Joanie is five weeks old now and I was going to write a post about the sibling relationship between her and Jackson. I started it a couple times, about how the first week or two were pretty rough and how Jackson was doing a lot of acting out, but, in the weeks since then it’s been kind of smooth sailing. I started writing about how incredibly sweet Jackson is with Joanie — how he kisses her and tells her he loves her about a hundred times a day and how he doesn’t call her “my baby sister” but simply calls her “my baby.” And how, when his sitter, who still watches him three mornings a week until he starts school next month, drops him back off at home when her shift is done, Jackson rushes over to Joanie and tells her he missed her and she looks at him and kicks her little legs, and it’s all so sweet I think my heart could burst. I was going to write about all of this, but every time I sat down to do so, something else needed my attention.
Something else always needs my attention. Five things will need my attention before I can finish this post. I don’t know understand how the addition of one little, tiny baby has multiplied my responsibilities and chores by ten. I remember talking to a neighborhood dad on the playground a few months ago about parenting two kids (he has two little daughters, 3 and 1) and what the biggest adjustment is when you have a second baby, and he said, “You lose all your free time. You know how when you only have one kid, you still have moments to yourself, maybe when the other parent is doing bath time or after bed time?”
I nodded, afraid of what was coming.
“Well, when you have two kids,” he continues, “you lose those moments to yourself because there’s always – ALWAYS — something that has to be done.”
And God damn, he was totally right. It’s a 24-hour cycle of chores and I’m/ we’re lucky to have an hour at night before we pass out when we can decompress (and if I went to bed when I was tired enough to, I’d lose that hour, so I force myself to stay awake, just so I can have that time, even it’s only spent watching TV).
I love, love, LOVE having Joanie in our lives. I wouldn’t change anything for the world and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I made the decision to try for a second baby and that she’s here and healthy and we’re all doing well. What a blessing, what a gift. But there’s also a part of me that is grieving those lost moments a little bit and wondering when things will stop feeling quite so hectic. Maybe when Jackson starts school in a few weeks. Maybe when I’m not pumping several times a day and when there aren’t so many bottles to wash or diapers to change or a feeding schedule that runs every two hours. But I also imagine things won’t change as much as I will change. I will better learn to balance and adjust expectations and manage my time in a way that helps create some semblance of recuperation between the endless chores. I’ll also probably have to let go a little — let go of my need for everything to be in its place and always clean and dinner homemade by me by 5:30 every night with fresh ingredients procured at the farmers’ market to support local businesses instead of at the more convenient super market where produce is shipped from somewhere else.
We’re five weeks in to this whole “parenting two kids under four” situation, and as much as I promised to be gentle with myself — and I have been, for the most part, or at least more gentle than I was when Jackson was a newborn — the self-criticism creeps up more than I’d like. I have a list of things about myself — my appearance (namely, that I haven’t immediately lost all the weight that I gained and so my pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit), my behavior, the way I feel in a fog most of the time and have been forgetful and a little flaky — I’m unsatisfied with. And then I imagine speaking to another mother of a five-week-old baby the way I start internally speaking to myself and I have yet another thing to feel angry at myself about. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. And I know there are things that would help me cope and/or blow off steam: more sleep, more moments to myself (to exercise, to read, to talk with a friend on the phone), and I know that, eventually, I will have those things. We’re only five weeks in.
I set out to write about the sibling relationship between Jackson and Joanie. That relationship — or, at least, how Jackson was going to adjust to sharing his life with a baby — was probably what I was most concerned with before Joanie was born. That part is going great. It turns out the harder adjustment has been my own. But I’ll get there. In time.