubt that your son actually loves both of you just as much – it’s just that the relationships that has has with you are slightly different.

  31. Amy says...

    I have never commented on a post before, but wow—what timing. Our 15 month old is suddenly very obsessed with Daddy, and while I’m so happy for him to experience the joy of her love and single-minded focus, it’s been a little tough to suddenly feel like I’m sidelined when he is home. I lost my mom at 17 and don’t have the luxury of her wisdom on the topic, so I’m really appreciating this view. So lovely and generous and supportive. Thank you!

  32. Silver says...

    Can I please have your mum’s email? I want someone in my life who is so perceptive. I guess a lot of other readers feel the same way!

  33. Emily Honeycutt says...

    Wow, that is beautiful. Please tell your mom, thank you. I love her response.

  34. Brooke says...

    Your mom said that?! My mind is blown. So thoughtful and wise. I can’t believe you got to grow up with her..

  35. Katie Anderson says...

    This is so beautiful and such a good reminder! My boys are truly obsessed with my husband & every now and then I’m tempted to be hurt. But! Instead I get excited, how beautiful is it that he is a fun & safe place for them too!

  36. Lana says...

    This is so timely and sage and wise and thank you!! I got divorced this past year and I’ve always been single mommy, even while married. Well now the kids (8 & 9.5) get to be with their daddy 50% and recently told me “daddy is a little more fun and we way prefer being with him.” Knife to the heart aside, never mind secret tears after the fact, I confidently smiled in the face of the comment and said “that’s so great babies! I’m so glad.” My wise friend told me the same thing your mom said… that it just means they love me and trust me and feel safe enough to say such things to me. Ans hearing this from your mom (my own mom died long before I had kids) is like a balm to the mama soul.

  37. Hallie says...

    this made me tear!

  38. Your mom is wise, but the person I’m really impressed with is you! I can’t believe you were able to react like that in the moment. Wow. Just wow.

  39. Laurie says...

    When my younger son was about 7, he said to me, “Mom- you’re good at homework and (music) practice… Dad’s good at all the fun stuff”! This is always how it’s been! From when our first was born I’ve joked to my husband that both kids thought of us as dinner (me, breast feeder), and a movie (dad, entertainment). I think it’s natural for kids to flop who their favorite is. I’m not the favorite of either right now. That’s ok- it actually gives me a bit of a break from the overwhelming responsibility I felt as a mom when they were little while my husband (who is wonderful) has had to ramp up his role and responsibility more, I think. Trade off is ok!!

  40. Lulu says...

    This was such a lovely post to read. Joanna you are fortunate to have such wisdom from a loving mother and I am so very grateful that you chose to share it with COJ readers.

    Perhaps you might consider asking your mother to answer some motherhood/parenthood based questions like the one in this post (that COJ readers could send in) from time to time – I’m sure it would make for marvellous reading and give us greater confidence in our own parenting abilities.

    What do you think?

    Cheers from Lulu.

    • Rusty says...

      What a fabulous idea!!! :)
      I’d love this!

  41. Katrina says...

    Oh how wonderful your mom is, and she’s spot on. I did this myself, but as a 17 year old, and in a newspaper interview of me as a high school athlete when asked who my role model was! Here I thought I was just being sweet and recognizing my dad. It wasn’t until after the fact (and after it was published!) that I realized how my mom might read it. We can (and do) laugh about it now, and thankfully she understood the intent. Now mom is my best friend, and I’m still a daddy’s girl. Parents are the best!

  42. lk says...

    I think I love your mom the best!!!! Wise women rule- thanks for sharing her with us all!!!- ( maybe that means I love you the best cause you shared!)

  43. We’re not at this stage yet but I’m going to remember this!

  44. Torey says...

    Wow! Your mom is so wise.

  45. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it. Your mother is very smart. And you are your mother’s daughter.

  46. Dani says...

    I’m pregnant and expecting my first child right now. It’s interesting because I feel like I already have a relationship with the baby, whereas for my husband I know it won’t feel as real until the baby is born. The other day I had a thought, “what if this baby that I already love so much grows to love my husband more than me?” And found myself overtaken by a feeling of slight jealousy towards my husband. I absolutely love your mom’s response to you, such a sweet reminder that we all play roles in different ways.

