There’s another girl in my husband’s life. She’s been around for a while, but it was only recently that I realised thatshe’s constantly vying for his attention and is subtly doing all she can to prevent us from showing any kind of physical affection, certainly while she’s around.
ffortlessly beautiful, she gazes at him with startlingly blue eyes, casually flicking her blonde hair in a coquettish way while using her long, tanned limbs to clamber all over him. In case you think my marriage is in crisis, the perpetrator is in fact Iona, our four-year-old daughter who, in the past six months, has become increasingly obsessed with Daddy.
It struck me as we lay together in the sun last weekend, Ludo, her five-year-old brother contentedly trying to befriend dragonflies, while Iona lay on Ben’s chest, head in her hands, gazing into her father’s eyes, playfully picking out the grey hairs on his beard, stroking his face and nuzzling his chest.
Whenever he casually attempts to kiss me, she races between us, squealing to get his attention like a jealous teenager. When he is around, she has eyes for no one else, least of all me. In some cases, this plays in my favour: Ben is the one called on to wipe her bottom; to lug her around when she’s tired of walking, and to attend to her frequent personal crises such as when she can’t find her favourite toy.
But I do find it a little unfair: she spent nearly 10 months growing inside me, stretching my once-taut tummy so that it resembles a slab of jelly rather than anything approximating a washboard.
In the boring days, before she could walk, talk, charm or allure, she treated me imperiously, like an unpaid servant, screaming with fury if I did something she disliked and insisting that only I hold her the whole time, resulting in a not insignificant back injury.
But now that she has acquired bucket loads of charisma, and in spite of the hours of storytelling, games and conversations we have when Ben is on his frequent travels, as soon as he’s back, I’m cast aside like some boring old toy.
I Google “Why do daughters...” and before I can get any further it pre-empts me with 1. Hate their mothers. 2. Prefer their fathers. 3. Dislike their mothers.
Clearly I’m not the first mother to feel the cold shoulder of her daughter.
Indeed, the psychoanalyst Carl Jung theorised that this all stems from the female version of the Oedipus Complex.
The Electra Complex (rather alarmingly named after the Greek myth in which Electra seeks to kill her mother to protect her father), Jung theorised, is when a daughter competes psychosexually with her mother for “possession” of her father.
As I read on, horrified by my findings, I start to wish I’d never consulted Dr GoogleThankfully, I am reassured to read that what I once regarded as sweet, now terrifying behaviour, is a key developmental stage of normal sexual identity, and does not mean that I should fear for my life.
I speak to Emily Samuel, a psychotherapist working at the Yale Study Centre in New York, and she agrees that Jung’s theory might well be too radical, and that to understand this behaviour properly you need to take into account social and cultural factors.
And with that, I realise that actually I am a good mother. I chose a man who relishes fatherhood with every bone in his body.
Although he’s often absent, the way he bursts through the front door, desperate for a group hug, earnestly listens to the children’s stories and experiences and delights in every moment he gets to spend with them makes it obvious that his two children are the most precious things in his life.
The days when their daddy is at home are always full of energy, joy and excitement. He returns with elaborate tales from exotic places and spends hours recounting his adventures to his two enraptured groupies.
So it’s no wonder that Iona wants nothing to do with me when this incredible person is around.
But if she ends up choosing someone as kind, committed and generous as her father to marry, then I’m happy to bear the burden of having to compete with my daughter for my husband’s affections. (© Daily Telegraph)
Telltale signs of a daddy crush
Airport security start getting twitchy as you drag your daughter kicking and screaming away from her father to go to the loo.
She will only let her father brush her hair, in spite of the fact that when he has finished, it looks more messy than when he started.
She refuses to eat yoghurt with chopped apple and banana until it is rebranded “Daddy yogurt” and then cannot get enough of the stuff.
But when she hurts herself or gets really scared, it’s only Mummy that can make it better.