The Dirty Little Secret of Motherhood

The Project Runway star and mother of six on why choosing a favorite child is not only okay—it's actually healthier for the family.

I have a favorite child. I hear you gasping in horror. I actually believe every mother does, just won’t admit it. It’s the dirty little secret of motherhood. Why is it so horrible? It’s not Sophie’s Choice or anything. I’m not saying I don’t love all of my children, just that I don’t always like all of them, at least not every day (or week, or month, or year).

I have favorite shoes, and movies and foods, why not a favorite child?

I’m not saying if you’re not my favorite, I won’t help with your homework, the task is just more enjoyable for me with some of my children than with others.

If you swear you have no favorite, and think you are fooling your kids, you’re fooling yourself. Just because kids are short, they aren’t stupid.

My children know I have a favorite. They actually compete to be held in my highest esteem; in our family we call it “The List.”

“Don’t do that,” I say, “ you will go the bottom of The List.”

“If I rub your feet, will I go to the top of The List?” Truman asks in an ambitious mood.

“Mom, look at me. I’m the best dancer. Where am I on the list? Pierson wants to know as he grabs his crotch in his best Michael Jackson move.

“That list is crap and you are all suck-ups.” Peik adds in the pleasant manner that only a teenager can muster.

There are stages in childhood that I prefer over others, and by virtue of being in that stage, your position on the list moves up. I find babies to be cute and innocent while teenagers seem hell bent to ruin my life, when faced with the question of which I prefer, the choice is not a hard one.

Children are born with the personalities that they have. And some personalities are just easier to get along with than others. I have kids, who operate like me, and I understand them better; I am better able to get along with them. These are the ones who are not so intellectually gifted, so they work hard to succeed.

Some of my children are better suited to my husband’s personality, and he totally gets them while I stand there dumbfounded. I find nothing more frustrating than a child who is super intelligent but uses that intelligence to find ways to beat the system. This having been my husband’s MO for most of his life, he tends to get along best with these kids, or at least understand where they are coming from.

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Some children have special needs, and their dependence on their mother produces a special bond. I have seen parents who see themselves in their children, and they don’t like what they see. Some children are independent and low maintenance, and need no special attention at all. This is, of course, the kind for which I sign up.

If you swear you have no favorite, and think you are fooling your kids, you’re fooling yourself. Just because kids are short, they aren’t stupid. They can figure it out. Just like personalities are formed by birth order, I think personalities are formed by preference order. It’s not a bad thing, its just the way life works. I know a very successful woman in the publishing industry who thought her brother’s name was MySonPaul—she was so clearly not her mother’s favorite—this formed her success driven personality and has gotten her where she is today.

Is my list mental abuse, or healthy competition? I am not only convinced that this competition is healthy, but would venture to say that overprotective mothering does more damage. So bring me that list, and who wants to give me a back rub?

Laura Bennett was trained as an architect but has since established her career as a fashion designer by becoming a finalist on Season 3 of the Bravo hit television series Project Runway . Bennett lives amid complete chaos in New York City with her husband and six children, Cleo, 20, Peik, 13, Truman, 10, Pierson, 6, Larson, 5, and Finn, 2.