Mama R is guest posting again here today. She was here late last year. I will leave her with you
As I sit here writing this piece, Little Girl #1 (aged 2 ½ y/o) is playing happily in her bedroom and Little Girl #2 (aged 3 months) is peacefully sleeping. For how long this will last, I have no idea. I have done the dishes, made the bed, tidied up a little, folded washing and sat listening to LG #1 playing because, in a word, it is just beautiful. This picture may sound like a very smooth running ship, and perhaps today (or at least at this moment) it is. But the reality is, I am in my pyjamas as I do not want to have a shower because I do not want to disturb LG #1. She is playing so nicely yet I am too worried that if I shower she will decide to (unintentionally) do something destructive like pour cream all over her bed like last week therefore I will wait until she interrupts me.
Having two children is, I am finding, both challenging and rewarding; but above all a juggling act. It is a massive adjustment to life and my expectations on what life would be like. It is helping LG #1 adjust to the arrival of her sister, helping LG #2 settle into arriving in this world, having patience with Daddy R as he adapts, and teaching myself how to cope with it all. It’s getting through each day as best as we all can; most times with more laughs and smiles than frowns and tears but some times not. And learning that it is all ok and totally normal.
Is it easier the second time around? I cannot count how many times I have been asked this question and I still do not really know the answer. If we could go back with the knowledge we have after our first baby to do it again with that same baby, it would, of course, be easier. So much learning happens as a new mum. From a practical perspective, it is definitely easier. I know how to change a nappy efficiently, to bath a baby, and how much clothing is too much or too little. I have more knowledge and experience in breast feeding and have read and practiced numerous sleep and settling strategies. These things definitely make some aspects easier. But the thing is, they have to make some of it easier because the challenge of having a toddler in addition to this very dependent little new being is huge. LG #1 has had, for her whole little life, me to herself and now she has to share me with someone equally as important. The juggling act begins.
Helping LG #1 adjust to her new sibling has been a big focus of my attention. Trying to prepare her for the baby’s arrival had its limitations because of how much she could really understand for her age. Teaching her to play on her own has been a massive benefit. However, we are forever negotiating, splitting attention, asking her to wait. These are things that did happen prior to LG#2, but not nearly as often as they do now. I know that she is learning so much by having her sibling; and not all lessons are easy. So I adopt little strategies that I hope will help her. I keep things as routine as possible, I make sure she has plenty of stimulation and I continue to involve her in activities outside the home like story time at the library, swimming and playgroup. I make sure she has one on one time with both Daddy R and myself, I involve her in playing and caring for her sister, I explain to her when I’m tired or short tempered so she hopefully knows it’s not her fault, and I try to keep my promises to do things when I’m finished what I am currently doing. Above all, I tell her I love her, I tell her about how proud I am when I see her acting so beautifully towards her sister, and I give her as much physical affection as I can. But I am a mother, and mothers worry. Am I giving her enough? Is she ok? It’s an adjustment for all of us, but one I believe is worth it.
And then there is our new addition, the one causing these changes, our LG #2. Thankfully this time breast feeding has come more naturally than with LG #1 and I have had fewer issues. Recently, I was able to remove the training wheels of the breast feeding pillow and just cuddle her. It was awesome. Sleep is improving but was an area in which I think I put too much pressure and expectation on myself in the early days. “This is what worked for LG #1. I know what works, this is how I’ll do it. I’ll be better this time. I won’t make the same mistakes” My knowledge about sleep was far more than with LG #1 but LG #2 is still a baby and babies don’t always sleep. Whoever came up with the notion that they did? Most importantly, she’s a different baby and I needed to start reading her signs and behaviour and stop reading the books. So they were the practical bits. The worries such as; Is she sleeping enough? Is she eating enough? Is she putting on weight? These are less intense because I know she will tell me what she needs so I am generally more relaxed.
Then there is the bonding and attachment. I was feeling that apart from feeding, changing and burping her, I had to divide my attention and that maybe she was missing out on something. The reality is, LG #2 is the second child and as a result she doesn’t get me to herself for the first two years of her life. But she will cope with that, her personality is strong enough, she is robust, she knows no different and that is ok. The bonus for her is that she gets an older sister; an extra person to dote on her. So I try to remember to talk to her as often as I can, I get LG #1 to sit and play with her to allow me to have more time with her, I sit her on the bench to talk to her while I cook or do the dishes and I make the most of any time we do have alone. I am falling more and more in love with my special baby girl. But again; the worry. Am I giving her enough attention? Am I talking to her often enough? Is she missing out on anything on an emotional or cognitive level? Is she ok?
The challenges in my journey are numerous; but as a parent regardless of how many children you have, the challenges are always there. It’s the rewards that make it all worth it. Finding LG #1 sitting reading to LG #2 or singing to her, the two girls already making each other laugh, having the two girls on my lap for a cuddle or a story, hearing LG #1 talk about her sister and watching LG#2’s eyes follow her older sister around the room. Someone close to me told me that seeing your eldest interacting with your newborn makes you fall in love with them all over again. I totally agree. The other amazing part is realising the capacity in your own heart for love.
The juggling act is constant but it is part of it; sometimes you look like a true circus performer starring and other times you keep dropping the balls. It’s trying to give each child the best part of myself so that they both thrive but accepting that sometimes they see other parts of me and that this is ok.
Sometimes it is easier than others. I get many moments I never want to forget and a few I wish I could dismiss from my mind. It’s all a learning process and a learning process for all four of us. Adjusting expectations, giving myself time to get to know my newest baby but also time with my eldest to keep our relationship strong, forgiving myself for losing my temper, helping my children grow into the people they are destined to be, remembering mistakes are all part of parenting and enjoying the small things in every day.
How did you adjust to the arrival of your newest family member? What expectations of yourself did you have to change? What do you do on a daily basis that helps keep your family chugging along smoothly? Did you ever get any unhelpful advice?
Not for the first time I realise that mothers have one of the toughest jobs in the world, but definitely the best job.
And, for those of you wondering, how long I did get to myself to write this piece on that morning of bliss? Put it this way, I spoke too soon!