There’s a myth floating around that all parents experience love at first sight when their kids are born.
We’re told by movies, TV shows, and even commercials that becoming a parent triggers an instant and unbreakable bond between us and our children.
But … if you want to know the truth? That doesn’t always happen.
It’s pretty common for new parents to deal with confusing bouts of indifference and postpartum depression, and it doesn’t help that babies and young kids aren’t always completely comfortable with one or both parents right away.
Biological dads can be at particular risk for feeling a little left out, especially if mom is breastfeeding and they don’t want to intrude on that process.
Terence Mentor, who blogs under the name AfroDaddy, opened up about his own struggles bonding with his son in an emotional Facebook post.
His first son was adopted, he says, which meant it was easy for him and his wife to take turns feeding him and pacifying him. His bond with his son was instant.
But Mentor’s younger son, now 2 years old, took a little longer to warm up to dear old dad. His son had an instant connection with his mom, however, and when that comfort gap lasted beyond the newborn phase, it was emotionally brutal on Mentor.
On Facebook, he lamented:
“It is quite a thing to be a dad who can’t comfort his child, who is constantly told ‘No, I go to mommy’, who never seems to have a real, relational moment with his own son.”
He felt extremely jealous of the bond his son had with his wife. “It was actually more difficult than I had allowed myself to admit,” he explains in a Facebook message. “For the first time, I had real doubts about my ability to be a truly involved dad.”
After an agonizing two years, things are starting to turn around. Mentor says his son is finally starting to show some real affection for his dad, celebrating a particularly “magical” milestone in his Facebook post:
“This child, who would cry when I so much as looked his way, came to me [last night] for his comfort and calm. Not going to lie … I got a little teary eyed.”
These feelings of “indifference” can go both ways, of course.
While kids may express a preference for one parent over the other, sometimes new parents just don’t feel that instantaneously deep love they expect they should feel for the new baby.
These feelings are actually super-duper normal, family therapist Leslie Seppinni told ABC News. “It’s not automatic that you’re going to bond with your child. Usually it does take a little while,” she says.
It’s hard to be patient, but if Mentor has learned anything, it’s that you have to push through those tough times by giving loads of affection — even if you’re not getting it in return.
You also have to talk about how you’re feeling, he says.
“Frankly, dads don’t talk about this kind of thing, so I have a suspicion that moms think we don’t care that our child doesn’t want to be with us or have anything to do with us,” he says. “We care. We care a lot.”
He hopes his story, which has been shared far and wide, encourages more parents to stop beating ourselves up and just be honest with ourselves and our partners.