  47. Cynthia says...

    This truly made me cry. You are raising two children who feel loved and seen. Perfect answer from your lovely mom and just what I needed during this crazy and fragile time.

  48. Jane I. says...

    Such Sage advice!

    I will tuck this into my back pocket forever. I too am a boy mom and I know that inevitably there will come a day when my tiny baby boy prefers his Dada over me.

    My husband is GREAT with kids – not such a fan of babies. Right now, I relish every single nursing session, smile, giggle, wiggle and diaper change that I get to provide for my sweet 4 month old. But I rue the day when he wants to be tossed in the air or thrown in the pool by dad more than a snuggle up to my bosom. My bosom will always be there for him… but I know the day is coming.

    • Lizzie says...

      The day has already come and my baby is 8mo! Loves the rough and tumble play with dad.
      He still wants the milkies allllll night long tho – just very rarely when he is awake!

  49. This is so delightful and heartwarming. Love the reminder that our kids want our approval for so much, even when we don’t realize it!

    My 3yo actually told me “Mama, I think Daddy is my favorite person ever” the other night when I was putting him to bed. And after my initial moment of (internal) sadness, I said something like, “Daddy IS awesome, isn’t he? I love that guy too!” And my kiddo got this huge smile on his face before saying, “Mama, we both love Daddy! We can be the same person!” It was such an amazing reminder that Daddy may be his favorite person, but my kid still thinks of me as an extension of himself. And I’ll enjoy that for as long as it lasts!

    • Jane I. says...

      This is so sweet!

    • Beth says...

      I agree, Jane. So sweet, Katharine!

  50. jenna says...

    Oh gosh, this is so lovely! Thank you for sharing!

  51. MMC says...

    Your mom is amazing and your son is so lucky!

  52. Trixie says...

    I would like your mom to have an advice column because that was perfection

    • C says...

      I agree

    • maria says...

      wholly second this!!!

  53. Carol says...

    Brilliant!!!

  54. Jenn Ditty says...

    Such wonderful advice. Love this so much. Your mom is so wise!

  55. AJ says...

    That is amazing advice and so full of love

  56. Ashley says...

    Echoing asks for your mom to do an advice column, particularly tending to relationships. Treasure her wisdom shared over the years on CoJ!

  57. Amy says...

    Your mom is amazing. ❤️

  58. Julia Smith says...

    What great insight – thank you mum!

  59. Jessica says...

    And, what a testament to you as a mother, Joanna. Inspiring.

  60. OMG your mom is brilliant. Can we be let in on more of your email chains?? Only half-joking here.

  61. Jessica says...

    Can I be like your mom when I grow up? ❤️

  62. Eliza says...

    I have been in your shoes and I’ve also sometimes heard my kids say the same thing to my husband about me (he always responds graciously with something like “she would be my favourite, too.”)

    Your mum is making my heart swell with her compassion for you and for Anton. Thank you for sharing her powerful yet gentle advice!

  63. This made me cry! “The very fact that he could confide that to you means he feels safe and secure with you…” so sweet.

  64. Stasha says...

    Oh my gosh, your mom- so wise! What a moving response!

  65. Trina says...

    I’ve always enjoyed hearing your mom’s take on things. Can she do a relationships advice column on the site? :) Like, not just romantic but also platonic and familial.

  66. christina says...

    isn’t this true of everyone else in our lives, too? we idolize and look up to people, and we put on our best behavior for them. sometimes the people we are hardest on are those who we trust the most to continue being there, to continue loving us in our darkest moments. how wonderful that Anton was able to trust you with this, Joanna, and how wonderful this advice from your mom is. such wisdom and care in her words! thank you for sharing. xo

  67. Sara says...

    Let’s just have a column called “Advice from Joanna’s Mom” like the food one that Jenny does. :)

  68. Anna says...

    Your mom’s response – wow. What a sage.

  69. Madeleine says...

    Thank you. Joanna and JoannaMummy.

  70. Maria says...

    your mom rocks.

