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HomeFamilyParenting AdviceJuggling children's needs after a new baby — Good Parenting

Juggling children’s needs after a new baby — Good Parenting

Big SisterDear Dr. Debbie,

I recently planned a mother/daughter day with my 4-year-old. Since her little brother came along, things have been kind of rough for everyone. It used to be just the two of us while Daddy was at work, and we would do everything together from going to the park to doing laundry. Now I am always rushed and tired. This was going to be a special day to reconnect and make sure my daughter has some happy childhood memories.

With Daddy on baby duty at home, we started out with some window shopping and lunch at a restaurant. But during a matinee at a children’s theater performance, she fidgeted and I couldn’t keep my mind off of what might be going on at home. The magic of the morning had completely worn off by dinnertime, with the baby more demanding of my attention than usual and Daddy more worn out than he normally would be.

At bedtime, my daughter threw a temper tantrum about a book she wanted read to her that couldn’t be found. Then Daddy ran out (a little too eagerly) to restock the diaper supply. The baby fussed and fussed, and then he threw up.

My hopes of giving my daughter a beautiful memory were dashed. Do you think she even appreciated the undivided attention that was given her for most of the day?

Not What I Had in Mind

Don’s miss last week’s column How to raise an emotionally intelligent child — Good Parenting

Dear Not What I Had in Mind,

Your heart is in the right place. Your daughter has lost the status of “only child” and you are struggling to maintain your attention to her while meeting the unrelenting demands of a baby. Instead of trying to recapture what has been lost, you might reframe your expectations around the realities of life with two children.

Rather than trying to make up for neglecting her for days on end, try to structure your days around meeting her needs as well as the baby’s needs. Think of all the things you must do in your day and try to picture doing them with both children. Yes, it’s often a juggling act, but since you were able to include your daughter in getting the laundry done, it’s now just a matter of adjusting her role and making room for the baby.

Household chores, food preparation and bedtime routines can be satisfactorily managed with two young children with a little planning and ingenuity. Keep things where you need them. Watch the time so that food and rest are not delayed. Strive for adequate rather than perfect. Make time to get together with other people. And keep your sense of humor.

Also, savor those moments when the children magically meet each other’s needs, for example, by playing peek-a-boo or blowing raspberries. Despite the stresses and strains his presence presents now, he will be her brother forever. Your daughter’s childhood memories will be colored by having to share space, time and parental affections with a younger brother. There will be ages and stages when they will have more use for each other such as when the little brother can talk and play with her, and when she can counsel him about the teacher she’s had before him. Experience in a sibling relationship provides invaluable learnings in getting along with others, even when siblings don’t always get along.

Childhood memories are woven from the mundane and the extraordinary. While there are perfect moments, and sometimes a perfect day, many a childhood road is paved with potholes.

Perhaps your goal of setting out to make a beautiful memory was overly optimistic. Her childhood memories will create themselves despite your shortcomings and best intentions.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy[at]jecoannapolis.com.

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