After the initial love-drunk happiness of bringing a baby into the world occurs, reality inevitably sets in. And it sets in hard. Your body is trying to recover. Your hormones are completely jacked. Breastfeeding ties you down. I absolutely dreaded it because it hurt so bad. It doesn’t help when your oldest daughter still rarely sleeps through the night and still manages to wake up at the crack of dawn ready for her waffles. Pronto.
Daddy would take care of it, but still…I was awake.
A few nights of 3-4 hours of sleep–if I was lucky–turned this momma into an exhausted, impatient crank. I could barely muster enough energy to tend to Luxe’s basic needs let alone a demanding 4-year-old’s need for play and attention. The farmer did the best he could to keep her occupied, but he works long, hard hours when it’s cold and wasn’t able to take her with him everywhere. She was stuck inside with me and if I did get a spare moment, the last thing I wanted to do was play.
I’ll be honest, Taegan and I went through a very rough patch there for a little over a month and I didn’t know if we would ever be the same again. She adored Luxe, was always up for a chance to hold her, and would jump to help me do something for her, but her relationship with me was deteriorating.
I was no longer “her best friend,” I didn’t “love her anymore,” and I was just plain “mean.” It broke my heart that we had come to this, but I didn’t know what to do. About the time I would sit down for a game of Candyland, Luxe would wake up crying wanting to be fed. And to the chair I would go for a good 40 minutes.
Oh, the guilt…I was drowning in piles of guilt. If I cried about one thing the majority of the time to the farmer, it was the guilt. Taking care of Luxe while Taegan had to occupy herself. Playing with Taegan while Luxe was in her swing, all alone in her room. Taegan watching too much TV because I didn”t have time to play. Dishes piling up in the sink. Laundry coming out of my ears. House at a level of uncleanliness it had never reached before. Taegan running a fever and trying to keep her away from Luxe. Luxe catching what Taegan had and being miserable. Being cranky with Taegan for being a typical 4-year-old sometimes. Oh, a husband? I have a husband? When did he come along? I was cranky with him, too, for trying to run interference with Taegan and not helping me. And I was so very sad that I barely got to see him–let alone converse–anymore.
I wasn’t certain that this family would be ok again.
Call it dramatic, but it was my worry at the time. The first month or two was not enjoyable. I felt like a total failure. As a mother, as a wife, and at just life in general. I had to stop trying to be and do everything and pick some priorities. Carving out some time for Taegan was first on my list.
By two months, Luxe was sleeping through the night consistently. I started feeling a little bit more like myself again and committed to doing at least one thing a day with Taegan that she really enjoyed. Playing a board game. Reading books. Baking. Working on flashcards. Really just whatever gave Taegan and I a little one-on-one.
I also instituted a remote corner of the kitchen called “The Naughty Spot” to break some bad habits she had acquired in her experiments on “How To Get Negative Attention.” One warning. If behavior continued, Naughty Spot it was. Never before has anything been as effective because Taegan is SUPER strong-willed, but hates being isolated from the group. To her, that’s the worst part of the punishment. Being alone is not something she enjoys.
This is also why she doesn’t sleep through the night. If she and Luxe want to share a room when Luxe gets older, I will be all about it.
Naturally, my commitment to time with Taegan brought us both back together. I knew that it would, but it was so hard with a bitsy one to make that time. So many other things needed my time, as well. But, you know what happened? Spending that time doing something Taegan enjoyed brought out a helper in my little girl. Before I knew it, she wanted to help me do the things around the house that needed doing. If I was making the bed, she was on the other side trying her best to copy what I was doing. If I was folding laundry, she was sorting socks or digging through the pile for all the washcloths because they’re the easiest thing to fold. If I was unloading the dishwasher, she was putting all the silverware away. I’m on the lookout for a child-size pair of rubber gloves because she really wants to help me wash dishes.
Now, as she’s helping me, once in a while she’ll look at me and say, “Mommy, we’re spending time together.” To her, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing because she just enjoys the person she’s doing it with.
And don’t think I don’t realize how special this time spent is. I can see, even at this young age, what I’m preparing her for. Life on her own as a woman, sister, mother, daughter, wife, friend.
I needed to find balance and by now, I’ve pretty well figured out how to juggle it all. Spending more time with Taegan has helped make her patient with me during the times that I can’t give her my undivided attention. Luxe is starting to really show her personality and requires a lot less of my time. The farmer and I still haven’t been on a date, but look forward to the time of evening when it’s just us.
I still feel guilty sometimes. There’s still days when mental exhaustion makes me want to just sit and stare at a wall, but I had those days before kids, so I must not be too bad off.
Luxe grows more independent with each passing month and I continue to watch my oldest change and evolve into her own person. She’s now folding all of her own clothes and putting them away in the correct drawers. Little things that bring a nostalgic tear if I stop to think about it.
Having two has made me painfully aware of how fast Taegan grew up and still continues to. But, I am immeasurably blessed because I get to watch. Not just her but another little girl who will be her own person, as well. The first couple of months was tough. We had to learn how to be a family of four. The dynamic changed and we had to learn our new places.
I’ll have to continue to be patient with them and they’ll have to be patient with me because we’re all learning. Grown-ups get it wrong sometimes, too, and I’ve had to swallow my pride a few times and apologize to Taegan. One thing I’m not sorry about. It fostered forgiveness and love. It proved to Taegan that Mommy doesn’t have too much pride to admit when she doesn’t have it all together. Sometimes a sincere apology is all that’s needed to reinforce a bond and begin anew.
I’ve had a lot moments up to this point where I’ve had to take a deep breath and say “This too shall pass” to myself.
All the while knowing that it will. Every bit of it. And I’ll look at them when they’re grown and know that what passed was time well spent.