  71. Kristina says...

    gosh, your mom is *amazing*

  72. Lee says...

    You are so fortunate to have such sage wisdom a text away.

  73. Megan says...

    How perfect. And we all need a little bit more of Joanna’s mom during these challenging times (aka life!)

    xo

    • Kelly says...

      Agree! Your mom could write some posts.

  74. Katie says...

    This is perfect on every level. And it made me cry. I’m not sure if they’re happy or sad tears. I think both. <3

  75. Kary says...

    I love your mom’s words! My daughter is soon to be 15, and when she was little she loved her daddy! When she was about four, one night she asked her daddy and I, if I could die first. She didn’t mean it badly, just the unfiltered honesty of a small child. It stung a little. My husband said, not to worry that one day when she got older she would need her mamma. She loves us both to this day. Probably doesn’t even know this story. And yes, while she would never utter those words about either of us now, the roles have reversed.

  76. Deborah says...

    I agree, Liz! Although we might have accrued a few more years (and probably wrinkles) than many of the readers here, we still don’t have all the answers!

  77. Sharon says...

    I want to know, how did you mom become so wise? My mother was also an absolute gem, so thoughtful and wise, and always leveled and temperate in her response. At 37, I keep hoping/praying/wishing I am gaining these same skills. But I’m not sure. I would love to know what life lessons have helped her become the person she is today. Loved this post. Reminds me why cup of jo is the end all be all for women’s blogs.

    • Lorie says...

      I second that

  78. Sarah says...

    Just cried a little at my desk, one, because that advice is so spot-on, sensible, loving, and true; and two, because it came from your sweet Mom.

  79. Amanda says...

    Your mom’s comment is fantastic and so reassuring! Love that your mom is reassuring you about your child getting his reassurance from you. Three generations of comfort!

    I had a long period of work travel a few years ago and read an article about the go to parent (might have been here on CoJ) and wondered if I’d been replaced as the go to parent. The next morning I was in the shower and my daughter came running in to ask me to tie a ribbon in a bow and my son had to come in while I was still naked for something else. Nope – still the go to parent. They need us each for different things and that’s great.

  80. Monica says...

    Thank you for sharing this Joanna. Needed this advice today.

  81. ana says...

    That is perfect!

    Regular advice column on here? Asking for a friend ;)

  82. Holly says...

    Is it okay if I tell you that your mom is my favorite parent right now?

  83. Sarah says...

    Can your mom be my mom? Because my mom’s response would have been, “Well you nag them so maybe if you were nicer.” Or something equally dismissive.

    • Louise says...

      Ohhhh nooooooo! Honestly, my mom would probably react in a similar way with “helpful” self-improvement tips. We can choose other role models, so it’s nice to hear about moms responding in kinder ways!

  84. Jaime Rosenzweig says...

    I LOVE this so much! What great advice and I agree with several others who say I am HERE for an advice column from your mum! :) Also what a lovely response you gave Anton —made him feel safe even though you were a little crushed in the moment!

    • T says...

      Ugh, I needed this today. I just came home after spending 4 days away from my husband and kids. I arrived late last night, so I only saw them this morning. I greeted them, so enthusiastically, “Hiiiiii kids!” …. My 4 year old: “Umm, no. We love Daddy!”
      There’s part of me that loves this, I love love loooooved my dad as a kid, because he’s great – he’s a great great dad! My kids are so lucky to also have a great great dad. I chose a good man, loving husband, wonderful father. Some kids are not so fortunate. Buuuuut, I put A LOT more work into those little stinkers (pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc.).
      So this helped … a little ;-)

  85. Tearing up over here. I love that you shared yourself so vulnerably and that your mom is so wise and helpful. Just beautiful!

  86. Danielle says...

    So great! I thought your mom was going to be posting an advice column on here at one point? I’m still interested:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! we had that idea and then we had a family emergency and it fell by the wayside. i’d love to bring it back!

  87. Blair says...

    I love this especially bc currently one of my three tends to want to “play” with daddy more right now. At first it hurt my heart, my side kick was moving away from me. But I know she knows no matter what I am here for her now and always. She feels safe in knowing that … Your mom’s advice is perfect!

