The older child

It’s 1am, and I can’t sleep.  I’m not even close.  I’m thinking about my daughter, and how lately our relationship seems to have fallen apart, and I’m quietly berating myself for not being able to be the mother I really want to be for her.

There’s something I’ve already learnt about the older child, 7 months in to having more than one.  And that is how much added pressure you can suddenly and unintentionally find yourself placing on their little shoulders.  The pressure to find something to happily amuse themselves with.  The pressure to instinctively know right from wrong.  The pressure to be able to read you, when you are feeling stressed, busy or at wits end.  The pressure to just grow up.  She’s 4. So much pressure for a little one.

My daughter is a star, she shines so bright.  She is affectionate, caring and concerned, smart, funny, inquisitive, bubbly and loud, with never-ending energy and enthusiasm, and a good heart.  She loves unconditionally.  She is so beautiful that she takes my breath away.  She wants to do everything – all day long she constantly asks me, what are we doing next Mumma? Will you do something with me?  I want to do something with you.

watermarked - moose funny pose

But she hears no a lot.  No I can’t do something with you right now,  I have to [insert meaningless chore or task, or responsibility revolving around younger child, here].  No, don’t do that.  No, don’t touch that.  No you can’t.  No no no.  Some days I feel like I’m a hammer, banging away at that nail, until eventually it’s pushed all the way through and there’s no more banging to be done.  I’m scared of breaking her spirit.  Isn’t it strange that you can be saying words and yet knowing you shouldn’t be saying them, both in the same moment?  How do you learn to put yourself in between that, to pry it apart enough so that you have time to take action?

She’s 4.  She now has a younger sibling that she’s waited such a long time for, but he still can’t play with her yet.  She has been through so much change in the past year, we all have, and she has coped with it amazingly well.  We have asked a lot of this little girl already, and she hasn’t complained.  She is such a wonderful person, everything I could have wished for in my child.

But right now, I am everything I never thought I would be as a mother.  In fact, I despise my mother self.  I don’t want my daughter to remember me as this mother.  I want her memories of me to be of a  mother who was always there for her when she needed it, who would encourage her, who was interested in her, who was fun and would play.  And I am those things, all of the time on the inside, just not consistently on the outside.

I feel like I’ve been sitting around waiting for more energy, more motivation, more patience, to magically appear from somewhere.  But it doesn’t.  I desperately want to feel charged, full of life, ready for adventure and seeking opportunities to connect and laugh.  But I am so tired.  There are two of them now, and their demands and needs are constant, and every day is a marathon I’m running just to keep moderately on top of things, because if I stop for a moment then it will just resemble a 24-car pile up – the first car stops and the rest just continue smashing up in to each other.

I don’t know if this is post-natal depression.  I suffered with it for the year after Moose was born, but is it possible for it to come back in fits and starts, with 3 years in between, with the birth of another child in between?  It’s not like this all of the time, we have ebbs and flows.  But in these dark days, it permeates the very walls like a disease.

She’s 4.  I’m 32.  I’m the one who needs to change this scenario, I’m the one who needs to be the bigger person, I’m the one who needs to man up and throw everything I’ve got in to this relationship.  Because my daughter is a beautiful miracle, and she is worth whatever it takes, at the expense of anything.

watermarked - sunny moose


12 thoughts on “The older child

  1. No, please don’t despise yourself. Just no! Have a hug from me to you. Your human, and none of us are perfect.
    And she’s 4. She’s robust and understanding. This is a stage. Any change is hard and there is a adjustment to make and feelings and behaviour and tempers get bent out of shape.
    Your not failing, or a bad mum, or going to break her spirit. You are both undertaking a big learning curve. You have to split yourself between 2 children (and the multitude of other things we try and do!) Your tired and stressed and lets be totally honest, 4 is a wonderful age, but my god, where do they get the energy and endurance?!?! And I wont even start on the talking …. the constant talking! (I have been known to say ‘please be quiet darling, mummy really doesn’t want to hear your voice right now!’)
    Talk to her, explain about being torn between two needs, two people wanting you. Tell her you find it just as frustrating as she does.
    Perhaps her if there is one thing a day that she want to have as sacrosanct with you. Find a way to make that work. And every time you have to say no, remind her that you will have that special time, but right now you have to do x/y/z.

    I truly am sending you huge virtual hugs. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate

    • Thank you Aimee for your heartfelt words. I know that these periods don’t last forever, and certainly aren’t the whole of our lives together, but when we are in the thick of it, it sure feels that way. I have a lot of work to do to be the parent I want to be, and the road is long and punishing.
      We actually had a better day today, after I wrote it out last night I decided I would keep her home from childcare for the morning (she usually goes two days a week) so we could spend some time together. We did some craft, which was fun, we both really enjoyed it. And it made me feel better when she told me that she would prefer to stay home with me over going to childcare!

