In three short months, give or take a few weeks, I will be a mom of three kids. It is crazy to think about how, in just a little over four years, my family has grown from two, childless newlyweds to a young family of five.
Things have been remarkably different this time around. During my first pregnancy, I had started nursery plans long before I knew the gender of my child, and with my second I was committed to working very hard to preparing my oldest for her sister’s arrival. Now, with my third pregnancy well over halfway through, I am just now started to think about those things.
When it comes to preparing my oldest for her sister's arrival, I feel like we did an OK job. I also feel really certain we are going to approach things a little differently this time around. The longer I parent, the more I realize how much of my job as a mom is learning from my mistakes and correcting my path to avoid that same mistake in the future. So, I have been thinking about the mistakes I made before my second daughter's arrival and how I want to do things differently the third time around.
By trying too hard, I added unnecessary anxiety to the transition.
Above all, I want to chill out a little. In my anxiousness, I took preparing my oldest daughter for her sister’s arrival a little too seriously. We read a lot of books and had many pep talks and I think they didn’t really do a lot of good. If anything, I think they built up her arrival and made the event too significant in my toddler's mind. It is possible that, by trying too hard, I added unnecessary anxiety to the transition. Right now, we mainly just talk to our daughters about the baby casually, not so much about what it will be like being a little sister. We say hi to the baby in mommy’s belly and talk about his name, and they give him occasional loves when they cuddle me. All in all, we are pretty comfortable not making a huge deal about his arrival.
I'm also not encouraging them to grow up. I don't think that being big sisters means they have to be big. My daughters are still so young; one is barely preschool aged while the other is still a toddler. I see now, I pushed my oldest into responsibility and mature behaviors before she was developmentally appropriate. This time around, I will keep reminding myself of their age and give up on hurrying to the next milestone or rushing their independence.
I want to let them take things at their own pace, especially since we will be experiencing such a big change. My middle child is very attached to me, and if sharing my attention with a newborn is hard, I hope I can be realistic about what I expect from her instead of pushing her to be a big girl or having unrealistic expectations of her emotional maturity.
Lastly, I hope I can be more sensitive to their needs and slower to write off the expression of those needs as bad behavior. When my second arrived, my older daughter was so very vocal about her need for one-on-one time but I was quick to respond in frustration when I was sinking in the fog of the newborn days. This time around, I hope I can be more diligent about blocking out time to spend alone with each of my big girls. I hope to be more compassionate to their needs for time with mommy and less fixated on spending every waking moment with my newborn.
Through all of this, I know I will probably fail. I will probably leave this postpartum season with a whole new list of mistakes I hope never to repeat. Still, I know it is less important that I avoid mistakes all together and more vital that I recognize my blunders, apologize and move forward with a better approach. I can rest easy knowing my children don't need a perfect mom and move forward toward being better.