  88. OK, so you realize your mom is an emotional genius, right? This is everything.

  89. Marie says...

    That’s exactly what I needed…
    Thanks!!

  90. Whitney says...

    Perfect advice ♥️

  91. Sara Campbell says...

    Your mom is a very wise person. That is such loving advice, and also so very true. We need heartwarming conversations like these, now more than ever. Thank you!

  92. Liz Friedel says...

    I am 58 and have been reading your column for several years. I know that there are many others near my age lurking or replying. There are so few good blogs for and by people my age. Your mom is stylish and wise and from the replies so far, younger people also connect with her on many levels. My first reaction was how lucky you have a mom that you could go to on this and that could respond so wisely. But my next was how much I would love to read her perspective and see what she is wearing, if she is aging gracefully, working or occupying her time, etc. I really wish you would consider having your mom post weekly on fashion, beauty, health, parenting (including parenting adults) , working, aging, etc. There is such a need for women my age to see role models and peers. Please Joanna!

    • Holly says...

      This is a great idea. Even though my kids are only 6 and 9, I am already wondering how to parent adults.

    • jackie says...

      I second this. I’m 35 but that doesn’t change that she’s very right!

    • Janet says...

      I, too, would enjoy her perspective.

    • Annie K. says...

      I’m 35, and I second this! What a great suggestion.

  93. Courtney Dal Porto says...

    damn mom. that advice is AMAZING and so HELPFUL.

  94. Gemma says...

    This is the sweetest thing, I’m tearing up (yes I have a lot of emotions bubbling close to the surface right now!)

  95. Shannon says...

    This is everything! Love it. I also feel just a bit sad when my boys want Daddy to tell the bedtime story, etc. (while loving that they love their daddy and have a daddy worth idolizing!). Thank you for sharing!! Very wise mama!!

  96. Megan says...

    Wow, just bawling as I read this now! What a sweet response.

  97. Lizzie Cogan says...

    Wow, just wow. I second that request for an advice column authored by your mom.

    I’m reminded of something my mother once told me: “The point of parenting is for the child to grow up.” What I hear in Anton’s confession is him communicating to you that he’s breaking away a bit to become his own little man. He can take this step, and even tell you about it(!), because you gave him the safety, space and love he needed.

  98. Jessica says...

    BRB, sobbing. 😭😭😭 Can your mom be my parenting coach please?!? ❤️

  99. Tristen says...

    Filing this away for future reference, forever.

  100. Stacy S says...

    Welp, now I’m crying at my desk! How sweet!

  101. jane says...

    Beautiful advice. Lucky you 💖
    I second an advice column featuring your mother or at least an occasional Q and A!

  102. GoldenMoon says...

    Can we have your mum on a Q & A post from your readers seeking specific parenting wisdom ? I feel soothed just from taking in her soulful words.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great idea. does anyone have questions?

    • C says...

      I would love to know what her relationship was with her own mom, what she learned from it and how it informed who/how she was as a mother.

  103. Lucy says...

    I love your response and your mum’s! I am a child psychologist, and love the safe space you’ve created for him to share his feelings, and the fact that you validated them!

    And your mum is bang on, it is because of your wonderfully secure relationship that he is able to say these things! X

  104. Anna says...

    I often feel I’m not the favorite one for both of my kids and although I try to not take it too personally, it hurts and makes me feel like a failure. I’m divorced, in a 50/50 shared custody arrangement and it makes me scared that one day my kids will say they want to stay with their dad only. I used to think moms had a guaranteed no1 position in their kids’ hearts by nature, but seems like it’s more complicated than that.

    • Molly says...

      Anna, as a fellow divorced parent sharing custody, I totally hear you, and it can be painful and scary sometimes.
      I think parents, per se, always have a guaranteed place in a child’s heart – our children want to be close to us so badly! I don’t know if that’s helpful, but I also think about something I heard about love that I found very empowering: our need to be loved is like our need for water, and our need TO love is like our need for air. So the most important thing is to love really well.

    • Molly says...

      Also, my daughter once made a list of who she loves the most, and the dog was first, then her dad, and I think I even came in behind the cat!