  2. You will get into a rhythm soon enough and try and rest when the little one rests rather than running around doing chores/jobs. If hubby needs a shirt ironed do that one shirt not the whole basket…do only what’s necessary. Be kind to yourself and put yourself to bed early. Lack of sleep will zap any energy from the best mother in the world. If you think it’s post natal depression, get along to your gp for some meds to balance out all those hormones (no point going through stuff if you don’t have to). Mothers can’t entertain little ones all day long even if we want to because there are things that can’t wait, like making meals etc. don’t feel guilty for that. It’s not cruel not to be able to everything your child wants the minute they want it. Sometimes they can wait 15 mins or 30 mins and do it as long as they know in a little while you will be doing whatever it is they want to do. Take a deep breath, get more sleep, let the housework slack off a little while your family is getting into new rhythms. Don’t worry I had a week of yelling last week (I have a 11 and an 8 year old) and trust me, I hate that kind of mother, I don’t want to be one, I don’t like when I’m doing it but it was one of those weeks. Everyone was tied, including myself, kids were not listening and doing as they are told. If I am in a state of yelling that means I’ve asked nicely about 4 times and then I’ve lost it and honestly that’s not fair to me because the kids need to be listening and as a mother I should not have to repeat myself 4 times. Anyway it was an exhausting week and glad that’s over. Things happen, and the good thing is you can get up tomorrow and be the mother you want to be because it’s a clean slate in the morning…be kind to yourself. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    • Kathy what you say makes so much sense. You’re right, if I have asked for something to happen/stop happening repeatedly and am still being ignored, that isn’t fair and it’s no wonder I’m frustrated! I never really thought about it like that.
      And yes, it’s always a clean slate in the morning. It can even be a clean slate the next hour, or minute, sometimes.
      Thanks for visiting.

  3. You are an awesome mum. I don’t know you and I can say that with certainty. Why? Because your daughter is amazing which means you are doing great with her. And because you realise that something needs to be improved a little, because you want the best for her. Don’t beat yourself up about it though, we all go through this stage. We can’t be perfect, we can just do the best we can in each moment.

    • Thank you Malinda, it’s so nice to read these kind words from people who, although we haven’t met, just get it. As always when I’m feeling low, I read a lot of posts and articles, and it helps me remember that I’m not alone in this and that we’ve all been there. We’re having a much better week 🙂

  4. No, no, no! You ARE A GOOD MOTHER. A great mother. Parenting is exhausting and life isn’t always sunshine and roses and kids get that, they understand. Kids are bloody hard work and their happiness is NOT at the expense of the rest of the family and indeed not at the expense of their mother. It doesn’t work like that.

    Be clear about what you need from her and she will rise to the occasion. Having a sibling is a natural part of many people’s lives and one that makes us all the richer in the long run. It’s time for her to learn that sharing is just the way it is and that mum can’t be there 100% of the time any more (mum can’t ever really be there 100% of the time, even if you’re an only child!). This is all just part of growing up and so is having a cranky pants mum from time to time. If you’re wearing the cranky pants far too often, give yourself a break and rest, rest, rest. Exhaustion makes monsters of us all. See your doctor if cranky persists.

    Your girls is a happy, content, gorgeous little soul and you are a very big reason why she is the way she is. Please, please, PLEASE lower the bar you have set yourself – you’ll give yourself a hernia trying to jump that high!

    • This has always been my problem Bron – self-confessed perfectionist over here!
      I think my mindset is often that the happiness of the kids SHOULD be at my expense if that’s what it takes, because I’m the adult and I can understand that sacrifice whereas they can’t. But in recent months I’ve been trying to listen to my own internal voice too, and give myself a break. Then comes the mother guilt. Does this get any easier?!
      Anyway as said in the comment above, this week has been much better. It passes, as it always does, and then it will come back again, and we learn a little more each time and hopefully can deal with it better.
      Thanks for your lovely words 🙂

  5. I can so relate to this post, hon. Please, please don’t think you are a bad mother for feeling this way, or feel like a failure because you don’t do the things you want or think you should do as a mother. Going from one kid to two is hard. Hard with a capital H. I struggled so much the first 12 months after Zee was born, and every night I went to bed worrying that I was ruining my oldest girl, berating myself for putting so much on to her and expecting too much from her, whipping myself about all of the things I wasn’t doing. The thing is, after a chat with my Mum I realised that instead of focusing on what I wasn’t doing, I should be focusing on what I was doing, even if it was simply just making sure both children had clean clothes and were fed for the day. Some days getting the basics done is cause for celebration, not self-flagellation. Everything will work itself out and suddenly it will be a year down the track and you’ll realise you’ve just taken both kids out, by yourself, on public transport, for an entire day and didn’t think twice about it. And you’ll feel proud and realise that you made it. I promise. Hang in there lovely, you ARE doing a good job xxx

    • Thanks Kylie, it definitely sounds like you know what I mean! I have since talked to a good friend of mine whose two kids are the same ages as mine, and she felt the same way too. Must be more common than I realised. And to think, I was worried that when #2 came along he would be the one I felt awful about! He’s a piece of cake!

  6. Lisa says:

    I agree with all the comments above. I have 3 young boys (roughly 2 years between each) Some days I get it right, others days I feel like I am drowning. Don’t beat yourself up, the people who are worried about getting parenthood wrong are usually the ones who care the most. Your daughter will definitely feel that over & above any individual thing that you have to say no to. Hang in there, it does get better! The days are long, the years are short. xx

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for visiting and for your valuable thoughts. I think it’s been a while since I had a day when I felt I’d done it well! You are so right, the years are short!

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