Tuesday 18 July 2017

Making Time For My First Born

One of my big regrets from when Ember was born is that I didn’t carve out enough time for just Ebony. We made the most of our time together when I was pregnant so I could soak up those final months of it being just the two us. We went on adventures, we took trips out and we snuggled together under a blanket and watched movies (I might have fallen asleep a lot). But when Ember arrived, I didn’t do enough to spend time with Ebony. I was so busy breastfeeding, napping and crying (always), that there just didn’t seem to be enough of me to go round.

Laurie took a month off work when Ember arrived so he did most of the work when it came to looking after Ebony. The two of them would disappear for the day and I would take up position in front of Netflix so I could breastfeed in peace. And, in a way, I think that was what I needed. I felt so fragile after the birth, I just didn’t have the patience that you need to parent a four-year-old. I thought as long as Laurie was there for her, she’d be ok.

A few months into being a mother-of-two, I read an article by Sarah Ockwell Smith (this one) that highlighted the importance of spending time alone with your first child even after the baby was born. I really wish I’d read it when I was pregnant because it makes so much sense but just didn’t occur to me at the time. I was so busy caring for a newborn that I failed to make time for Ebony. We had days out as a family, plenty of them in fact, but I left Laurie doing most of the parenting while I had Ember in the sling or attached to my boob (always).

Now that Ember is a little older and I feel a little saner, I’ve been enjoying spending time with just Ebony again. The other day, I went to watch her in a show while Laurie looked after Ember. After the show, we went to a nice pub and had some dinner. We sat snuggled up together on a sofa and chatted about the show. We were only there for an hour but it felt so special to me, just me and my first born hanging out together. We didn’t have to worry about whether we were going somewhere baby-friendly and I didn’t have to pack nappies or toys. We just went and enjoyed spending time together. I had forgotten how nice that is. I had forgotten how easy it is to spend time with just one child who is old enough to chat.

It’s not always easy to find the time to do that. Laurie works all week so it’s usually me and both my girls. It’s lovely seeing them interact and watching their bond develop, but life with a mobile baby isn’t exactly easy. Weekends are the only chance Laurie gets to spend quality time with his kids, so I don’t really like filling our weekends with other things. But I’m going to make more of an effort to snatch one-on-one time with Ebony at the weekends from now on. Thanks to the four year age gap, I get plenty of time alone with Ember. We have the whole school day to just hang out the two of us, but I need to make more of an effort to create opportunities to do that with Ebony, too.

Laurie went away a few weekends ago, and once Ember was tucked up asleep in bed, we snuggled on the sofa and watched a movie. Ember ended up going to bed later than usual so Ebony was exhausted by the time our movie finished, but she wouldn’t stop watching it, she so desperately wanted to stay up and be the big girl. I’ve booked a couple of theatre trips for us over the next few months and I’m hoping we’ll have the chance to do a few more things as well.

Being a family of four is lovely, but it can be hard balancing the needs of two children. Ember wants to do everything Ebony does so I spend a lot of time trying to keep her away from Ebony’s toys and library books. And it can be hard when Ebony is trying to tell me about her day but I can’t focus on what she’s saying because Ember is crying or clambering all over me or needs her nappy changing. I love the relationship my girls have with each other, but I want to make sure I have a strong relationship with them both as individuals as well. I don’t want to lose my bond with Ebony because there’s a new member of the family. With her being at school now, it feels even more important to take that time to reconnect with her and not let the chaos of family life get in the way.

Ebony has adapted so well to life as a big sister. I want her to see her baby sister as someone who brought her joy rather than someone who stole some of her much-loved attention. I don’t want her to feel sidelined or left out, I want her to continue to feel like she is at the very centre of my world. And, though I tell her how much I love her regularly, I think it’s more important to show her by spending time with her and reconnecting with her.

How do you make time for each of your kids?

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