It’s dinnertime. My husband is on his way home from work, and my daughter is sitting at her little table, dinner on her plate, and a pink Amazon Fire playing Dora the Explorer. I’m on the couch nursing the baby, praying that Dora keeps her entertained to get at least three bites of her food down and long enough to keep her sitting there while I finish feeding the baby.
She turns and asks for more water, I cringe because I forgot to fill up her water bottle before sitting down on the couch to breastfeed her brother who is now latched and gulping away. I tell her I will refill it when I’m done feeding brother. Queue toddler tantrum. I quickly lose my patience when she gets up and runs to the couch, trying to pull my arm off her nursing brother. Frustrated I yell and tell her to be patient, this scares her and causes crocodile tears.
Cue the Mom guilt, but double the Mom guilt because I’ve not only let a toddler down but I have a crying newborn whom I’ve had to unlatch and he has no clue why.
I am not proud to admit that this happens more often than not these days. Caring for a newborn and managing expectations of a toddler is overwhelming, and just when I think we catch our stride, something happens to throw me into a tailspin. These tailspins typically result in me yelling at my daughter to wait, or leaving a crying newborn whom I can’t tend to right away.
Mom guilt with the second child means I’m letting two tiny humans down, instead of one. The weight of that emotion is overwhelming and often brings me to tears, self-doubt, and feeling like a failure at this whole motherhood thing. And, let’s not forget the dog who hasn’t been walked in weeks. Now, I’m failing all three of my babies.
When my daughter was my son’s age, we were singing songs, reading constantly, telling her stories and talking so often she probably prayed for some peace and quiet. Now, I’m so exhausted during the day that either of them are lucky if they hear my voice more than 30-minutes during the day. I constantly feel like I’m failing both of them. Failing my daughter who is 2 years old and just wants to someone to play with and not told “no” at every turn. And failing my son whom I worry will have a speech delay purely based on the fact that he didn’t hear mommy and daddy talk to him enough.
This guilt sucks, and that is something I need to learn to deal with better. But I do tell myself I wanted more than one child and I chose this. I come from a large family, and being the youngest of four, I am sure my parents were three times more exhausted than I am now, and I turned out fine, right!?
I keep telling myself that having a sibling is good for both kids; it was for me. Forcing my daughter to sit and paint while I nurse her brother for half an hour will teach her patience and make her more artistic, and that even though he gets very little alone time, watching and listening to us play with his big sister will be just as enriching for my son. I have trouble believing in this fully every day, but I do know in the long run they will be happy to have each other. They will learn how to share (my daughter is already learning how to share mommy), they will learn to have patience, they will learn how to compromise and those are invaluable skills.
Mom guilt is real, any mom can attest. Second-child mom guilt is brutal and I’m just learning to navigate it. Trying to remember to take a breath and have patience with my daughter — after all, she is only two — reset my expectations of a newborn (he will sleep through the night soon enough), and forgive myself at the endo of each day. I will try to be better tomorrow.