The domino effect with your second child
Sakina - The Parenting Chapter's Social Media guru, talks about dealing with feelings of guilt and the domino effect when you have a second child and why it is all worth it in the end.
During my second pregnancy, I started to worry about how my firstborn would adjust to having a baby sister around. I found it hard to imagine it not being just him anymore; would I even be able to love another child as much as I loved him? I was really emotional about it and felt guilty that the special bond we had was going to change forever. Now that my daughter has arrived, I can't imagine life without her. She has completed our family, but the mum guilt is still there.
With my eldest, I felt enormous guilt when I went back to work. And even more so for enjoying it when I was there! However, the second time around the mum guilt is so much worse. There are now two small people that I need to split my time with. I felt and, still do feel, guilty that I couldn't give my son as much attention as he wanted with a newborn to care for. My patience was so low from exhaustion. I shouted a lot, as I was so tired being up with a cluster-feeding baby all night. I put the TV on more than I should have, didn’t leave the house as much as my son would have liked and served far too many fish-finger dinners. Once you do one thing that society says 'you should really avoid', or 'it can lead to unwanted X or Y' then you find that one thing is followed by many others and a domino effect is created as well as a vicious circle. From what you or you child eats, to using technology lots (you and your toddler), to bribery, to all co-sleeping together just to get some shut-eye.
However, there are things you can put in place to ease the guilt. In preparation for the new baby, I ensured I got my toddler really involved, from buying the baby new clothes to helping to decorate her nursery. We talked about how special it is to be a big brother and he was super excited when she finally arrived. He wanted to help with changing her and bathing her; I even found him trying to breastfeed her once!
We decided to keep our toddler in nursery for two days a week, as he loved going there, but I still felt pangs as I dropped him off knowing I was looking forward to a day without him, being able to spend quality one-on-one time with the baby. I needed that time, as I also felt massive guilt with her. I didn't get to go to the baby groups I had loved taking my eldest to; the new baby was just dragged around the park or came along to toddler activities. I didn't spend as much time just sitting and staring at her, singing songs or lying on the floor encouraging all her developmental leaps. I have no idea when she first sat up or rolled over, but I have a book dedicated to all my son's ‘firsts’ and hundreds of photos and videos of him. Every video of my youngest has a three-year-old jumping around in the background not wanting to be left out.
Having a toddler that no longer napped and a newborn that fed round the clock meant I never had a moment to myself. I craved some ‘me time’ and relished the weekends when hubby was home so I could grab some time alone hidden upstairs to just sit in silence with no one climbing on top of me! But then the guilt would creep in when I saw their scrummy faces when I came back downstairs. This is so silly though, we shouldn't beat ourselves up for taking some time out. Self-care is so important, especially for mums, as we have so much more to give when we take some time out to rest and recharge.
Now my daughter has become a toddler herself, I do still feel guilty that I never had the special time with her that I did with my son. We didn't have lots of long lazy days snuggled on the sofa, just the two us, but when I see her reaching to hold his hand at the dinner table and giggling at his silly dance moves or when my son tells me: “I love my sister mummy. I am very happy she came to live with us” I know it will be alright.
We will always have those moments in life where everything seems to go wrong or, we feel like we're not being as perfect or shiny as everyone else, but i'd recommend you get rid of these expectations in the late stage of your second pregnancy and just aim to get through half a day at a time. When you have extreme guilt moments, start the next half of the day again.