  105. A says...

    It’s really normal for kids to prefer the parent of the same sex at this age. your mom had the perfect explanation for this psychological stage of development and explaining your established secure attachment with him, and I think that in itself is a victory for you and Anton!

  106. Laurel says...

    Wow I probably would have scarred by kid for life in my immediate gut reaction response. Very well handled!

    • Katie says...

      I was thinking the same thing. Joanna, your mom’s advice is lovely, but I think you handled the situation perfectly! Perhaps it’s because you learned from her. What an honest, sweet and gracious response you gave!

    • Marty says...

      I agree! Your mom is awesome, but the apple did not fall far from the tree! Your in-the-moment response was lovely.

  107. SophieA says...

    Wow. Incredible advice. What’s your mum’s email address please? 😉

  108. M says...

    Your mom’s answer made me tear up!

    • Julia says...

      me too!

  109. Shannon says...

    Your mom is the bomb!

  110. Catherine S. says...

    I needed this because my husband will for sure be the favorite parent one day if he isn’t already. He’s just way more fun!

  111. Ceridwen says...

    Thank you to your mum for this wonderful, thoughtful advice. My youngest has told me on many occasions, in different ways, that she prefers dad. Like when I said to her in a lovely moment while I felt we were really connecting, “oh, I love you Amaya” to which she replied “and I love dad”. She went back to her drawing or whatever we were doing. Ha! She has also said, I love dad just that bit more than you. In a weird way, it makes me proud. My husband is the stay at home dad, and he works so hard but doubts himself. This. Was said with such love from her that I knew also showed what a great job he does. Even if I’m left out. But, you mum has made me feel much better!

  112. MK says...

    My three year old definitely has a preference for Dad, and it does hurt my feelings sometimes. I just try to remember that he’s a child, and of course he loves me, and it’s my job to love him even if he may love my husband a little more right now. Every night before bed we make a list of people who love him, just to remind him how loved he is (and for me it kinda takes the focus off who HE loves most.)

  113. I am a composer and have a piece entitled “A Sliver More”……from when my then-4 year old son said to me ” Mama, I love you so much, but I love Dad a sliver more.” HEART BREAK

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i want to hear the piece! :)

  114. Abbiemirand says...

    Thank you for weaving initimate moments and wisdom into our lives! As a new mother, it helps me decide what this role means for me and also what I want it to be! You both are such sweet and grounded moms!

  115. Leah says...

    I love your mom!

  116. Abbie says...

    Thank you for sharing this great advice and to your mom for her wisdom. My three year old tells me everyday that I’m not his “favorite” and that daddy is just his “bestest buddy.” Intellectually I understand this doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me, but sometimes it stings when it seems he’s rejecting me for my husband.

  117. Lillian Chang says...

    Wow, such wise and sweet words!! Your mom truly is a sage.

    I have two boys too & I did read that boys, as they get older, need to somewhat separate from their mom for awhile & they do get attached to dad as a role model. My boys are still young (3 & 1), and while I get the idea, I’m sure it’ll be tough when that day comes! But they come back around :)

  118. Kelli says...

    Aw, this is so wonderful. How lucky you and Anton both are to have such loving, insightful mothers!

  119. Erin says...

    Oh, man… her response made me teary! What great advice. Can she be a contributor on Cup of Jo? A “Mom of Jo” feature?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask her! what a fun idea.

  120. Alli says...

    This post is the best.

  121. Kate says...

    Your mom is a genius. :)

  122. Paloma says...

    I’ve listened (many times) to your sister, Lucy’s, TED Talk. Between her wisdom and love, your mom’s wisdom and love, and your wisdom and love, I think the world is a better place. Thank you.

  123. HM says...

    I love this, and I also think it’s natural that we are slightly more compatible with some family members than others. To explain: my daughter and I are super similar, and my son and husband are super similar. My daughter and husband are especially close, and my son and I are especially close—and our kids are even closer with one another.
    I believe we gravitate to the parts of one another that we don’t have ourselves. Just like my husband and I do, my kids help each other, make each other laugh–they “complete” one other—it makes sense that they would gravitate toward the parent who creates that dynamic with them as well.
    I don’t actually think they love us any more or less—they just know that their safest space right now is the parent who balances their personality.

