Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Split in two

I remember one of my concerns about having a second child was how I would be able to share my love out. The all-consuming nature of the love you feel for your child seems, when you only have one, as though it would be impossible to spread it out at all. Yet friends and acquaintances with two or more children assured me that, actually, you just kind of grow more love and manage to find the same all-consuming love for the second child – and for subsequent ones (though I wonder if it can continue indefinitely?). And, yes, that does seem to be true. Thank goodness for that.

What I hadn’t really thought about and I don’t recall being warned about (though it’s possible I was, of course), is the feeling of being split in two, when both your children need you and you have to choose one over the other. Oh. My. God. It physically hurts. Twice now, since Eleanor was born, I have had to put her down in her crib, because Rosemary was calling out. The first time, she was coughing so badly she was retching and I had to try to persuade her to drink something. The second time, last night, she was in agony with hurting legs (which we think might have been growing pains) and I had to comfort her and persuade her to take paracetemol and ibuprofen and stay with her until she fell asleep again.

Both times, Eleanor was actually asleep when Rosemary called out, though not in her crib. Both times, it was a clear choice to put her down and go to Rosemary. Both times, she woke soon after being put down (as she frequently does) and started crying. Both times, I was sat trying to comfort one screaming child, while hearing the piercing sound of the other child’s screams from the next room. Both times, Chris came and picked Eleanor up pretty quickly. It really was probably only a couple of minutes of her crying and my not being able to do anything about it, if that.

But it still hurt. Really hurt. Even when I could hear Eleanor had calmed down and was absolutely fine with Chris. It still hurt that it wasn’t me soothing her and stopping her tears. It gave me a glimpse of the future. There are going to be so many times over the years to come when I’ll have to choose between comforting Rosemary over Eleanor, or Eleanor over Rosemary. Will it become easier as Rosemary gets older, or will it always hurt as much, even when they’re both in the twenties and one needs comforting over a failed relationship, while the other needs comforting over a work crisis? And will I ever be able to accept that it’s really not just me who can provide the comfort? I just have to call out and there’s another parent there to offer solace and to wipe away tears and to give cuddles. In fact, most of the time, I don’t even have to call out. He’s there, ready and waiting and happy, of course, to do whatever’s needed. But will I still feel like it’s my job, and mine alone, to magic away those tears?

Do you have the same feeling of being split in two (or four or five)? If you only have one child, so far, do you worry about not loving another child as much as the first? Does it get better, as they get older, or is it all part of the ‘mother’s guilt’ syndrome? Do you find it difficult to accept that others can be just as capable of giving comfort?


  1. I was the same. Terrified that I couldn;t love another child as much as Ethan. Then Elodie came along and it did 'just happen'.

    I do feel split though. I was just about to reply to you when Elodie woke for her night feed then Ethan shouted from his room (he wakes witrh growing pains too). I think you just instinctively go to the child that needs you most or you can help quickest.

    It's never a case of choosing one over the other, it's choosing both the best way you can.


  2. I think I am even more 'in love' with my second child, if that is possible, because I don't have the same agonies over whether I am doing things right or not. But at the moment, my 2-yr-old's needs always seem to be greater than the baby's. It is a case of plate-spinning, I think!

  3. I had similar feelings, but I don't mind sharing the comforting with someone else. If one child is being comforted by daddy/granny/whoever, I'm fine with that. Also, I have two arms and two knees, so often I don't choose and just have them both.

  4. Oh sweetheart - I so know how you feel. When you have more than one child you simply can not physically be there for both of them at the same time. I think it's something that you learn to accept, slowly, over time. I cried a lot at first (much more then when I just had one child). We moved house when Edie was two weeks old and the night we moved my husband went away for a job for 10 days. So there was no one else but me to look after two children - both with such intense needs. The good thing is that, yes, it does get better. I think it took me 4 months to start feeling like I could cope. I always found bedtimes so hard - but after I'd got my little routine sorted, it was much easier. Reading a story to Renée with her sitting on my lap (both of us on the floor), while I waved at Edie lying next to us, rocking her with my free hand every so often. Then I'd put R to bed and feed Edie in peace. And then I'd collapse with exhaustion!! These days it's so much easier - the two girls adore each other and do everything together if they can. The cute thing is that if I get angry (hardly ever of course) - then Edie will turn to Renée for a hug. And my Mum, who's really into star signs says that Leos (Renée and Rosemary) make really good older siblings and I think it's true. Renée is really patient with her sister and that helps me so much. I'm sure you'll have the same... But hang on in there for the moment. You love your girls the same. Just because one may have to wait a while longer, it doesn't mean you don't care. Besides, it's good for them to learn patience (even at a young age). I have a friend with an only child and she expects everything to be done straight away and throws a tantrum if it's not - life isn't like that, so it's best they learn it!! Hugs and much love xxx

