On Sharing My Time With Two Children
Truth be told, it's hard to divide my time with my children.
When I had my first daughter, she became the center of my world. I quickly let go of any angst I had about going on maternity leave and entrusting someone else to teach my students as Abigail became my whole universe. As she got older, though, I found myself internally struggling with how my time was split. I knew I was a better mom and person because I worked as it fulfilled me in ways my child couldn’t, yet I found myself bouncing back and forth between missing her and also needing time and space for myself. I thought I wasn’t mom enough if I wasn’t 100 percent there for her with my time when I wasn’t working.
As I’ve learned to resolve those guilty emotions and know that I don’t need to be by her side 100 percent of the time, especially since we’ve added a baby sister to the mix. And as I’ve spent nearly four months at home on my second stint of maternity leave, I once again began grappling with this concept of being there for each of my children. Truth be told, I just couldn’t do it. And as my youngest is approaching 4 months old next month, I still know that I can’t.
A newborn requires so much time and energy. All they do is eat, sleep, poop, sometimes all at once, during that first month, and with the sleeping mostly happening in my arms, it was tough to be there for my oldest. And she, at the age of newly turned 4, wasn’t shy about letting me know that she wasn’t happy with how little time I had for her.
Cue the tears. For both of us.
I know that right after having a baby, your hormones are out of whack and baby blues set in. This time around, though, I was mourning the lost time with my oldest. Yes, we spent time apart before sister was born, however, I knew that our relationship was changing. And it was hard on both of us.
We decided as a family to have Abigail stay home with me 100 percent of the time while I was on leave, yet I didn’t have 100 percent to give to her. I cried that I was missing out on so much with her. I didn’t even get take her to see Frozen as when there was actually time to do it over the holidays, I was tied to a newborn. I’d hear of other moms bonding with their children over the simplicity of seeing a movie, and I got jealous, and more upset that I was missing out.
As the dust has settled on the newborn phase in our home, I’ve been working harder to give my oldest more of my time. I’ve taken her out of the house, just she and I, on a trip to Target or out for some frozen yogurt. I even pumped for a missed feeding and took her to see a different movie. And when she ended up on my lap for the last 30 minutes, my heart melted as I was able to be fully present for her.
Then I think of my youngest and how she’s not getting the undivided attention her sister got. The older she gets, the more I’m leaving her at home with my husband or my mom than I did with her big sister. She gets play time on her play-mat or in her bouncy chair by herself sometimes as I take some time to hang out with big sis. And when she fusses because she only wants me to hold her, I sometimes get frustrated and then I feel bad that I have this feeling.
Ultimately, my time is, and has to be, split between my two girls. This is a huge learning curve for me. Being OK with this split time. When I’m home sometimes I can give of my girls equally like giving both of them a bath at the same time as I put the baby tub in the big tub. Other times, the split is more uneven, and I’m learning to be OK with that. I’m learning that my girls won’t love me any less, though they might not like it at times. For my youngest this is the only life she will ever know—having a sister to share mama with. For my oldest, it’s an adjustment for both of us—an adjustment we are both learning to maneuver through and make better each step of the way.
As a mom of two I’ve learned that I can no longer live in an ideal world where both my girls get my all, all of the time. They have to share my time, though my love for each of them is endless even if I’m not spending every moment of my day with them. And as my youngest gets older, and I can already see in her eyes the joy she has for her big sister, I just sit back and let them have their own time together. Because at the end of the day giving them each the gift of a sibling is worth time lost, and I can’t wait to see this relationship blossom even if it means as they grow older they will begin to rely on each other more than me.
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