    • Myrna says...

      This is a really interesting way to look at family/group dynamics!

  124. Tara says...

    That’s about the best advice/wisdom I’ve heard. Radiates love and understanding.

  125. Emily says...

    Wow, that’s a beautiful note note from your mom. It made me tear up. She’s exactly right!

  126. Rosie says...

    I’m an adult, and I definitely have a favorite parent, so I don’t find it surprising that a kid does. The fact that he told you is just reflective of kids lack of filter! I wouldn’t take it personally.

  127. Rani says...

    I really loved your response to him and your mom’s take on it all. I know I would feel a couple of pinches at my heart if I heard that from my son, all while trying to come up with an appropriate response. Thanks for the post.

  128. Jean says...

    My 2-year old has preferred his dad since he was just a few months old. He and his dad look identical, have a similar chill nature and are even both lefties. It hurts my feelings when he turns to my husband instead of me for comfort, but I try to never show it. I want home to feel he can always be himself and express his needs. His older sister has always preferred me, so I guess this is karma payback or something ;)

  129. Bradley says...

    I mean this will truly all respect, but from reading this blog for 10+ years, it had always broken my heart a little that Anton might read these earlier posts from his life and pick up on what I’ve picked up on from the differences in the boys articles etc to be what seems to be a preference for Toby. I would just say as an outside observer to be careful for antons sake – because if a reader can pick up on it, I imagine that Anton will too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh not at all! Absolutely not. Toby, a natural ham, is the one who is more willing to get his photo taken and so we show his birthday parties etc. Anton is more shy and reserved; I respect that about him and only take his photo now and again. But I adore them both equally for sure, always and forever!

    • Alexandra says...

      I just wanted to comment that I have also been a reader for over 10 years and think that Jo does a great job of loving both her boys for exactly who they are! I don’t see the differences in posts as reflective of preference, just reflective of different relationships with two different little boys :) You’re a great mama, Joanna–that much is beyond clear!

    • Cathy says...

      Wow! I’ve also been an avid follower of this blog and this impression has never, ever crossed my mind. And now that I’ve read this comment, I’m trying to think back to the posts that I’ve read (I have read every single post for the past 5 years or so) to see if I can figure out what could have possibly given this impression, and I’m coming up empty. Every post about the boys is so filled with love and delight and it’s so clear to me they are both adored to the ends of the earth.

    • Diana Boss says...

      I agree that what shines through is your loving care and attentiveness to both your boys — and I’ve been a reader since 2009. If this comment had been directed at me it would have hurt me terribly — I hope you don’t take it to heart, Jo. You are obviously a great mom and doing a terrific job.

    • Kate says...

      FWIW, I, too have been a reader since the beginning & have never gotten idea that Toby was preferred EVER. In fact, I’ve always loved how each son & his uniqueness is celebrated. And I’m a big Anton fan–I love thinking about him playing the ukulele & drums, remembering how sweet & thoughtful he was when he was in the hospital, & imagining him in his shark tooth necklace & boots! Still, I’ve NEVER felt he’s been slighted or given less attention AT ALL! I think when Anton & Toby are older & read the blog, they both will just be so happy & feel so celebrated, loved & understood!

  130. Sally says...

    Wow! Your mum and you are such great mums! How lucky you are to be able to tell someone your thoughts and get spot on feedback. X

  131. Kim says...

    That is such sweet and great advice.

  132. Tc says...

    I think your mum gave you a great advice but also you answered great to little buddy. You were surprised and cornered, but you handled it with the greatest answer. Bravo !

  133. Ana says...

    Love that this is shared experience and you Mom’s take on it.

    I got (almost) the exact same comment from my 6-year-old turning on 7: “Mom, I love Dad the most, then brother, then you”.

    I must say I didn’t even blink because I can see he is absolutely craving the male bonding and the attention right now. He just wants to play football and to measure his strength against them.

