When I became a stay at home mom 5 years ago, I knew it was the right decision for me. I had been working in a recruiter role with a heavy sales component and worked around the clock. I am the type of person who gets totally engrossed in her work. I also am kind of a perfectionist control freak. So I knew once I had a child, I would want to be able to focus 100% of my time and attention at home and not feel pulled in multiple directions with work. With how I am wired up, I had a hunch I would make myself miserable if I felt like I was always only giving partial attention to work and partial attention to my baby.
As I settled into my role during the first years of my son’s life, it was a good fit. I was glad to plan my days around whatever seemed appropriate for me and my boy. I was able to let my baby follow his natural schedule without duress, and I was able to fit in work outs and naps for myself occasionally. On days when I was dragging, I was thankful to not have to be out of the house looking presentable at any specific time (kudos to working moms who balance it all! I don’t know how you do it!). Most of all, I just enjoyed all the quality time I had with my son through his earliest years.
As he grew into a bright, intense chatterbox with limitless energy, I was thrilled to spend days reading books, doing art projects, taking kiddie classes, building forts, having picnics, taking hikes, visiting all our favorites places in the city, and even traveling back and forth to see family on the East Coast. We were a supercharged pair who experienced the world together, which my son thrived on. He seems the type of kid who needs to be challenged and channeled constantly, and I felt so good being able to give limitless time and attention to him.
A few years passed, and my husband and I decided to try for child #2. We have been blessed with a second beautiful boy (now 9 months old), and I am still happy to be at home. However, I find myself entering a new territory of guilt and fatigue as I feel continually stretched in multiple directions. With my grand plan of focusing all my time and attention at home, I did realize that with more than one child I would be constantly divided. However, thus far I feel like that my divided time is not always spent effectively or intentionally.
We spend a lot of time together, me and my two boys, and the time is wonderful. It is so great to see my sons start to play together. We are still active and get out together regularly. Yet, when it comes to one on one time with each of my kids, I feel like I am falling short. My older son is in preschool part-time in the mornings, so he gets academic and social stimulation, but I am not as on top of these things at home. My older son is very social and enjoys activities most when with another person, so he is less motivated to do the reading, writing, or drawing work that we used to do daily together on his own. And I find it challenging to sit uninterrupted with him. My baby is not a great sleeper, and he cat naps during the day. So if I can get him down, my older boy and I have maybe 20 minutes before the baby is up.
And as for the baby, he is completely along for the ride. I mean that literally, as he is in the car commuting with me to take my older son to and from preschool each day. We recently moved about 40 minutes from my son’s preschool, but it is such a great fit that we are committed to letting him finish out the school year there. Add to this my older son’s hockey classes, play dates, birthday parties, etc., and the baby is on the road constantly. Our one on one time is spent looking at the greater Seattle eastside out the car window. And while he is still just a baby, I am not offering him nearly the same type of quality time and stimulation I provided for my older son. Not even close!
And if I expect to get any aspect of household chores done or have dinner ready at a reasonable hour, then I feel like my boys are truly left to their own devices all day. Plus with all this juggling, I am more sleep deprived and not eating well. Add in the general stress of life, and I do not always maintain the best temperament and patience when dealing with my kids in those fleeting free moments.
So as much as I am enjoying the hustle and bustle with my two little buddies, the perfectionist control freak in me can’t help but feel like I am not giving them my personal best. I know I am a good mom. I know that both my boys are doing great. They are loved, they are happy, and they enjoy each other immensely! They are getting so much from each other, as well as from my husband and me. But some days I feel like I am just coasting through and not stopping to intentionally spend any kind of quality time with either of them. They get all my attention and yet not my best focused attention. I am constantly dividing myself between them, but I don’t know that the two halves ever add up to a cohesive, effective whole.
Do you have any suggestions for Tara on balancing the attention of more than one child?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara B. of Washington, USA.
Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenkerns/4810154623/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.