While talking to one of my mom friends tonight and we each have two kids; our youngest kids are only a month apart (10 and 11 months), we needed another mother to commiserate with about how stressful parenting more than one child at a time can be. The jealousy, split attention all that comes along with having to share yourself between well, everyone. Your kids, significant other, even yourself, someone is always lacking and it’s so tough.
While we were talking we realized that both of our older children have been acting out a lot recently; not listening, talking back, being mean to their younger siblings, and things of that nature. I feel like I’m being mean to my oldest all the time. I feel like all she hears is, “No” “Don’t do that” “Leave your brother alone” “Go sit in time out” or some variation of those. More often than not recently I’m constantly feeling like a bad mom. Logically I know I’m not but I can’t help feeling that way sometimes. When she was an only child she was able to have 100% of my attention all the time, now she doesn’t and it’s sad because I know that is all she wants. She just wants Mommy and Daddy to put all their attention on her even if it’s only for an hour to take her out to do something. Now that her brother is more mobile my husband and I have had to devote more attention to what he does so that he won’t eat things he’s not supposed to or get hurt while he’s being adventurous.
We used to be better at giving her that time, after her brother went to bed for the night we would all snuggle in bed and watch Peppa Pig or Bubble Guppies for a while. It would give us all the chance to talk and devote our attention to just her for a time. After our December from hell (so much sickness and teething) our schedules have flip flopped so that now she goes to bed before him and doesn’t get that chance for attention. As I write this I’m trying to think of things I can do as their parent to try and change my attitude towards the tantrums and the back sassing. Granted it annoys the absolute crap out of me when she acts out but I need to take a step back and get to why she is acting that way and not just reacting. Reacting is what comes naturally but I am the adult, I need to make the conscious effort to be better than the situation and to act accordingly. She starts throwing a tantrum- Is she tired? Had she been trying to gain my attention beforehand? Did she get hurt? I need to go through the mental checklist real quick and size up the situation.
She’s not the only one I have to split my attention with though, her brother doesn’t get all my full attention either. He doesn’t know what it was like to be the only child like his sister did, all his life he has had to share me. Unlike his sister he didn’t nap on my chest every day, he does occasionally for a time but most of the time he is in his crib sleeping soundly. Even though he might not have all the same “first child” experiences he isn’t loved any less. For now him needing more of the attention on a regular basis is temporary; as he grows older and learns that playing in the trash and using outlets as toys aren’t the thing to do he will need that attention. As time goes by though the attention playing field will level out again between the siblings, until the next phase hits and we have to reevaluate.
My husband (poor man) is another who has to share me as well, the majority of what I am goes into the kid’s day in and day out. I feel like my husband is left behind, he is the one who feels the brunt of my attention being pulled in all directions. For our anniversary the other week we finally had our first baby free dinner in longer than I would like to admit; it was fantastic! There wasn’t any picking up crayons off the floor, cutting food on someone else’s plate, being interrupted every three seconds so they could have a sip of my drink; I loved it. Rarely are we both together without the babies, usually that it’s perfectly fine with both of us and frankly just how we like it, but being out just us the other night it made me realize how much I miss that time just us now and then. Just being us two made it so we didn’t have to split our attention to other things, we had to be each other’s focus. I hadn’t realized how much I missed and needed that focus on us, it was only an hour or two but it made a difference.
Having that time with my husband and how refreshed it made me feel makes me think that that’s how my children feel when they are able to get that attention from us. It makes them feel important and helps their connection between us grow that much more. I’m not saying that they can only get that when it’s one on one because that would be impossible but it those times when we put down the phones and electronics, we look them in the eye, validate them, pay attention to what they are saying, snuggle them, and tell them we love them, that’s where the strength of our bond grows.