Balancing BabiesBy Audrey Tan-Zubiri
I can still remember what it felt like when I came home with my second baby. I wondered how I would balance taking care of my new born son and my 22 month old daughter at the same time. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep but I developed this delusional idea that I could still handle everything, just like how I did before the new baby came, and so I tried to be in two (other times, three) places at the same time, all the time. Soon enough, my body gave up on me and I was worse off than ever, stuck in bed, useless. To make things even worse, I felt awful. I felt like I was constantly shuffling between one child and the other but never able to fully give either one the complete attention he or she deserved. I felt so guilty to Adriana who suddenly had to make do with only half of my attention whereas before, she had me completely all to herself. I also felt the same guilt towards Juanmi who was receiving only half the attention I used to give his sister when she was his age.
I then continued to devise plans to spend equal time between the two kids. Once I spent almost a whole month dragging poor baby Juanmi with me and Adriana only to find out at that month’s check up that his growth was not proportionate to his weight gain due to lack of sleep. Apparently, those accumulated naps were not good enough for a growing baby. They needed full 3-4 hour stretches of solid sleep in order for the growth hormones to kick in. I could have kicked myself when I heard this.
And so a new plan was devised. I would spend the whole morning with Adriana only, with exceptions only for feeding Juanmi. Then, after lunch, when she would take her nap and then go to the park, it would be the baby’s time exclusively. Late afternoons and early evenings would be full family time so we could all bond together. I felt so clever. Or at least I did for the first two days when I thought it could work. I soon realized that with babies and toddlers, the only plan is that there is no plan.
Today, I still try to come up with time tables and activities to divide my time equally between the two kids- spending time alone with each child so as to maintain a bond with them while trying to find time for all of us to hang out together so that they can also forge their own bond as siblings together. But I’ve learned to be a lot more flexible and to go with the flow; spending time with whoever needs me more at that point or whoever just happens to be there. When Adriana was a baby, I used to let her sleep for hours on my chest (I loved those times!) but now I know I can’t do that with Juanmi when I have a toddler who is wide awake and asking me to run after her. But when I can, believe me, I take advantage and savour those precious moments when I can have my son sleep peacefully in my arms because I know now how quickly these days come to pass.
The result is that there are times when I get into bed with a smile on my face knowing that I was really able to spend quality time with both kids. But there are also those days, and sometimes they stretch into a week or so, when I know I’m not spending enough time with one or the other and I make a promise to myself that I’ll fix it the following day. Times like that, I fall back into my guilt pit but I know that it’s not as big a deal as I think it is. After all, my kids are not the first kids out there who have had to share their mother’s attention. But I guess growing up as only child makes it a bit more difficult for me to understand what it is like to have a sibling whom you have to share your parents’ time with.
Fortunately, I’ve come to learn that balancing the two kids gets easier with practice. I’ve also learned to be easier on myself. After all, the kids don’t have a score board that shows who gets my time more. With regards to spending time, I’ve come to see how even the most mundane routines can be helpful in building bonds and making time together count. Juanmi’s bathtimes are set and we both look forward to it everyday (at least I do) as well as the massage part after the bath which turns into a mini concert with me singing and rocking him to sleep. As for Adriana, I usually take her with me to the 6pm mass in our parish church. She loves lining up with all the people for communion and she especially loves lighting candles after mass. Another routine that she has come to look forward to is doing the groceries with me. She knows where the fruits are and chooses what she’d like for that week. She gets a kick out of watching the fish and the shrimps in the aquariums and I know her favourite portion is the dairy section where she will open at least one pack of yogurt or cheese to snack on while we finish our list.
Looking back now, I actually can’t believe how quickly my tiny new born has turned into a curious and interactive baby while my little toddler is well on her way to becoming a not so little preschooler. Sometimes I worry that I may be missing out on moments with one child while I’m off with the other one but I know that with two of them (maybe more in the future!) there will be twice as many beautiful times to look forward to and best of all, two times more joy and love to share.
April 28, 2011 by Guest Writer