  5. It will get better don't worry. You tend to instinctively feel it when one needs you more over the other one at a certain point in time. They also learn to share through that.
    I wrote a post a little while ago about the depth of your love for your children and is it the same sort of love you feel for all your children. Have a look, I had some great comments http://www.perfectlyhappymum.com/perfectly_happy_mum/2009/09/do-you-love-all-your-children-the-same-way-.html
    One of the comments from All Grown Up is lovely. She says her nan used to say that you don't split the love you have for them, they bring it with them when they come. How lovely is that?
    You will see that as much as you might feel that sometimes you love them differently you love them both with the same intensity and passion xx

  6. ((hug)) i feel your pain i have left the youngest many a time to sort out one of the others, but they learn to wait. I try to keep them all together so i don't need to run off to do something else. i remember putting my eldest 3 to bed and pudding was upset so i ended up feeding her with one hand and turning the page of the bedtime story with the other lol! I hope all theses comments make you feel better and trust me they won't love you any less, my girls point out to me now if one of them are upset etc they look after each other which is gorgeous to watch :) and i very glad i had 4 soon to be five children and i love them all the same and i always will xxx

  7. Oh yes, every single day! Mine are almost 4 and akmost two, and it is blatant! It gets worse, but you also just get used to it. "Put him down mummy", "My turn mumma lap", " You are MY mummy, not his mummy" I feel like bone being fought over by two dogs (and lets not even start on the actual dog who also wants my constant attention!). I'm as fair as I can be, I say "Its your brothers turn for some mummy time right now", or "Your sister needs mummy at the moment". Or I play chase and ticke games that they both can participate in. "siblings without rivarly" is my bible. And its nice to be so popular!

  8. It DOES get easier as they get older, in answer to your question. (Sorry to disagree, Geekymummy.) Soon, they can understand "just a minute", and "I can't do two things at the same time". 'Soon' from a perspective of looking back at the early years. Not 'soon' from where you are, I know.

    I also agree with Maternal Tales. I KNOW it's hard, but I do think that learning you can't have mummy's attention the second you demand it is a good lesson to learn early on. The earlier the better. But that's tough for you, I know.

    It helped me to remember that in previous generations, babies were left to cry for ages. That's not what I wanted to do, but it helped me realise that they weren't going to die of crying for a few short minutes. It feels horrid but it probably feels worse to you as a mother than it really is.

    And yes, it does give you an admiration for single parents.

  9. i used to go to the triplets discussion lists. i could look at those posts by mothers who had spontaneous twins followed by spontaneous triplets, think ohmygodhowcanshecope? and then i used to feel a bit better.

  10. I didn't cope well with baby and toddler only 2 years 4 month apart - I am so glad mine are older now. I hated having to deal with two of them at the same time and it felt like having two big black clouds draining all my energy out of me! I hated never having a minute to myself. Husband was working away at the time and of not much help at weekends (it was just like having 3 people draining my energy instead of 2) so I was effectively like a single parent at the time. It put me off having more than 2 kids. The good thing is you do get your life back when they are a bit older.

