Growing up, I always felt a little bit of resentment towards my younger sister (even saying that I feel horrible admitting it.) Being the older sibling I always felt that she “got away” with things that I never did and she seemed to be granted privileges that I never had. It seemed as if my parents couldn’t say no to her. Today however, as a parent of two myself, I have a different perspective. My poor second child seems to always get the shorter end of the stick.
When my older son was a baby, he quite literally had my undivided attention 24/7. I held and snuggled him every chance I had. I played with him and talked to him – probably even more than I talked to my husband! I took him to baby playdates, baby music classes, and mommy and me Pilates. He came with me literally everywhere and he was my first and, most of the time, only priority. Family members accused me of spoiling my first son but I didn’t want to miss a single smile, giggle, or milestone.
I was also accused of being anal on the safety front when it came to my firstborn. I gave my best effort to follow all of the “rules” set forth by the baby-rearing books that I had read and from our pediatrician. I never allowed my son to sit in any his various seats or chairs without the safety straps securely buckled and yes, I even had an irrational meltdown when we accidentally lost one of the strap covers to our stroller. Obsessive much? Yup!
On the other hand, poor baby number 2…. From the older child’s perspective, I can see how it seems like the younger sibling gets to do more but from a parental perspective, some of it is survival and not being able to be in two places at once and boy do I feel guilty about it! I literally cannot lavish all of the attention on my second son that my first got purely because my first son still needs me. He is a very attention driven child and he literally cannot play by himself for more than a couple of precious minutes. He also has a whole slew of activities that he participates in weekly and more often than not I find myself dragging my second child along with us for the ride –whether he wants to come or not. Yes, I realize that my second baby is too young to really care or know the difference but as a parent, I do. I can’t help but feel bad that instead of holding and playing with my second child all day, I’m often dragging him along to his brother’s appointments or school pick ups and drop offs. That’s not to say that he doesn’t get held… believe me I hold baby number two A LOT… but the difference is that baby number two isn’t getting held and snuggled because I have nothing else better to do. Baby number two is being held because either 1) when I put him down he cries, or 2) he’s in one of my baby carriers being toted around the grocery store or some other errand. I love holding him but if I’m being honest, most of the time he’s being held out of survival rather than enjoyment.
Furthermore, as a parent, I often feel a little bit of resentment towards my older son for making it so difficult for me to spend any real one on one time with his younger brother. My older son is so needy that I rarely get time alone with the younger one unless the older one is at school and let’s be honest – that’s when I attempt to fit in all of the errands and chores that I am unable to do when the older child is home! It’s an endless cycle.
My older son was so spoiled that I even made all of his baby food from scratch at home. Poor baby number two has been given store-bought food and boy does that kill me. I know it’s not harming him but the guilt is heavy. Sidenote- why do we as moms have SO much guilt over everything when we are doing the best we can? The reality is that there just isn’t enough time or energy in my day right now so I’ve had to bend in places where I wouldn’t have in the past. It’s a survival thing.
On top of that, add in the Covid virus and that just makes everything worse. In my head, before my second son was born I had envisioned being able to take him to some of the “baby classes” that I had taken my older son to while the older one was a school. I had banked on being able to take the baby to my physical therapy appointments that I knew that I would need after his arrival. Thanks to Covid, not only is it tougher to find one on one time with the baby but all of the special mom and baby classes that I had planned to take him to are canceled or moved online – which to be honest isn’t much better. I also am not allowed to take the baby into most of my medical appointments so he usually has to stay home with his Dad (thank God my husband works from home). But… my husband can’t work and hold him so he ends up sitting in his swing or playing on his playmat until I get home. I miss being able to attend our hospital’s breastfeeding support group and seeing the smiles when the babies see other children their age.
I’m also angry that this is the world that my second son is growing up in. I feel like he is missing out on so much. Either he isn’t allowed to come places or I don’t want to take him due to safety concerns and when he can come, he is surrounded by people in masks. How depressing is it that seeing people wearing masks doesn’t even phase my 7 month old anymore? To him, this is normal. But it’s not normal at all. I fear that he is missing out on all of the nonverbal communication that we can no longer see – expressions and even the ability to recognize faces. How can we even tell who is who sometimes when a mask cover 2/3 of your face! I’m not saying that people shouldn’t protect themselves but it makes me sad that this is what life has come to with no foreseeable end in sight.
It’s also worth mentioning that my first son got a mom whose only major stressors were worrying about whether or not he was thriving appropriately. Poor baby number two has a mom who is in a constant state of panic due to everything else that is happening in our world right now – and it shows. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’m not the calm, cool, worry free mom I want to me. I am quick to fly off the handle and my husband tells me I yell too much. My patience level could use improvement and I’m frustrated by nearly everything. This is how being type A in a world that you have no control over feels – overwhelming would be the understatement of the year.
Others are quick to comfort me in that baby number two doesn’t seem to mind that this is our “normal” but that just makes me feel worse some days. He doesn’t know what he is missing. I try my best to be better for him since his little family is really all that he has but some days I feel like we fall short. What counts is that we tried though right?
I know that as my younger son gets older things will change. I already see myself being less particular with the “rules.” For example (no judgment please) I have totally sat my baby in his high chair for a few minutes without being strapped in and I’m less particular about the kinds of toys that he plays with. He eats store-bought baby food and wears his brother’s hand me down clothes. I know he doesn’t mind or care right now but it does make me think about how both boys will feel in the future. I’m sure the younger one will feel slighted. I’m even more sure the older one will feel like his brother gets away with murder. At the end of the day, all I can do is try to do my best each day and hope that it is enough.