The toughest part about transitioning from a family of three to a family of four — when I’m breastfeeding and pumping — has been figuring out how to clone myself to spend time with my little girl, who I miss enormously.
It’s not that I don’t see her every day — I do, and for that I feel blessed — but the time we spend together hasn’t been quality time. And I feel awfully guilty about it.
I wholly believe a mom’s heart gets divided into as many kids as she has … but it doesn’t mean sometimes she doesn’t feel bad when she can’t give one of her kids her all. Especially when said kid really needs a little TLC.This is a typical weekday:
Luis picks her up at school and unless the timing is perfect — and it usually isn’t — I’m often feeding Ben around the time they get home. We can talk about her day — and we do — but I can’t build towers with her or play with her babies with her with a baby on my boob.
Then about an hour later, my dinner is usually cut short to either pump or feed Ben again (Note: He is in a cluster-feeding stage in the evenings; it won’t last forever, but for now, has put a real damper on the dinner hour).
And then it’s pretty much bed-time. Luis gives her a bath and reads her stories because I’m usually pumping or nursing yet again. I get some kisses and snuggles, but it’s not the same. Eventually, we’ll get into a routine and Luis can give him a bottle but at this stage, I’m unable to pump for a feeding ahead … so Maya’s bed-time routine falls to Daddy.
On top of our evenings being rushed, we started sending her to school on Fridays once Ben was born–which used to be her day home with me. While I miss not having her home with me, she thrives in school and gets excited to go. And if I’m being honest, I just wouldn’t be able to give her the attention she needs — and deserves — if I had her home with me and Ben. Still, her absence is missed on Fridays, what we’ve dubbed “Mommy/Maya day,” and “Mommy’s favorite day of the week.”
Since making two of me is impossible, I had to come up with a way to ease my mommy guilt and make Maya feel special — which is especially important with the arrival of her sibling.
On Friday, Ben and I picked her up at school early to take her to our local Biggby (a coffee shop) to get “Magic Milk.” It wasn’t exactly the Normal Rockwell moment I envisioned. I got to school at the total wrong time: before the kids’ second afternoon recess. Ugh.
She seemed happy to see me and Ben for all of a minute … and then informed me she wanted to play on the playground with her friends and spun around to head back into her classroom. I managed to coax her out with the promise of Magic Milk but once at the cafe, she decided not to put her listening ears on and acted out. By the time we got home, I felt flush with defeat.
It hadn’t been the surprise afternoon treat I’d hoped for, that was for sure.
Saturday I tried again: a special “just girls” Mommy/Maya date to Target and to get fro-yo. This time, it was a much better experience. I savored our car chatter, remembering how much I miss them nowadays — listening to her sweet voice offering up observations, stories, questions … hanging on to every note while she sang countless songs. We talked, we ate fro-yo, we shopped. And when we got home, I felt refreshed. We really needed that connect time.
Much in the same way Luis and I need our date nights, I need “dates” with Maya now. I might never be able to ease the inevitable guilt I feel now as a parent to more than one child, but I can — and will — carve out special time for us going forward.
I don’t know if she realizes just how much I miss her or how profoundly changed I feel now, but I never want her to feel like she isn’t a top priority of mine. I know I have more than one priority now … but she’ll always be my first baby.