When I had my first child, my son, I was his everything. I was home full-time with him and my life revolved around his every need. I fed him when he was hungry. I rocked him to sleep when he was tired. When he cried I comforted him. When he laughed I giggled right along with him. We spent all our time together. I was his everything.
Then I had triplets.
I was no longer his everything. When he was thirsty I was hooked up to a breast pump so he grabbed his own sippy cup from the fridge. When he was hungry I was feeding his sisters, so he got his own goldfish. When he wanted to play cars I would fall asleep on the floor mid-vroom, out of sheer exhaustion.
To make it worse, I wasn’t even everything to my triplet daughters. They only got a piece of me, never my whole, never my everything. All three would cry at the same time and I physically couldn’t comfort them all at once. I only had two hands for a set of three. Someone always got left behind.
I grieved this, this ability to be everything. My son would never have it again. My baby girls would never experience it. Ever.
I tried anyway. I ran from task to task, from bottle to bottle, from boo boo to boo boo. Always trying to be their everything, even though I knew it was impossible. I couldn’t let myself stop trying. I felt like my kids deserved a mom who could be there for them in every way in every moment, to give them everything they needed. It wasn’t their fault there were four of them born in three-and-a-half years. I felt like I owed them at least trying to do the impossible.
One day I was changing one of the triplets on the floor. It was during that stage where she would not just lie for a change and constantly tried to roll over. You know that stage where you have to physically restrain them with one arm, and then change a poopy diaper with the other? Well, that’s what I was doing when one of my other daughters tried to pull herself up and fell on her face. I finished the change as fast as I could and I scrambled over to her, again feeling the sting of not being able to give my everything to all my children. But, by the time I got to her, she stopped crying. She was fine.
This was a pivotal moment in my life. I’m not 100 percent sure which girl I was changing or which girl fell down, but I absolutely remember everything else about that moment because it changed the way I viewed mothering. I no longer lamented that I couldn’t be their everything because I now knew they didn’t need me to be.
My daughter could soothe herself. My son could patiently wait for me to feed a baby before I could play cars with them. My toddlers could watch a TV show while I cooled my son’s fever.
This is a lesson I had to learn by being completely overwhelmed—this lesson that my kids don’t need me to be their everything. How long would I have gone on picking up my son after every little stumble, clearing life’s obstacles out of his way, and ultimately leaving him incapable of dealing with frustration and adversity? Some moms know this instinctively. For me? I had to learn it this way.
My children are better off because I can’t be their everything. They know how to comfort themselves, how to be patient when mom is helping another child, how to empathize with a sibling who is suffering. The most beautiful lesson they’ve learned is that they have siblings they can rely on. My kids are the first one to grab an ice pack for a sister who fell down the stairs or find a Band-Aid for a brother who cut his finger. Would they have learned these lessons or become these supportive siblings if I kept trying to do everything and be everything? Probably not.
I’m better off, too. I’ve let go of the guilt. I’ve let go of unrealistic expectations. I stopped hustling trying to do the impossible which helps me to be more calm and relaxed with my children.
So if you are expecting your second, or are currently overwhelmed trying to be all things to all your little ones, I encourage you to let go of unrealistic expectations. Instead of focusing on what you can’t give your children because you have more than one, choose to focus on what they’ll gain by having siblings.
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