    It is weird to enter this new stage, where I’m not the one getting all the attention, but it was actually harder for me the first time he let go of my hand on the way to school because a friend of his was coming across the street ;))))

  134. Susan says...

    Both you and your mom gave wise and loving answers. I once read and then confirmed as my own children spread their wings, as the kids get older phone calls with mom and dad are often different as well. Dad, more often than not, gets the, “Things are great, there was a party last night…” calls and Mom gets the tears and troubles. The child (verging on adult or now an adult) needs two different types of support and that is a blessing that having two loving parents can provide.

  135. Sarah Gordon says...

    Simply beautiful. Lucky you to have a wise someone to run this by; bonus to have received such a brilliant, thoughtful response. The key to me in the question Anton asked? “Mommy, is it okay if I tell you…?” He knows it is.

  136. Mary says...

    OMG! Wow wow wow. Those words! Pure gold. I’m so glad you share your mom’s wisdom with us! Thank you Jo! And thank you Jean! 🙏🙏🥰🥰

  137. nadia says...

    This made me teary. What a beautiful response! I love that your mom knew exactly what to say.

  138. Hani says...

    Please
    Please
    (If you please)
    Have your mom do a weekly feature of CoJ.
    No wonder we gravitate towards your voice, shaped and guided with one like hers.
    Omg.

    • Maryn says...

      I second this!

  139. Ashley Em says...

    What beautiful advice! I’m actually crying. I love your mom!! <3

  140. Elizabeth_K says...

    Can your mom be everyone’s mom? What a tender, thoughtful and loving answer. And I thought your answer to Anton was excellent, too.

    • Ceridwen says...

      Yep, I want to be Jo’s mum when I grow up.

  141. Laura Reeve says...

    This is such a sweet response. As a child (and admittedly, sometimes as an adult) I preferred my father. We have always been more similar in temperament – but also, he wasn’t the one who made me get out of bed, get ready for school, brush my teeth. He got to be the fun parent.

    Because I was an only child, sometimes my parents used to joke, if we were taking two cars somewhere, that I needed to “pick my favorite parent” to go with! Out of fairness, I tried to pick them equally. It’s something we still laugh about now.

  142. Sara says...

    I love this. Your Mom is a great advice-giver – kind, thoughful, and very wise. Would she consider an occasional advice column on CoJ??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!

  143. Diane says...

    As a mom of two boys aged 11 and 14, I can assure you that that although they will be spending more time with their dad doing boy things they will still need you for many things and of course love you as much as they always have. One bit of advice I have is start doing some of their favorite activities that will keep you in the loop, sports etc…. My boys are very musical so I started taking piano lessons to be part of their “family band” and it has been wonderful for me to learn something new and fulfilling. Also when the boys are with dad you can have some girl time with your friends!

  144. Marlena says...

    That is the best advice and it is so true. I was once told by a very wise soul that when my teenage daughter would express angry or intense emotions, it was because she knew she could share her feelings without risk losing my love. This was such a game changing notion for me and made those years so much easier. Good for you, mama, letting your boy know that he doesn’t need to hold his mother’s emotional well being in his hands. :)

    • Sarz says...

      Marlena, I love how you phrased this! Both of my parents suffer from mental health issues. My father is incredibly resilient and self-aware. My mother is not as lucky. I know that I’m blessed to be able to come to my dad as Anton can to you, Jo; no confession is too daunting. With my mother? Any confidence could potentially be damaging to her, and thus, I’m immensely careful with what I share. It’s an amazing gift not to be responsible for a parent’s emotional well being.

  145. Pam says...

    Hi Joanna,

    That is such a sensitive and thoughtful reply from your mum. I have no doubt that those words soothed you as yours did Anton.
    May I just add how important it is to feel heard and I feel so happy for you and Anton that you have that blessing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      they did soothe me so much! xoxo

  146. Antonia says...

    What a sweetheart your mom is. That is so wise

  147. JL says...

    Wow what an amazing mom you have!

  148. LeighTX says...

    Aww. Your mom is awesome, and absolutely correct.

  149. Suzy says...

    What a wise woman 🦉

    • Brady says...

      This made me cry. And Gah, I love and miss your mom!!!! She’s so wise!