When the second child comes along, it’s quite common for the first child to have a few issues! A bit of jealousy that Mum’s so wrapped up in the baby, sometimes a bit of attention seeking behaviour. So far we’ve had an incredibly smooth run. Birdy has been nothing but adoring of her baby sister, which has been lovely. But I do remember very early on, when I finished feeding Molly, that Caillie said to me, “C’mon Mum, now you have to look after this kid!”. So even though she seems quite independent, she still needs to feel like I’m looking after her.
I think the age gap of five years between my children may have made things easier. It helps that she can look after herself a little, or make a fairy princess castle out of sticky tape and a shoebox while I’m feeding the baby. It also helps that she can understand her emotions and tell me how she’s feeling. We haven’t had to deal with crazy attention-seeking tantrums or a fit of jealous rage where she hits the baby over the head with her barbie doll or bites it’s ear off when I’m not looking. But because we haven’t had any obvious signs of jealousy I’ve probably been a bit slack about making sure Birdy knows she’s still just as special. And I got a bit of a rude wake up call the other day.
We were just hanging out having a chat when she said, “But Mum you love Molly more than me.” And I was like, “What did you say?” “You love Molly more than me.” I was so shocked I had to drag my mouth up off the baby-food covered floor before I could speak. So naturally I said, “No I don’t, honey. I love you both the same. I just have to spend more time with Molly right now because she’s a baby and babies need lots of looking after.” Part of the problem could be that I tend to smother Molly with physical affection. Unlike her father and sister, Molly just loves to be kissed and cuddled, whereas the only way to get a cuddle out of Birdy is through a long absence or dreadful illness. (I’ve thought about pretending to go to work just so I can get a cuddle when I arrive home!) I still don’t know whether Birdy genuinely thinks I love Molly more or whether she was just testing me out, but the fact is that I never leave Molly. Birdy goes off to school and to swimming lessons and to her friends’ houses, so there are lots of times I hang out with just Molly, but not so many times I do things just with Caillie.
To rectify that, I try to make sure that during at least one of Molly’s sleeps I do an activity with Birdy. We make something together, or cook something or read a book. I’ve also staggered their bedtimes, which works really well. I put Molly to bed at 7 and Birdy at 7.30 or 8 so that we have some time together to read stories together and talk about the day. It’s worth taking stock of how you do things, working out how you can find time quality time within the routine that you have. For me, walking home from school is a good way of spending time with Birdy while Molly is taken care of in the pram. Also one of the biggest challenges for me has been meal times. We always used to chat over dinner. But now I’m nearly always busy feeding Molly and getting her in bed when my husband and daughter have dinner. So I’ve decided to put a comfy chair in the dining room so I can sit with them and feed Molly while they have tea. Whenever there’s a big change in your family it’s good to reassess how you do things, and a new baby is certainly a big change for everyone, including the older siblings.
How did it work in your home? Did your older children become jealous or attention-seeking when the new baby arrived? Does the age gap make a difference? What did you do to make sure your older children weren’t neglected?