Changes in your family dynamic can be difficult even at a time that is laced with excitement such as having a new baby. We prep. We plan. And then we prep and plan some more. However, you truly have no idea what things will be like until that tiny baby makes his / her grand entrance. And boy oh boy, do babies shake things up in your world!
Bringing home a newborn was a little different for me the second time around. With my Baby number 1 (my son), my focus was mainly, “How do I care for a baby?” By the time Baby number 2 (my daughter) came along, I wondered if I would remember how to care for a baby and how my firstborn would adjust to having a new sibling. As a mom, I wanted nothing more than anything to ensure that the needs of both children would be met and that the adjustment would be as smooth as silk.
My children are 9 years apart. My son had me exclusively to himself for almost a decade. Then, adding on the time after his father and I separated, it was literally him and me. He was my tiny shadow!
When I was pregnant with my daughter, taking advantage of his age and reasoning skills, I talked to him a lot about expectations and changes that could be anticipated once the baby actually arrived. I made it a point to not only stress to him that the new baby’s arrival would bring about new challenges but it would also bring new things for the family to be excited about together.
Fast forward to now, my son has been a phenomenal big brother from the start. He was understanding and good-natured when I burned his breakfast on the first day of school (Baby was 4 days old at the time and there was no such thing as a routine or a system, night and day were one and the same, and I under-anticipated the amount of work that was ahead.). He never complains when I call from the other room for him to bring me something that I need. He is always willing to be that set of extra eyes when I need to step away in the house to finish “mom tasks”. He even loves to put his little sister to bed at night! No exaggeration, sometimes the two of them are inseparable!
While my son is amazing at being a big brother, I do my best to ensure that he doesn’t feel pressured to be the “extra parent”. I understand that while he is, in fact, the older sibling, and he should set a good example, he’s also still a kid. I don’t ever want him to feel a sense of abandonment since the baby arrived. For that reason, whenever I can sneak in a little bit of alone time for us, I do. I take him on dates – even if it’s a quick trip to Target, which by the way, is like a playground for both of us!
A few days ago, we had an opportunity to hang out alone, and I figured that he and I could do something different that didn’t necessarily involve us sitting and ordering expensive junk food only to come home feeling engorged and sleepy. So I decided to take him out to do some indoor rock climbing. We did it a few years ago, and I figured it would be a cool activity to revisit. When I tell you, we had a blast and we were both able to get a workout in without even giving it thought! The next day, I had that good, slightly sore feeling all over. It was an awesome full-body activity and the best part of it was that we were able to bond in a different way.
As my son gets older and closer to pre-teen age, it’s gotten a bit more difficult to entertain him and compete with the electronics, and the screen time, and the middle school drama, and the friends, so I try to be intentional about keeping him close while giving him enough room to grow and experience life a bit without hovering. When they’re little, you, as the mom, are front and center, but things can get pretty tight pretty fast if you don’t remain involved and engaged. It can be even more difficult once another child is born. I truly believe attention equals connection and in taking time out for each of my children individually, I learn a lot about them. I can only hope that they learn just as much about me too. I want to ensure that the deposits we make together into our relationship bank far outweigh the withdrawals and my children can hold onto the memories when times get tough and long after I’m gone (sorry to get all morbid and sappy).
Spending one-on-one time with each individual child can be challenging because they each require some degree of my attention all of the time, but it is possible. Individual time doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly. Heck… you don’t even have to leave your home if you don’t want to, but I truly feel that it is necessary.
Can any of you parents relate to the need for individual time for your children? How do you manage to squeeze in that time? I’m always looking for new ideas! Chime in in the comments or on instagram – @verybessie .