Staying in Charge
There are a lot of cultural banana peels out there just waiting to trip up a would-be ESP couple - to cause them to slip into standard gendered divisions of labor without their consent. But sometimes the thing that can crumble their equality comes in the shape of a toddler. Beware the toddler!
I remember when T was 2 years old and he developed a huge Daddy preference. He was happy to hang out with either Marc or myself during the day, but he wanted nothing but Daddy if he woke up in the middle of the night. The preference was so intense that a visit from me (which happened every other time he wakened) escalated his crying to a fever pitch, complete with "No, Mommy! Want Daddy!" and physically pushing me away. It would have been easy for me to give up, crawl back to much-desired sleep, and send in the requested parent. Marc would have gotten a very different response from T - quick calming and a "yes" to Marc's suggestion that they rock and cuddle for a few minutes, followed by an agreeable return to the crib. But neither of us wanted T to consider Marc his only source of comfort; we knew I was just as capable. So we didn't cave. I kept going in his room every few minutes to soothe him, offer him water/rocking/hugging, and sure enough he finally called a quiet "Mama" and collapsed into my arms for a big hug. The whole event, at its worst, took less than an hour and lasted a couple of nights (once per night). After that, he readily accepted either of us - with the usual phases of mild preference over time.
It is no fun to be the parent who isn't preferred. It can grate on your psyche and make you question your ability to care for your own child. For parents who are not equal sharers, this doubting makes sense - after all, if a mother is home with her children all week, she probably will be more talented at taking care of them (and hence more preferred) than their father. But for ESP parents - equally competent and practiced at childraising activities - we suggest you consider other reasons for your child's preference (e.g., desire for routine, wish to control, mood).
It is so easy for the more desired parent to just pick up the other parent's rejected responsibilities. It solves the problem for the moment, and your child is happy. But as they say, "pay now or pay later." Soon, with this cave-in approach, the childraising domain is out of balance. Your child, furthermore, is running the show. Keep your eyes on the long-term prize of ESP - a prize that benefits all three of you.