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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 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 it's the spouse/partner. And if it's not, that can easily slide into Parental Neglect.

Suddenly they're no longer the center of their partner's universe. They may feel that their partner no longer regards them as a "lover," but rather as "the other parent of my child." It's not that their partner 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.

Given the bond that pregnancy forages between mother and child, jealous fathers are by far the most common example of this, although the inverse is also possible, particularly if the daughter is a Daddy's Girl. Same-sex couples are not exempt, either. A perfectly even division of labor a nice idea, but very difficult to actually implement. Almost invariably, one parent will emerge as the primary caregiver, and their lover may feel displaced.

Tonally, this trope is very flexible. It can be a short-term thing as the couple adapts to the culture shock of new parenthood, or it can persist for years. It can be Played for Drama or Played for Laughs. The jealous parent can be framed as a Jerkass, one step away from becoming an Abusive Parent, or can alternatively be framed as justified — their partner really is too wrapped up in the kids, and taking a step back would both spare the parent from burnout and the kids from smothering.

There's 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.

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.

It can be bit of a Non-Indicative Name: if the parent is jealous of their child for reasons other than being the primary recipient of their partner's affections, it's not this trope.

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



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Adoptive version in Berserk as it’s strongly inferred the reason why Gambino made Guts’ childhood such hell (i.e abusing him frequently, selling him to a pedophile Big Scary Black Man before eventually trying to kill Guts himself) is all because Shisu Gambino’s lover adored Guts so much upon finding him as a baby taking affection away from Gambino. Shisu dying three years later from the plague with Guts at her side while Gambino was away was the final nail in the coffin. Gambino even claims Guts was a cursed child who caused their misfortune.
  • 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.
  • Fruits Basket: Ren Sohma 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.
  • 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.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion 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 
  • 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 Books 
  • 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 too. 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.
  • In The Incredible Hulk, Brian Banner, Bruce's appallingly abusive father, cites this as a reason why he hates his only son — because Bruce took all of his wife Rebecca's love. Brian stated that he never wanted kids and thought Bruce was a monster from the get-go, so seeing said child get nothing but love and care from his mother, whom Brian wanted purely for himself, eventually made him snap, cumulating in Brian murdering Rebecca (in front of Bruce) as the mother and son were trying to escape from the abusive piece of shit.

  • Kill la Kill AU: Ragyou's mother, Youko, 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:
    Youko: 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.
  • The Second Try: Asuka 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Babadook: Amelia 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.
  • Chronicle: Ex-firefighter-turned-The Alcoholic Lower-Class Lout Richard 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.

  • In Acid Row, Martin Rogerson is so jealous of his daughter Amy taking his estranged wife Laura's time and attention away from him, he tried to pressure Laura into an abortion when they first learned she was pregnant (including threatening to leave her if she didn't comply), constantly argued with her about spending 'too much' time with Amy and all but ignored Amy for the remainder of their marriage unless he saw an opportunity to sabotage Laura's attempts to bond with her. The police quickly realise that the only reason Martin is fighting Laura about custody is so he can use Amy to get Laura back under his control; he couldn't give two hoots about Amy herself.
  • A Cry in the Night: Erich expresses jealousy over he and Jenny's newborn son, 'jokingly' complaining about how she spends most of her time with him and that he's feeling left out (it's worth noting that their son was born premature and is quite sickly, so Jenny is trying to keep him healthy). This takes an especially dark turn given the implication Erich murdered their son partly so he could have Jenny all to himself again.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: Petiron 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).
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin: Eva and Franklin are the parents of Kevin, and Eva is the jealous parent. She thinks she's justified, and her husband thinks she's selfish. Due to Unreliable Narrator, it's hard for the reader to pin down which one is truth, but Franklin did dismiss Eva's concerns, dote on Kevin and demand that Eva give up her job and move to the suburbs for Kevin's good.
  • 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.
  • Stephen King:
    • Variation in The Shining Wendy is pretty jealous of her husband Jack whom their beloved son Danny can’t help but love several degrees more than her (he does love his mother, but utterly idolises his father). Wendy herself loved her father more than her mother and vice-versa, which is why her mother is so cold and emotionally abusive towards her. Ironically in the Kubrick adaptation and its sequel the dynamic is completely reversed, Danny is far closer to Wendy something Jack seemingly held against both of them.
    • In Gerald's Game Jessie’s mother Sally showed jealously of over much her husband Tom spoiled their daughter, even saying he was treating Jessie like his girlfriend. Which becomes serious Squick when Tom did molest Jessie during a solar eclipse, which traumatised Jessie for the rest of her life.
  • 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.
  • Twilight: Complicated by a high-risk half-vampire pregnancy, but Edward Cullen 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Jaime was like this with Cersei after the birth of their firstborn Joffrey. 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.

    Live-Action TV 

  • In Waitress, when Jenna tells Earl that she is pregnant, it takes him mere seconds before he demands that she promise not to love the baby more than him.

    Video Games 
  • Played with in Hades; deep down, the titular antagonist does actually love his son Zargeus, but still holds bitterness towards him due to the circumstances of his birth. He was stillborn, which caused his mother Persephone to leave the Underworld, before Nyx had Zargeus revived. The idea that Persephone (whom Hades loves dearly) literally would've only stayed for their son hurts Hades deeply, and he takes that heartache out on Zargeus. When Zargeus bring his mother back to the Underworld, the relationship between father and son improves immensely.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Hal Emmerich/Otacon reveals that his father drowned himself in the family pool (and tried to take his stepdaughter Emma with him) after discovering that his wife and Hal's stepmother had been having sex with his son, and tellingly treated it as an insult to his masculinity rather than the ugly potential statutory rape it was since Hal was only 17.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

    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.
  • In Unsounded, it's later revealed that Mathis Quigley's questionable parenting towards his son Matty is due to resenting that Matty was ever born in the first place, as he believes it changed his relationship with his wife and that she paid more attention to Matty than to him. It turns out to be part of the reason why he was the one who sold out his wife to the Aldish government, resulting in her being tortured and killed.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender it’s inferred in the show and outright confirmed in the comics that one of the reasons why Ozai hated and abused his only son Zuko so badly is because Ursa gave him all the love and affection that Ozai himself never got from her (they had a Arranged Marriage with Ursa loving another man). Interestingly a similar sentiment is shared by their daughter Azula, who was deeply jealous of Zuko getting the majority of the love and attention from their mother with her Start of Darkness being triggered by the perception that her mother saw her as a monster.
  • The Cleveland Show: In an episode when Donna's constant affection for Rallo gets in the way of their sex life, Cleveland acts like this. 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 die for real.
  • In The Simpsons, the episode "Tennis the Menace" had Marge swapping Homer for Bart as her doubles partner because Bart is a much better player, causing Homer to experience what Lisa describes as "oedipal anxiety."
    Homer: It's obvious what's happening. I'm being replaced by a younger, more in-your-face version of me!