Friday 15 December 2017

Dear Mary: I'm worried my husband won't spend enough time with our daughter

The father should be spending quality one-to-one time with your daughter. Photo posed.
The father should be spending quality one-to-one time with your daughter. Photo posed.

Mary O'Conor

I have been married for the last 10 years, I have two children, a seven-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son. My children mean the world to me. My issue is with my husband and his relationship with our daughter.

He gets on very well with our son and they often spend lots of time together doing things.

However, when it comes to our daughter, he refuses to make as much of an effort or spend any quality time with her. At times he can be very cold towards her.

For some time this has bothered me, especially now that our little girl is seven. I think he should be making an effort to establish a strong relationship with both of our children.

We have argued over this recently. He believes that I am making a big deal out of it.

I assumed that because I brought this up with him it might change things.

I really think it is important for our daughter to have as good a relationship with her father as her brother does.

Am I being unreasonable?

Mary replies:  You are certainly not being unreasonable. All children deserve to be treated equally but parenting is not easy.

Parents will say that they love their children equally but in fact they often feel guilty because they feel more drawn to one child over another.

The fact is that parents can love their children differently and feel differently towards them at different stages of their lives.

However, the children need to feel equally loved and your concern is that your daughter will ultimately feel that she is missing out on her father's love and affection as her brother seems to be getting the major share of it.

I have no idea about your husband's background but it may be that in his family the boys were closer to their father and the girls to their mother.

I know of a particular case where an only girl with six brothers was expected to do all the housework and take care of her brothers because her father said that was what women did while the men worked the farm.

And my own father, even though he loved me unconditionally, never for a moment considered teaching me golf, although he had my brothers playing from an early age, because he believed it was a man's game.

So some of your husband's actions may be to do with his conditioning while he himself was a child growing up.

Or perhaps he hasn't any sisters and is not quite sure how to treat a little girl and so leaves that up to you.

Whatever the reason he certainly should be spending quality one-to-one time with your daughter. I know she is very young, but has she said anything to you about this?

It may be that she is perfectly happy with how things are and doesn't feel at all deprived.

It could be very interesting to get her to draw a picture of your family with all four of you in it and observe where she puts her father relative to herself.

She doesn't have to be talented at art, but you could get a fairly good picture of how things are in her head if she draws it for you.

You can then share what she depicts with your husband.

You may be worrying needlessly but you may be right and something needs to change.

You have drawn your husband's attention to the problem as you see it, so he is aware of how you feel and it is up to him to do something about it.

However, you may be able to nudge him in the right direction by arranging that he pick her up from whatever activities she is involved in, or when she is playing in a friend's house, in order to start the process of them having time together.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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