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Jealous Parent

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Wife 1: You said, "If a bus is coming and they're going to run both of you over, I would help the baby." And I was like, "Ok, that's understandable."
Wife 2: No, but I think she got really upset and I think that was like a turning point in our relationship, because I think you were like, "I thought I was the center of your universe, and now I'm not."
Where Should We Begin?, "Motherless Woman"

This is the mom or dad who competes with their child for their spouse's affections. Quite simply, they see the kid as the third side of a Love Triangle (though not in that way... we hope).

This can be understandable, to some extent: becoming a parent is a major life change for a couple. Even the Sickeningly Sweethearts will get a rude wake-up call when their child is screaming to be fed just as they settled down for a snuggle. Babies require time, money, affection and attention... and that means, no matter how hard mum and dad try to carry on as normal, someone or something else is going to have less of those things. Usually, in fiction at least, it's the spouse/partner. And if it's not, that can easily slide into Parental Neglect.

Suddenly, they are no longer the center of their partner's universe. They may feel that their wife/husband/partner no longer regards them as a "lover," but rather as "the other parent of my child." It's not that their husband/wife doesn't love them any more — it's just that children need more care than adults, and that means more time. Some partners have real trouble with this, especially when they're left kissing thin air because their partner ran off to tend to their child.


Dad is more likely to be the resentful party, although resentful mothers aren't unheard of. In the case of mum, she'll often have felt resentful throughout the pregnancy, and angry that her partner keeps talking to the "bump" instead of her. She may accuse her husband of treating her as a walking incubator, not the woman he fell in love with. Usually, the "social demotion" aspect of motherhood (for example, a woman feeling that she loses her identity as a person because other people see her only as a mother) will be a major theme in the plot, and her jealous parent characterization will be tangential to that theme. In the case of dad..? He's more prone to getting the Manchild treatment. His wife is almost certain to complain that she now has "one extra baby" rather than a partner. A male jealous parent is less likely to receive Character Development than a female: his jealousy will be either a permanent flaw or, on the other end of the scale, Played for Laughs.


Resentful parents fall on a sliding scale of understandable to Jerkass:

  • Concerned: Yes, this parent is a little resentful at being left out in the cold, but overall their motivation is altruistic. The attention their partner gives the child is truly over-the-top, and they run a real risk of turning into a smothering parent or an overly-restrictive one. The "resentful" parent is actually more concerned that the child will be adversely affected, or that their partner is burning themself out — the fact that their spouse hasn't spoken to them since the kid was born is a lesser concern.
  • Justified: The parent really is resentful, but their partner's behavior is obviously out of order. Usually the resentful mother falls into this category.
  • Culture Shock: Slightly less sympathetic than the Concerned and Justified type, but still understandable. This parent just hasn't got into the swing of parenthood yet. They still miss their status as lover/spouse rather than mum/dad, and the constant "not tonight, dear"s are getting them down. Usually they adjust, particularly after their partner has stopped freaking out and insisting on going to the emergency room every time the kid coughs, and they both become Good Parents after An Aesop or two. Tends to happen if the couple had children when the were quite young, the baby was born before they felt they had "quality time" with their partner, or if there was a Shotgun Wedding involved.
  • Temporary: This parent acts like a brat during the neediest stages of their child's development, but mellows out when the child is less dependent on his or her parents. Living with them is still pretty hard on their partner and child, but not as unbearable as the...
  • Selfish: To be blunt, this character should probably not have had children, at least until they'd grown up a bit. Every action their partner takes on the child's behalf is a personal insult to them. And not just playing with them or cooing over them — they resent the time taken to feed and bathe the child. If the child gets sick, this parent will probably fake being sick too. They always seen one step away from throwing a tantrum themself. May cross the Moral Event Horizon and become an Abusive Parent. Nearly Always Male, to the despair of good dads everywhere.

There is, of course, a step-parent variant, where the new partner is jealous of their love interest's children from a previous relationship. The symptoms of being a jealous parent remain the same, but the motivation is usually different: a jealous biological parent is resentful because they were there first and feel that the child has "stolen" their lover's attention; a jealous step-parent is resentful because they know that the children were there first, and therefore they will never have their partner's undivided attention.

This is often the flip side of the Oedipus Complex. Sub-trope of Parents as People. Audience sympathy tends to vary according to how well they knew the parents before they became parents: The Hero who marries his Love Interest and has Babies Ever After tends to be more sympathetic than the guy we meet mid-tantrum, as his wife is changing their son's nappy.