  11. For the first time in a long while, I can see the benefits of having an only child. Sometimes you assume it is so much better with two until someone explains the reality. I am sure your situation will get easier in time x

  12. Oh honey, it is hard. As you know my boys are a year apart. The best advice I was given was to deal with the older one first as they are usually quicker to sort out. The little one will cry, but that's how babies communicate. An extra few minutes crying is going to hurt you more than it hurts them! As for sharing the love, I think our capacity to love our children is endless. x

  13. Mine are 3 months and 18 months, so both are pretty demanding but have totally different needs. I do feel split in two, but also feel I'm learning to take multi-tasking to a whole new level (rocking the crying baby and chasing the toddler at the same time!). I used to get very stressed when they both cried together, but like Iota says, I tell myself that's how babies communicate and a bit of crying isn't going to do any harm.

    Eventually, I think that the benefits of having a sibling to play with will outweigh having to wait a bit for Mummy's attention.

  14. IM: 'choosing both the best way you can' - I like that.

    HM: It is useful not to have those agonies of whether you are doing things right or not - though I do still have them, just not as bad.

    Mwa: Yes, I'm learning how to accommodate them both, one on each knee. Just like we learn how to type one-handed and so on, we adapt.

    Emily: Thanks, hun. It's getting better and I'm learning to be a little bit less concerned. I really look forward to when they're older and can be good friends. Told Rosemary about Renee and Edie today, actually, and she is looking forward to meeting them and suggested that we could 'bring the baby to meet them, too'. Aw, bless.

    PHM: Yes, it does seem you instinctively know which one needs you most. At the moment, I tend to put Eleanor down to go to Rosemary, though Rosemary is also having to learn to wait for things while I'm feeding Eleanor, for example. I think you just end up adapting in whatever way is needed, really.

    Amy: Well, it must be even more difficult for you! Though, as they get older, you have ready-made friends and comforters and plenty of them, so I imagine it may end up being easier for you in the end.

    Geekymummy: I look forward to their being able to play together and join in with the same activities. Hope the age gap isn't too big for that to happen eventually, anyway.

    Iota: 'It feels horrid but it probably feels worse to you as a mother than it really is.' I think that's very true. Eleanor is definitely left to cry more than Rosemary was, but I think that probably is a good thing in the long run, painful though it still is.

    Grit: Yes, I have to admit doing similar - I definitely have it a lot easier than many! I have a (hands-on) husband at home with me all the time, for one, which means I can look at mums whose husbands go out to work all day and wonder in admiration at how they cope on their own all day. Not to mention those like you and Emily, whose husbands are away for long periods. And single parents? No idea at all how they manage.

    Anonymous: Sounds like you had a difficult time. Glad to hear it does get easier!

    Rosie: I think there are benefits to having one and benefits to having more than one - the latter probably don't come into play until they're a bit older, though!

    Sandy: Yes, dealing with the older one first seems to be the way it's working out - for the most part. We're developing strategies, gradually. And we have the benefit of a bigger age gap, which means Rosemary is out at playgroup and nursery school a lot of the time, so Eleanor can get one-on-one, or even two-on-one attention then.

    Helen: Yes, I'm gradually finding ways of multi-tasking with them both, and presumably will do so more as we move on. I do hope that they will end up close and enjoy playing together in the end to make up for having to share!

  15. I'm not late coming to this post, i just wanted to properly comment and with a newborn and a 22m old, not easy to find time! I am SO split. My big boy has almost no language, and is still a baby himself. He cannot be expected to wait, and I'm on my own all day. It's heartbreaking, as at least 3 or 4 times a day, one or both children are screaming with genuine need. Missis will not sleep not on the breast/in the sling, and she feeds constantly still, so the tv is on a lot for Boy. But when he needs a meal or a new nappy, or a sleep, i HAVE to put her down to cry. I attempt most jobs with the sling on, but it's crippling my back to lift an alomst 2yr old at arms length so he doesn't squash the baby. Things are getting better, but my heart breaks for my big boy, who has been fabulous through it all, so good natured and never throwing tantrums.

  16. Can't wait for Renée and Edie to meet Rosemary too xx

  17. Allgrownup: It sounds very difficult, poor you! With Rosemary, we do have the benefit of her being able to express her feelings and also, for the most part, understand that sometimes she has to wait for something. I'm finding, though, that it's Eleanor who is the one who has to wait more than Rosemary. It's great that your big boy is being so fabulous. I hope that you'll all be able to settle into a routine/way of doing things that will work for you all, soon!