Mom Loves You Best.

by Vicki Larson



“Mom always liked you best,” Tommy Smothers used to jokingly complain to his brother Dick on their hit 1960s TV series, “The Smothers Brothers.”


It seems funny — until you realize that a lot of moms actually do prefer one child to the other. And that has lifelong ramifications.


The pot was stirred recently by a blog written by Kate Tietje, a pregnant stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, provocative titled, “Mom Confession: I Think I Love My Son a Little Bit More.” Tietje says:


“(I)n the day-to-day life, I find it easier to gravitate towards my son. I’m more patient with him. I’m less likely to get angry with him (though I do, if he does something he shouldn’t). I’m more likely to pick him up and snuggle him, or to get something he asks for quickly. I’m less patient with my daughter, more likely to fight with her or refuse to get her something for no good reason (which she doesn’t make any easier by literally asking non-stop until I say “Enough! The answer is no!”). These are really on my worst days though … on my better days, my normal days, I make more effort to try to be fair to both.”


As one might expect in this era of anxious and judgmental parenting, Tietje got a lot of heat for her confession, so much so that she followed up with another post, “I’m Not a Perfect Mother” — which brought her almost as much flack.


It’s impossible to be perfect, but you can’t be imperfect or honest about it, either, nowadays.


Like it or not, Tietje isn’t alone. There are a lot of mothers who favor one child over the other, or so Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist at Cornell University, discovered when he looked into family favoritism.


“Most mothers have very distinct preferences. There’s one to whom they feel most emotionally close, one with whom they have the most conflict. Parental favoritism is a fundamental part of the family landscape throughout life,” said Pillemer, who interviewed a few hundred moms in the Boston area.


And that means Tietje’s children and anyone else who has felt the sting of a parent’s criticism while watching that same parent dote over a sibling will likely suffer from those feelings throughout their lives, whether they were the “chosen” child or not. We may not all suffer the fate of Cleopatra’s siblings — as her father’s favorite child, Cleopatra was responsible for the death of at least two of them — but the pain can come close. And that has been the biggest shocker for me ever since my mother became ill and passed away a few months ago, and old childhood hurts and perceived inequities resurfaced for my older sister.