Mommy guilt and daughters

A friend once explained to me that having two kids was like being married to two people at once — you feel as strongly for one as you do the other, and it can be just as complicated.

I’m starting to understand what he meant.

The love part I already felt, of course. Before I had two kids I honestly wondered how I could care as much for the second as I did for the first, but I did. It just happened that way. The complicated part wasn’t as obvious. But now that I’ve been home with both Lyra and Pandra for the last three months or so, it’s become more clear.

I don’t think Lyra likes me much right now.

Lyra and her dinosaur
Lyra can play with her toys happily by herself…

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still her mommy. She still needs and wants me around. But if there’s someone else around who can help her with things, do fun stuff with her, read her stories, or anything like that, she’s choosing them over me.

I can’t blame her for it. Nearly every moment of time I’ve spent with her over the past three months has included Pandra. I can’t play toys on the floor with her because I’m nursing Pandra. I can’t run around the field with her because I have Pandra in the wrap and can’t run with her. I can’t give her my complete, undivided attention for very long because Pandra interferes. And Lyra has never complained about Pandra, or shown herself to be particularly jealous.

What has changed is her relationship with me. She tunes me out more, as expected I guess, since I’m now the authority of her daily life. She gets mad at me and refuses to tell me things. She shows her preference to spend time with other people. I’d be tired of hanging out with me too, considering all the time we spend together now.

On the other side of things, my relationship with her has changed too. I have to be more than I was before, since I’m her daily source of entertainment, education, or whatever other activities she may need. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m not very good at that part. I don’t enjoy coming up with or carrying out age-appropriate activities. I’m not creative in the right ways to be very good at it, and what’s more, I don’t have fun doing it. So I’ve taught her how to play some computer games, and I try to do things like bake with her (she’s only interested in the eating part, really)… things that I enjoy too. I take her to playgrounds and she runs loose and plays with other kids. I take care of her — she gets the things she needs. But I’m not a teacher, I’m not a daycare, and I’m not a kid who can play at her level. When I do push myself to do things like this, I don’t have much fun, and I’m sure Lyra can tell.

I’m happy that she’s in preschool – for two hours, three days a week, she’s getting some of those activities in, and meeting and playing with other kids. I’m getting time alone with Pandra (and sometimes, if Pandra naps, time alone, period). But I wonder, and I’m worried. If we don’t have fun, or if I’m distracted taking care of a three month old baby, or if I’m just exhausted and frustrated and tired of trying to entertain the bottomless pit of boredom known as my Lyra, is it going to hurt us somehow?

Mommy guilt

Tonight Adam told me that Lyra confided something in him that I would hope she would be willing to tell either of us. She said she didn’t want to tell us about it at all.  I’m glad she has that strong of a relationship with her dad — I shouldn’t be upset that she told him about it and not me. I am, but not the way I thought I would be. What I’m upset about is this feeling of guilt — that I’ve somehow done something wrong in my mommy duties lately, and that I should be working harder to not get frustrated with her, and trying to get better at keeping her engaged.

Being a mom is hard. Mommy guilt is painful.

I’m afraid of somehow ruining our relationship. I think it’s a bit early for that, but I guess it’s better to keep that fear in mind and act to prevent it than it is to realize someday in the distant future that it’s already happened, and that I’m not someone she trusts or wants to be with.

And so, I’m up at one o’clock in the morning, worrying about how to fix things. And I might even be on the right track.

I need to find something special that Lyra and I can do together — just the two of us, no Pandra, no Daddy, no uncle Jordy. We need to spend time together in a way that isn’t tinged with frustration on either of our parts, and it has to be doing something that both of us enjoy. Now I just need to figure out what, and fit that into our schedule somehow.

Being a mom is way more difficult than being married. And I’ve got two girls now, plus I’m also married. It’s both fragmenting and infinitely fulfilling.