See also Obnoxious In-Laws, Let Her Grow Up, Dear, My Beloved Smother, Overprotective Dad, and Visit by Divorced Dad.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ren Sohma, in Fruits Basket, is a Selfish type who can't stand the attention that her husband, Akira, gives to their child Akito. In fact, she's so jealous that she does her best to ruin Akito's life. This includes having Akito be raised as a man under the excuse that the Sohma family having a female head would look bad, but really because she couldn't stand another woman getting more male attention than her, even her own daughter. There may be some justification since it had to be unnerving for her when the Zodiac children started crying and pawing at her stomach when she became pregnant with Akito, since they could sense that Akito would be the next God of the Zodiac.
  • In Happy Yarou Wedding, widower Akira proposes to his son's nanny, sparking a Relationship Upgrade. One side effect of this is that Yuuhi starts lavishing even more affection on his son Shouta, and Akira starts getting comically jealous of the attention, feeling like the relationship between him and Yuuhi should have gotten better, not worse.
  • Deconstructed in Neon Genesis Evangelion. The manga explains that Gendo Ikari ignored Shinji after his wife Yui's death because he envied how much she cared for Shinji and how much attention she placed on him.note 
  • From Elfen Lied, Mayu's mother reacts to the news that her stepfather had been routinely raping her with jealousy that she had seduced her man that way. Also overlaps with Karma Houdini as she and the stepfather are never seen getting their comeuppance, and beyond Mayu confessing everything to her new family, rarely mentioned.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Usagi Tsukino is a variant: She's jealous of her Kid from the Future, Chibi-Usa. And she's only a young teenager herself when she learns that she'll have a kid with her boyfriend. It's mostly Played for Laughs and to showcase how much of a Bratty Teenage Daughter she is, and when Chibi-Usa is actually in trouble there's nothing that Usagi wouldn't do to save her.
    • Rei's father, on the other hand, is squarely Selfish, ignoring Rei and forever mourning his dead wife. To the point that he doesn't even see her on her birthday, let alone any other time.

    Comic Book 
  • An early Baby Blues Sunday strip had Wanda accuse Darryl of being this towards a then-infant Zoe. Darryl insists that he isn't, but the last panel shows him thinking "Envious, yes. Jealous, no."
    • Wanda herself has been guilty of this. One Sunday strip has her wondering why Zoe seems so fond of Darryl, pointing out that she (Wanda) is the one who feeds, clothes, and primarily cares for her daughter. Darryl, meanwhile, just has to come home from work and play with her. Darryl's only response is "I guess that explains it, doesn't it?"
    Wanda: Oh. (crying) I WANT TO BE THE DAD FOR A WHILE!
  • Deadpool had this problem with his ex wife Shiklah Unlike most step-parents, Shiklah came first. Wade met his daughter when she was a baby, but scared away her mother to protect them. After that, he was experimented on, and had his memories tampered with by Butler. So he'd forgotten about Ellie until Butler reminds him. By the time Wade reunites with Ellie, he was already married to Shiklah for a bit. Since her return, Deadpool has prioritized her over being Shiklah's husband and consort. At one point, he tells an angry Shiklah that she signed up for everything and Ellie didn't ask to be apart of his crap life, so he's going to her. When their marriage starts to crumble further, Shiklah mentions his "human spawnling" as one of the things he devotes more time to than her.
  • Dynamo5: Downplayed. According to Scatterbrain (Gage Reinhart), the supervillain Chrysalis is afraid that her looks are fading and she can't attract men anymore. He said that she is jealous of her daughter Cynthia because of her looks and that she probably can better attract men. However, it appears that Chrysalis does not let her jealousy affect her relationship with her daughter, and they appear to be close.
  • Among many other issues, Brian Banner felt this way toward his son Bruce. He doesn't get better, and the situation ends in tragedy.

