Overcoming Mommy Guilt with the Second Child

mommy guiltLast August, I was so excited to spend just over a month enjoying every last minute that my older daughter (L) was an only child.  We were going to go downtown and ride the free shuttle bus. Zoo and museum trips were planned.  These last few weeks were going to be awesome, even if she wouldn’t remember them.  I needed these weeks to make peace with the fact that her little world would never be the same, and she no longer would have my undivided attention.

All my plans went out the window when my water broke at 35 weeks and 5 days.  Despite my best efforts to convince myself I was just accidently peeing, my younger daughter (J) was born early the following morning.  While I was overjoyed to meet J and that she was healthy, I had an enormous amount of guilt hanging over my head.

During the following couple of months, I struggled and worked through my guilt while adjusting to being mommy to two.  Here are a few things that helped me to get through this difficult time.

  1. Carving out time solely devoted to my older child: Bedtime routine was the part of each day that I can devote exclusively to L.  On more than one occasion, when she requested five more minutes of cuddles, I gladly gave in, because I needed the extra time just as much as she did.  The more time I could arrange to spend with just L, the less guilt I felt.
  2. Taking time to myself:  While this sounds counterproductive, because there is only so much time during the day, taking a half an hour to walk or run by myself, helped me to reset and improve the quality of time I spent with both my daughters and husband.
  3. Returning to our normal routine as soon as possible: When J was 2 months old, I enrolled L in her weekly mommy-and-me swim lessons and gym class again.  I managed to find times that corresponded with the baby’s naps.  Returning to our routines helped L burn off some of her toddler energy, and, again, carved out some time during the day for one on one time with her.
  4. Prioritizing tasks:  Taking care of my toddler’s emotional needs, establishing breast feeding, taking care of my newborn’s other needs, and keeping us all fed were my priorities early on.  I let everything else slide for a bit.  Doing a few things well (including spending time with L), gave me assurance that I was doing the best I could for my family.

 

 

At eight months out, much of my mommy guilt has dissipated with time (and lots of coffee).  My daughters now spend time playing together, and L seems to genuinely enjoy being a big sister.  I look back at the newborn months, and see that while it was tough and adjustment for all of us, L was not harmed or neglected and is still a happy, spirited toddler, and I am incredibly content with our expanded family.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to an energetic, spirited toddler and a happy, easy going baby from Denver, Colorado.  She enjoys running, hiking, and cooking with her two girls.

Tags: mommy guilt, second child, siblings

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