Have you ever experienced wrestling a crocodile while a monkey is pulling on your pant leg trying to get your attention? No? Well, you haven’t met my 2 girls. We all know being a mom to one child is not an easy job. But, being a mom of 2, demands so much more of your time, and requires a heck of alot more sleep. Adding a second child to the equation is like bringing in a new puppy while you’re trying to teach the cat how to use the toilet instead of the litter box. It’s hectic, it’s messy, it’s exhausting, but…. it’s the most rewarding.
In November 2020, I welcomed my second daughter. While I always envisioned a small gap in age between my children, the age gap between my oldest (who turned 3 years old end of January, 2021) has been a huge blessing. She has been the most aware of her surroundings and has become the most communicative about her adjustment to change. She is also the most helpful and loving towards her baby sister. But sometimes her need to help, can be increasingly overbearing and it often leads to more chaos than actual help. My oldest daughter is capable of independently playing when necessary, however, just like any preschooler, she also demands attention and she expresses her emotions loud and clear.
So, how do I manage an infant who has decided from day one, she would rather spend her days not napping, and would rather wrestle you at each diaper change,and demands a significant amount of my time, while I have a preschooler who no longer naps, and would much prefer playing with you, while also demanding a huge chunk of your time for herself? I use the “divide and conquer” method.
From day one when I announced to my husband that I was pregnant with my second, I already had thought of a plan of attack. My plan was to DIVIDE our parental roles. I asked my husband to mostly focus a lot of his attention on our preschooler and her needs. This included, getting our oldest ready for preschool, breakfast, potty training help, and weekend day-to-day routines. If my oldest would wake up in the middle of the night because she had a nightmare, daddy would come to the rescue.
I would focus a bulk of my attention on my youngest, who is almost 4 months old. This method works well for us for so many reasons. The newborn/infant stage is the most demanding for their mom including bonding, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin for milk production, and potential co sleep and co nap situations. Even if I wasn’t breastfeeding, a moms heartbeat soothes and comforts our baby under any situation. Knowing all of this, this method felt right. When our first daughter was born, she wanted mom, most of the time for comfort. Naps I co slept with her. I exclusively pumped breast milk with some formula feeds. This helped my husband bond at bedtime. This time around, breastfeeding was something my second daughter wanted and was capable of. Breastfeeding eats up so much of your time. So what better way to encourage extended bonding with our oldest daughter than to allow my husband that time, now?
How do I divide my time between my youngest and my oldest, I plan my time with my oldest daughter. I specifically try and schedule time for her each morning and at night. I try and see her off to preschool (no matter how tired I am). This might be 15 minutes, or 30 minutes, depending if my youngest is awake while I’m co sleeping part of the early morning hours with her. I also pick up my oldest from preschool, so I get to hear all about her day at school. I make dinner and I will try to include her. After dinner, I will sit with her and watch her favourite show. Most evenings my husband would take this opportunity to bond with our youngest until she goes to bed.
As a mom, it is completely natural to want to be by our children’s side, no matter what our day looks like. But, I have come to realize that there is only 1 of me, and 2 of them. I have to schedule my attention accordingly or else I will run myself too thin, and this wouldn’t be good for anyone. Adjusting your time with your oldest can spike some BIG feelings, but if you communicate, follow through, and include your oldest in the planning process of a new routine, they will quickly adjust and everyone will feel comfortable.
If there is one thing to remember, is that there is no right or wrong way in dividing your time between multiple children. Not every scenario and child is “textbook.” Advice from books is only good advice if your child has read the book. Do what is right for you, what is right for your family. There is no perfect mom, there is only 1 mom who will make mistakes, who takes breaks, and who finds time for herself. A mom that is happy, is a child that’s happy!