When One of Me Isn't Enough
I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past. It seems to be a consistent theme in motherhood. While I love the daily experiences and watching my children grow, there is something so heartbreaking about the constant change that consumes my life as a mother. Everything my children do, whether it be a cute trait or odd habit, is fleeting, and often they have moved onto doing the next thing before I even know what happened. I cannot pinpoint when my babies stopped cooing and started babbling. I have no idea when their cry stopped sounding like that of a newborn and a bit more like that of a demanding toddler. Parenting is like a book, and once a chapter is written, we can’t go back and change it. We can, and do, spend time reflecting. We look back on old photos, we watch videos of our babies and cannot possibly fathom how they were ever that tiny. We hold onto the past, while embracing the future.
I never realized just how fleeting time is until I became pregnant with my second child. With my firstborn, every day was a race. We couldn’t wait for him to reach new milestones, and worried so much about things that, looking back, we had absolutely no reason to. Was he holding his head up when he was supposed to? Why won’t he wave ‘bye bye’, the other babies are. The game of comparison and expectations was a very real one that I played, no matter how I tried not to. Perhaps that is both the blessing and the curse of being the firstborn. He had our undivided attention. With two of us, and one of him, we transitioned smoothly into parenthood. We were easily able to provide each other with a break, when needed. He was a happy, content baby. But we were constantly looking ahead, wondering when he would get his next tooth, start eating solids, or take his first steps.
During my second pregnancy, I was hit with an emotion of parenting that, to date, I was unfamiliar with; guilt. I was thrilled to be welcoming a new baby, of course. But during my first pregnancy, all I felt was anticipation and excitement for what was to come. Round two brought fear, doubt, and concern. While I knew it was something that would happen naturally, I couldn’t imagine how to possibly love another child as much as my first. I worried about how to run errands without getting overwhelmed. I had no idea how I would give all of the snuggles and kisses that I knew each child deserved. I wondered if, perhaps, my son would be better off as an only child, where he would never doubt that he had my whole heart. The guilt was there, even before his sibling arrived.
Bringing home a second baby was an entirely different experience for our family. While we had a better idea this time of what to expect from a newborn, we had no idea of what to expect from a toddler. Jealousy? Love? Indifference? All of these emotions happened, and often in moments as fleeting as time itself. I learned quickly that, despite the fierceness of a toddler’s independence, they always want their mama at the exact moment that the baby needs to be fed, swaddled, or changed. On many occassions I had two babies under the age of two, crying for entirely different reasons, yet both needing their mama just as much as the other. Nothing has ever hurt my heart more than having to choose which one of my babies deserves my attention more. They both deserve it, but there is only one of me, and two of them.
Most days, I feel on multiple occasions that I am not enough. I find myself embracing my children in quiet moments, breathing in their scent and willing myself to remember every perfect detail of how they are in that exact moment. And yet, I cannot dedicate my heart to two babies who both want my undivided attention at once. Sometimes, my baby cries, because my toddler just needs those cuddles. On other occasions, my toddler gets yelled at for playing too rough or being distracting, when in reality my fuse is probably running a bit short after a little too long of a day and not quite enough sleep. The battle is never-ending, and try as I might, I cannot do it all, all of the time.
And then, those moments happen. I catch my boys giggling at each other in the backseat of the car. My toddler runs to his brother’s crib after naptime to greet him with a smile and tell him he loves him. They both settle into my lap, just perfectly, drowsy and content to snuggle up for a cartoon before bed. I may not always feel like I am enough, but I know that right now, to these little boys I am everything. There is no soul more forgiving than that of a child. Regardless of timeouts, yelling, and punishments, our children love us at the end of the day. And, they love each other. My heart swells when I watch my boys become brothers, who will become friends. I have given them life and all of my love, but I know that the greatest gift I have given them is each other. I cannot give them all of me, all of the time. But those fleeting moments, where they smile those sly little smiles that only brothers can at one another, tell me that it is more than enough. We are going to be okay. We are going to be amazing.
Can you relate to Mackensey's situation? Share with us in the comments below how you handle the impact of motherhood guilt.