Alisha Tierney-March with favourite childExpress

Harleigh, baby Elijah and Addison are jealous of their mother Alisha’s preferred child Kennedie

Cosied up watching Peppa Pig with her two-year-old daughter, Alisha Tierney-March is irritated by an interruption from one of her older children. “It’s bedtime for you, off you go,” she says, shooing the girl away with a waft of her hand before resuming the cuddle with her toddler.

“She gets everything she wants, she’s your favourite,” rages nine-year-old Addison – not for the first time. Astonishingly, far from dismissing the rant as nonsense, Alisha admits that Addison is actually right. Two-year-old Kennedie, the third of her four children, really is her favourite.

It is a startling admission that will leave many parents agog at best. After all to acknowledge that you favour one child over another is surely the last taboo of motherhood.

Still, however much others may judge Alisha when they read this, she is actually far from alone. And more shockingly she doesn’t actually care what people think. A recent survey of 1,000 British mothers revealed that one in five parents says their kids believe they have a favourite child and according to another study by Mumsnet and Gransnet last month, their instincts are right.

Mother Alisha is overwhelmed by love for KennedieExpress

Mother Alisha is overwhelmed by love for Kennedie

I’m very honest with Addison and Harleigh and have explained that Kennedie is my favourite

Alisha Tierney-March

The results revealed that a quarter of parents admit to favouring one child, most commonly the youngest or “easiest” of the brood – 61 per cent of them confessed that their favourite child’s siblings were “tricky or demanding” by contrast.

They are findings that resonate with Alisha, 32, who lives in Derbyshire with her husband Julius, 47, who owns a carpentry company, and their four children, Addison, nine, Harleigh, seven, Kennedie, two, and Elijah, who was one this week.

“I’m very honest with Addison and Harleigh and have explained that Kennedie is my favourite because she is sweet and cuddly and shows me love and affection, not the teenage style attitude and backchat they developed far too soon,” Alisha says.

“They are downright awful to me sometimes despite Julius and I working hard to teach good manners and behaviour.” She and Julius met 12 years ago when they were neighbours and became friends over daily dog walks 18 months before they started dating.

Harleigh and Addison with baby KennedieExpress

Harleigh and Addison with baby Kennedie

Three months into their relationship Alisha discovered she was pregnant but subsequently had a miscarriage which she says cemented their desire to have a family together.

Addison was born in January 2009, Harleigh soon after in October 2010 and Kennedie five years later.

“I strongly believe the fact that I was 30 and more mature when I had Kennedie has played a part in how I feel about her,” Alisha continues. “Although I desperately wanted babies in my 20s, I’m much more patient with Kennedie in my 30s.”

Alisha points out that although she favours Kennedie she loves all four children the same and is quick to tell them so. “I just bonded with Kennedie more from the start really,” she recalls.

“She was the most placid of my babies and just wanted cuddles and skin contact, much as she does now.

“Also she was the only one of the four I was able to breastfeed and I did so for 10 months. Maybe that has intensified my bond with her too.

“As a baby Addison would scream for 12 hours at a time with colic and she wasn’t quite two when Harleigh was born so I never really had any what I call ‘nice’ time with either of them as they were so close in age.

“By the time we had Kennedie they were at school so I had the luxury of time at home on my own with her.”

Alisha recalls that the tot was 16 months old when her older sisters first started accusing their mother of showing favouritism towards her. “I don’t love her more than my other three children but I certainly like her more,” she adds, candidly.

“She has such a loving temperament which makes me want to spend more time with her. The older two have moments when they are loving and kind but mostly they act like teenagers before their time.

“I love taking Kennedie swimming, to the park and sitting in the library reading stories to her, everyday activities that I didn’t enjoy anywhere near as much with my elder two.”

As for little Elijah, Alisha admits that although he is “a lovely baby” he doesn’t stand a chance of picking up the mantle as her favourite for the simple fact that he is a boy. “When we found out his sex while I was pregnant I cried for days and when he was born I had to ask Julius to choose a name because my mind was blank,” she confesses. “I think because I’ve got three daughters I’ve been used to a world of dance, gymnastics and athletics clubs and I didn’t know what to do with a boy.”

Still Alisha confesses that her admissions are loaded with guilt just like 55 per cent of the mothers who took part in the Mumsnet survey who say that they accept that having a favourite is “awful”.

“At the moment I believe my other daughters think that I am closer to Kennedie because she is still so little,” she adds. “But I know there is the potential for problems when they’re all older so I’m honestly hoping that they will always see her as a baby compared to them.

“Realistically though they may not so there might come a time when I have to hide my feelings a bit more and save special time with Kennedie for when they are out with friends.”

Mother Alisha with her husband JuliusExpress

Mother Alisha with her husband Julius

Dr Katharine Ayivor is a chartered clinical psychologist who specialises in child and family matters and says that there are risks associated with admitting to being more enamoured with one child than another.

“It’s natural to have different connections with your children the same way you do with other people,” she explains. “They have different personalities and you have them at different stages in your life so there are various factors that influence whether you may have more intense feelings towards one child.

“How you manage having a closer bond with one is important. The difficulty comes in how the favouritism is received by the child, their siblings and the wider family. There’s a risk that it will create sibling rivalry and competition as they vie for the parents’ favour and approval.”

Alisha is one of four children herself but was raised as an only child by her grandparents while her three brothers lived with other family members. Ironically she admits that the contact her mother had with her while she was growing up didn’t contain the warmth shown to her brothers, fuelling feelings that she favoured them over her. The adoration from her grandparents – whom she called mum and dad – was her salvation.

“To a degree I do feel guilty for having a favourite child of course,” admits Alisha. “But I can’t help the way I feel and however much other parents judge me for speaking out I think if they were really honest they would realise they have a slight favourite among their children too.

“I love all four kids to pieces but my bond with Kennedie is different and too strong now to diminish as she grows older although Julius doesn’t agree. He thinks that it is just because she’s younger and cuter and that by the time she is the age her elder sisters are now my feelings will all balance out.”

Alisha Tierney-March with favourite child KennedieExpress

Alisha says she just enjoy being with Kennedie more than the others

She adds: “But he works such long hours that he doesn’t understand how deep my feelings run. However he does tell me he thinks I let her get away with too much and don’t discipline her the way I do the others.”

She admits that one friend gives her a hard time and thinks it is terrible that she has a favourite. “She tries to spoil my elder girls to compensate by inviting them over for tea. Ironically by doing so she gives me more time to play with Kennedie.”

Alisha admits that in those moments laden with guilt she tries to make it up to her older children by spending more money on them. “At Christmas and on birthdays they get what they want, including a £300 iPhone each recently. We spend a lot of time ferrying them to dance, gymnastics and athletics clubs too. It’s important to me that they are active and get to pursue their interests.

“It’s not that Kennedie means more to me, I just enjoy being with her more than the others. My elder children aren’t affected by my feelings, they know that I love them as much as her and Elijah will when he is old enough to understand too.

“But in terms of who gets to come and lie in bed with me for cuddles and sneaky chocolate, it’s Kennedie every time. Then again Addison and Harleigh probably wouldn’t want my affection anyway. They would just to go off in a huff and eat chocolate on their own.”

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