Lately I have been thinking a lot about the fact that my first child and my twins have an exceptionally different mother. I mean, it’s still me – I am all three children’s mother, but many components of my parenting and personality are vastly different this second go-around as compared with the first. When I think about this, I feel both gladness and sorrow.
With my first child, I was hyper-focused only on her. I didn’t miss a milestone. She had my undivided attention and love. I often feel sad that my twins don’t get this from me. One-on-one time with each individual child is hard to come by these days. I try my best to make it happen, but honestly, it’s a rarity.
By the same token, however, my oldest also dealt with my heaviest dose of anxiety. The poor girl couldn’t make a move without me hovering over her, making sure she was breathing. I wouldn’t fudge nap or bedtimes even by a second for fear the lack of sleep would instigate all those awful things “the studies” suggest (obesity, poor attention span, behavioral problems, etc.). I tried desperately to meet her every need before she even knew she had a need, because in my mind, that’s what a “good parent” was supposed to do.
And then I burnt out. I couldn’t keep up with the demands of being such a “good parent”. I was burning the candle at both ends, and at the same time, likely infusing my own anxieties and rigidness into my daughter, and teaching her how to be as nervous and inflexible as me.
It took approximately a year-and-a-half (and this is still a work in progress…), but I started to realize that it’s important to let kids learn they can handle unexpected things that come their way, that challenges teach them resilience, and overcoming them instills within them confidence and courage. I started to understand that being uncomfortable is not necessarily a bad thing, but a great opportunity for growth. And most importantly, I learned that life is about living, experiencing, and making memories. I was too busy worrying about all the possible negative outcomes of any given situation, that I was certainly not living or allowing my child to enjoy her life much either.
So while she had a mom whose sole purpose in life at that time was to care for and love only HER, she also had a woefully worried mom who couldn’t seem to feel present, joyful or hopeful.
Then the twins arrived. I vowed to do things differently. And despite a nasty re-occurrence of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety about 6 months in (did you know PPD can occur anytime within the first year?), I have been doing my best to be better. In many ways I am. Though I’ve been admittedly reluctant about taking them out and about (three kids and all the planning and accessories needed for even a quick trip to the grocery store is HARD!), my New Year’s resolution was to get out more as a family and make memories. Though from the outside it may not seem like much of a shift to the average person who knows us, for me the change has been dramatic. Though challenging, I have been doing my best to get the kids out on the daily, and weekends are filled with trips to the park, the Farmer’s Market, and my new favorite, “jammie walks” around the block in our 3-kid wagon. For all intents and purposes, I’m a much more present, relaxed mom who is enjoying motherhood and family life far more this time around.
But I often feel sad too, because though happier, my twins are getting “half” the mom. Literally, there is far less of me to go around. I physically cannot witness or be there for every single big and small thing they do. I fear that when one starts to speak sentences, I will be focused on someone else and miss those first words. I crave quiet cuddle time with each of them, but maybe only get this luxury every other week at most.
So which is better? I’m not entirely sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say the latter. In my soul, it feels better—MUCH better—to be the happier, calmer, more present mom, as opposed to constantly panicked and always in fight-or-flight mode. And though the kids may not get the undivided time and attention I wish they did, I know without a doubt all three know they are loved and cared for. And I’m watching as the twins develop this amazing sense of individuality, creativity and relationship with each other and their big sister, that I am sure is due, in part, to the fact that I’m a much different mama this time around. More of them means less time time to for me to obsess and worry over every little thing, and more time for them to gain resilience and connect with one another. I’ll take it.