  • From Kill la Kill AU, we have Ragyou's mother, Youko, who is the Selfish type and she is clearly not the mothering sort, being the sort to mostly sit in front of the TV and smoke cigarettes, explicitly stating that she should have thrown her away and is quick to call her ungrateful. Her words to a then six-year old Ragyou, on her birthday no less:
    "You turned six and I would very well like to forget your birthday because making you ruined my body, cost me my social life, and took all of your father's attention. You've been doing that for six years."
  • Asuka from The Second Try is the Temporary type. She really didn't want a kid, partially out of fear that it would ruin her relationship with Shinji. It was to the point that she tried to induce a miscarriage via starvation. Fortunately, seeing the first ultrasound awakened her maternal instinct and she was firmly in Good Parent territory by the time that Aki was born (though her jealous phase would come back to haunt her during her rematch with Arael).
  • In the A Hat in Time AU fic What to Expect When You're On the Run, Vanessa becomes jealous of her daughter when she feels her husband Michael is spending to much time with her. The Irony being that said daughter was only conceived as The Baby Trap, which was planned by Vanessa to get Michael to leave his university and be with her more permanently. Well, she succeeded.

  • In Dragonriders of Pern, Petiron (Selfish) becomes a Spoiled Brat when his son, Robinton, is born in Masterharper of Pern. He and his wife, Merelan, were Sickeningly Sweethearts, but after Robinton was born he became jealous and resentful, taking it out on his sweet-natured son who only ever wanted his father's approval. Merelan's desperate attempts to keep Petiron happy exhausted her — possibly leading to her death (according to her best friend).
  • In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Eva is a Concerned / Justified type in her own eyes, and a Selfish type in the eyes of her husband. Due to Unreliable Narrator, it's hard for the reader to pin down which one is truth... but given that Franklin dismissed Eva's concerns, doted on Kevin and demanded that Eva give up her job and move to the suburbs for Kevin's good, there's probably an element of Justified at least.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, one damned soul accuses her husband of being a jealous parent, complaining that he (and their daughter) begrudged her her grief for her dead son; her brother, a Bright One, contradicts her: they rightly revolted against her obsession, despite their love for the son/brother, because it was about her, not her son.
  • In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian flips shit when Ana reveals she's pregnant, saying that he doesn't feel ready to "share" her with anyone and that she will prioritise parenting over being his wife. While drunk, he even suggests that Ana will love the baby more than him. Ana calls him out on it, saying he's being immature and needs to grow up and take responsibility, also suggesting that she will choose the baby over him if she has to because unlike him, the baby actually is a helpless child who cannot fend for itself. He seems to have mellowed out by the time their second child is on the way, likely putting him under Type Temporary, though he strongly comes off Type Selfish the first time.
  • Edward Cullen from Twilight is probably a Concerned but comes off Selfish, when he explicitly says that he prefers that Bella abort rather than lose her. He even bitterly asks her how he could ever love the baby if it meant that Bella died to give birth. He gets better in words when Nessie's born, but he and Bella still don't pay that much attention to their child, preferring to pawn her off to other relatives.
  • Played with in Agatha Christie's Five Little Pigs, where it is mentioned that Amyas Cale often expresses jealousy over his wife Caroline frequently favouring her sister more than him. They do have a child, but their daughter barely registers in anyone's attention.
  • Eleanor & Park: Richie is implied to be a Selfish type with his stepchildren and son. He’s abusive to them save for the youngest, who he mostly ignores.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Jaime was like this with Cersei after the birth of their firstborn. Complicated somewhat because theirs is a Secret Relationship, so their son's paternity had to stay secret. Parenthood wasn't something they experienced together—Cersei was socially considered a mother but Jaime wasn't socially a father, and did not act as one. This made parenthood a wedge between them even moreso than it is for most couples.
    The boy had been a squalling pink thing who demanded too much of Cersei's time, Cersei's love, and Cersei's breasts.
  • In the non-fiction book Mating in Captivity, couple's therapist Esther Perel describes it as a very common situation she sees in her patients. She also highlights that the role of Jealous Parent is not a purely negative one: the Jealous Parent is the keeper of the relationship—a reminder that their connection as a couple matter—in a time when the other partner is not thinking about that.
    My work with gay and lesbian couples has led me to recognize that these dynamics are replicated whenever one parent, gender notwithstanding, takes charge of the kids … What I see over and over is that the person who takes on the role of primary caretaker almost always undergoes … a total immersion in the lives and rhythms of the children, a loss of self, and a greater difficulty extricating himself or herself from chores … The role of the more autonomous parent is to help the primary caregiver disengage from the kids and reallocate energy to the couple.

