I thought I was prepared. I talked to my daughter about her new baby brother and bought her books about being a big sister. I read articles about including my firstborn in everything from diaper changes to laundry. I even talked to friends with more than one child about what life was going to look like with two. I was so focused on getting her ready for her new role as big sister, I didn’t even think about my new role. No one prepared me for the guilt.
After we settled in at home and all of the relatives left, reality hit me…hard. I found myself snapping at my daughter, feeling irritated and on edge. I guess I could easily blame sleep deprivation or hormones, but it was something else. We had sweet moments and I loved our new family of four, but somehow any small request rubbed me the wrong way. I often felt annoyed helping my daughter with things I knew she could do herself. What kind of mom was I?Then it dawned on me. I resented her for taking me away from my new little bundle. When my daughter was born, I had all the time in the world to sleep when she napped, sit on the ground and watch her during tummy time or rock her while singing a lullaby. Now I found myself juggling diaper changes, snack time, a screaming infant, a toddler needing toilet help, making dinner, multiple naps and keeping my house clean(ish). I was craving more one on one time with my baby boy and she was constantly interrupting. I thought I was giving her plenty of attention, but never stopped to think that she might be craving some one on one time from me.
My moment of clarity came one night as I flew solo because of my husband’s work schedule. She was ready for dinner right around the time my son was ready for bed. We set up a “picnic” in his bedroom so she could eat while I nursed and put him to sleep. I watched her eating quietly on the make-shift table, wearing her pink Sleeping Beauty dress and I thought, “Gosh, she’s still so little. She still needs me.” In fact, my first baby needed me now more than ever and I felt guilty about resenting her. I should’ve been allowing her grace during this transition, but instead I was being so harsh. I thought about my behavior and shortcomings as a mom in the past few weeks and felt disgusted with myself. After I tucked her in, I had a good, ugly cry.
Rather than wallow in self-pity or dwell in that guilt, I decided to make a change and see her through my old eyes. I saw the sweet little girl that made me a mom for the first time. I marveled at her compassion and love for her new little brother. I stood in awe watching her do things independently and smiled with pride when she mastered something new. My world wasn’t the only one that had changed with her brother’s arrival. She had to share my time now and was adjusting to this new life right along with me.
I grew up in a house with five younger sisters, so alone time with mom and dad was rare. My parents made the effort to spend quality time with each of us individually and called it special time . It ranged from movie dates to short trips to the grocery store. These times were priceless memories I’ll never forget. Now I try my hardest to have special time with my daughter as often as I can.
Whether you relate to my experience or not, I encourage you to spend some one on one time with your littles. If you have one child or six, carve out some individual time for them. Read a book, grab coffee (and milk), sing and dance to their favorite song or get the mail at the end of the driveway. It doesn’t have to be a big production, just be present. Disconnect from technology and connect with your children instead. Let them know they are loved by your words and actions. Remember, our relationships with our children need cultivating and care just like our relationships with adults. They require time, effort, patience, love and mutual respect.
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” -Maria Montessori