I write this (one-handed!) as I hold little Mila in my arms. It has been a tumultuous last few months due to pregnancy and balancing two kids with work – I felt like I was up to my ears in stress. In the end, I had to make the hard decision to step away from the site so that I could really just focus on my kids and my mental health. I am happy to return back to work now that the storm has calmed and I can’t wait to share with you all some of the stuff that has been brewing for MMM.
Thank you all for being patient!
Mum Guilt. If you’re a mum of two or more, you might know that feeling. It’s the anxiety that may slowly creep up on you as your pregnancy progresses. The questions you’ll constantly be asking yourself: is my firstborn going to be okay? Will I be able to give the new child my undivided attention as I did with the first? Am I ruining my older child’s life? Yup, that “mum guilt”.
It hit me in my eighth month. I had planned to spend my last few weeks really giving time to my eldest, taking the last four weeks off from work and social media to really just be with him, and whilst we did start, the baby had other plans and decided to show up early. As we dropped him off at my mum’s, before heading to the hospital, an overwhelming sadness took over me as I realised this would be the last time he would be an only child. No more running around town with the little guy but it would be two in tow instead!
Naturally, once we were home, I was busy with the feeds/nappy changes and the relationship between me and him changed as he was turning more to his dad for comfort, cuddles before bed and even wanted dad to take him to school – I wasn’t his go-to anymore. I felt like a scorned lover. It didn’t help that Mila was exclusively breastfeeding and demanding a feed quite often, meaning any time that I had set aside for Aadam was interrupted with tending to her.
Things are slowly changing though and five months later, I do still feel a pang of sadness that things aren’t what they used to be but I realised that whilst the dynamic between me and him did change, the relationship with my son became stronger in other ways. We’ll have our conversations on the way to and back from school, I insist on taking him to his extracurricular activities and birthday parties – even if I’ll have to sit in the corner feeding his sister, and although I can’t always be there for a bedtime story, I’ll be sure to always go in and give him a kiss goodnight. Meanwhile Mila has her needs met just fine and I’ve gotten to spend some real quality time with her whilst Aadam has been in school. I sometimes feel not being on the receiving end of all my attention has actually helped Aadam grow and I can already see Mila being a little more independent.
I guess what I’m getting at is the overwhelming “mum guilt” you may experience when you have a second, third or even fourth child, is completely normal. Over time, you’ll grow to accept these feelings and before you know it, it will be a distant memory. Here are some tips to help you cope:
- Involve your first child. Preparing your oldest child can help them cope with when the new baby comes home making it an easier transition for you. I would get Aadam to help me paint the new nursery, show him scans of the baby and even ask him if he liked the names I had chosen. That hasn’t changed since Mila has come; I still involve him in every aspect of her life and he loves helping me change her nappy and showing her all the toys that they can play with together.
- Speak to other mums. Whilst you may feel like you’re the only one going through this, there are numerous other mums feeling the exact same way – it is that common! Confiding in other seasoned mums, whether in-person or in a community online, can help you manage the guilt better and even help it to fade away quicker.
- Routine. Routine. Routine. Kids thrive on routine and consistency. Sure, things may get a bit shaky once a newborn arrives home but adapting your old routine to include a baby will help everyone in the family, including yourself. Even if you’re just sticking to the same meal times or can only manage the same bedtime routine as before, this will keep your older one happy and you’ll know exactly when you can have some one-on-one time with each child.
- Ask for help. Having a friend or family over to help you out with the chores or kids can be a great way to restore some balance. They could watch the little one whilst you take the older one out for a walk or bike ride and vice versa.
- Me Time. Taking some time out for yourself when having one, two or even zero kids is crucial. Sure, it might be difficult with a newborn but even a 5 minute meditation or prayer break is a great way to just reset yourself before heading back in. We love the Jeem Journal * for this particular reason!
- Professional help. If you find that the guilt is still eating away at you, it may be time to consider seeking a professional who can help you manage your feelings better. Remember, there is nothing wrong with going down this route and it doesn’t make you a bad parent for doing so but perhaps, a better parent.