    Live Action Film 
  • Amelia in The Babadook is Selfish, as she ultimately admits that she loves her dead husband more than her living son. The fact that he died driving her to the hospital to give birth plays a big role in it. She gets better.
  • In Chronicle, ex-firefighter-turned-The Alcoholic Lower-Class Lout Richard is a Selfish type who abuses his son Andrew, while the only one he loves was his bed ridden wife, which Andrew loves too and in turn his mother loves him back. It is implied the reason Richard abuses Andrew other than to use him as a stress vent to pass out his financial problems onto him was out of alcohol-induced jealousy of Andrew being more loved by his wife than him, while the way he abuses Andrew can have him come across as an absolutely Crazy Jealous Guy and a Yandere. When Richard learns Andrew attends a talent show and a party and that his son has powers which he uses to overpower the former from abusing him, Richard's jealousy of his son upgrades to being jealous of his son trying to find his own happiness and improve his life then Richard and the fact Andrew is a more powerful being then him, finally culminating in Richard attempting to strike Andrew at the hospital after the death of his wife which Richard proceeds to blame Andrew for (likely for Andrew "stealing" all of his wife's love away from Richard before her passing, while leaving him out), only to earn Andrew's wrath.

    Live Action Television 
  • In an episode of EastEnders, has Tiffaney as justified type towards an unborn child, when she screamed at her husband, Grant, that she wasn't "a baby machine" after he became obsessed with having a second child.
  • Angel: In season 1 episode 5 Rm w/a Vu the ghost haunting Cordelia's new apartment is revealed to be a smothering mother who, when her son decided get married, trapped him within the walls of the apartment so he wouldn't leave her and leaves him there to die. She dies of a heart attack immediately after, leading people with the false impression that he killed her and then disappeared.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent recurring antagonist Nicole Wallace killed her toddler daughter because she viewed her as competition for the baby's father's love — not just in the general sense, but in an actual romantic sense. In her case, her view of sexuality was warped because her own father molested her from the time she was three and then convinced Nicole she had seduced him, and this caused her to see her three-year-old as a legitimate romantic rival.
  • In Scrubs, Dr Cox went through this just after his son Jack was born and the usually self-absorbed and amoral Jordan made a genuine effort to be a caring mother to him. Partially because Perry can’t stand not being the centre of attention and partially because his own mother was extremely neglectful and he saw Jordan’s focussing on Jack as abnormal.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • Alluded to in Sabrina Online, where Thomas notes that he never thought he'd feel jealous of his own son, after said son (Timmy) disturbs some "special time" between him and wife, Amy. The fact that Timmy is nursing at the time doesn't help. Strictly Played For Laughs - Thomas is an attentive and loving dad.
  • Anthony Carver in Gunnerkrigg Court adored his wife and resented their daughter. Justification varies: on one hand he had some heartbreaking knowledge to deal with — that Antimony was literally killing her mother just by existing, which would suggest the Concerned type... but his classmates all state that he was fundamentally selfish to begin with (Selfish type). It later turns out he doesn't resent Antimony at all. He's just wracked with guilt over the double-whammy of failing to save Surma and nearly accidentally killing Antimony in a bid to revive Surma.

    Western Animation 
  • Cleveland acts as a mix of all of the above in an episode of The Cleveland Show, when Donna's constant affection for Rallo gets in the way of their sex life. While he does act somewhat self-centered and childish about it, he is at least somewhat justified since his stepson is deliberately trying to pry the two away from each other out of his own jealousy. Eventually, the two negotiate.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Bobby starts using skills he picked up in Home Ec to help around the house and Peggy, who normally defends him when Hank chastises him for not being "manly" enough, starts feeling threatened when Hank supports him for once. She eventually snaps and runs off with the Thanksgiving turkey he was cooking, and the show treats Hank as the bad guy for not paying her enough attention.
  • Moral Orel eventually revealed that Orel's abusive father Clay was completely doted on by his own mother when he was a child. Angela Puppington raved about how Clay was her "miracle baby," being the only pregnancy she had that wasn't stillborn. She attributed Clay's birth to all the praying she did while pregnant and thinks God blessed her, not realizing her other pregnancies were cut short because of her excessive drinking, smoking, and rough activities (none of which she did while she prayed for Clay to be born). As such, Angela was obsessed with Clay and neglected her husband Arthur who quietly grew annoyed by his wife and son. In this case, he was more annoyed by his wife's fanaticism and lack of common sense which was turning his son into a Spoiled Brat. That jealousy later turned into full-on resentment when Clay pulled a prank by pretending to die, causing Angela to have a heart attack and dying for real.