Do you have second child guilt about adding to the family? Feeling sad about your second pregnancy is normal, but see why having more kids shouldn’t make you feel guilty for your older child.
I didn’t expect to feel guilty.
Except every time I saw my three-year-old, I felt both guilty and sad about having twins. I was, after all, changing his life.
I wasn’t so much concerned with the logistics of having more than one child. I was aware about the challenges of balancing a toddler’s needs with a baby. I knew it’d be a little crazy and accepted it.
No—I was worried about losing my special time with my eldest. I was sad about saying goodbye to the three-person family I’d grown so used to. And I was scared because I knew my son’s personality but not the twins’.
Second child guilt and adding to the family
Any feelings of guilt is terrible because we don’t always want to admit them. What mom would ever admit she’s anxious about her soon-to-be-born baby? Or that she’s worried she’ll give her second child less attention?
Lots of moms have felt the same emotions. They mourn the loss of having only one child. They think about all they’ve gone through as a family of three. It’s pretty difficult to let go of that dynamic.
And yes, even if you’ve always planned to have two or more children. Even if you’ve wanted to give your eldest a sibling for the longest time. You’re still saying goodbye to a part of your life you can’t get back.
So, how do you cope with them? What do you tell yourself when the guilt strikes?
1. You heart will grow even more when you see how much she loves the baby
I still remember the first few days when I learned I was expecting twins. I looked into my then-three-year-old’s smiling face and thought, You have no idea what’s about to happen.
It’s easy to feel sad for our older kids, especially with all the changes that will upend their lives. But instead of focusing on the difficulties, think how much your older child will love the baby.
Yes, she might ask to send him back when she realizes he’s staying for a while. She might throw a tantrum. But you won’t love her any less because you now have another child to tend to. Instead, your heart will grow so much when you see her taking care of the baby.
You’re giving her an amazing opportunity to love someone else, someone unique. Not only her parents, but her own sibling. And when you see how much she’ll dote on him, your heart will feel just as full.
2. You’ll feel like you and your older child are in this together
Worried about losing the bond with your first child once the new baby arrives?
The new baby will be one more thing you and your child will have in common. Something you’ll go through together. Another challenge you can face with your little trooper by your side.
Your daughter won’t be pushed aside in all the madness. Instead, you’ll feel like you’re doing this together, as a team. Your relationship with your first child after your second will grow stronger as a result.
3. You’re giving your older child a lifelong friend
Your kids will fight, no doubt. Just as any relationship has its ups and downs, so too will your two kids.
But one reason not to feel guilty is giving your child the gift of a sibling.
You’ll have a chance to nurture a special relationship only they have with one another. Many siblings are inseparable. They’re instant play mates. I’ll be cooking in the kitchen while my kids are building blocks or running around in the house. The perks may not come til later, but know that they will.
Yes, it took a while before my eldest could legitimately play with his baby brothers (newborns don’t make for exhilarating playmates). But today, they are genuine friends who enjoy one another’s company.
4. You’re teaching your older child valuable lessons
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Saying goodbye to your older child as an only child is hard, but you’re also giving her valuable lessons as a sibling. She’ll learn:
- Self-sufficiency. Now more than ever will she need to do things on her own. Maybe things she’d never consider starting until much later had she been an only child. Things like using the potty by herself, putting her toys away, or fetching her own sippy cup.
- Patience. Whereas she’s used to having her needs met, now she’ll learn the value of waiting. It’s so important for her to learn how to cope with boredom and find creative ways to wait.
- Responsibility. As the big sister, she’ll assume a leadership role. In the past, she’d always been the child, but now she’ll feel responsible and mature. She might be accountable for certain duties now that she has a little sibling to care for.
How to make the adjustment easier
Any guilt you may feel about adding to the family will go away once your little one arrives. Yes, it’ll be different, but your life will change for the better in so many ways.
Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into hiccups. Here’s how to further ease the guilt you may feel once your little one arrives:
1. Make time for your older child, even if in small or unexpected doses
Even if the new baby limits your time, you’ll still find pockets of it to spend with your older child. The first few weeks and maybe even months will be different. You may not be able to go on day-long outings like you used to. But you can find ways to bond over all and even unexpected places.
Maybe it’s during the ten minutes you walk her to preschool. Or when you giggle while making the bed and fanning the sheets high in the air. Or while folding yet another basket of laundry. I would sneak away for half an hour with my eldest to our nearest coffee shop.
Though in small doses, these simple moments are some of the best times to be with your older child.
2. Talk with your older child even when doing baby tasks
You’ll be busier with baby duties such as nursing, changing diapers or trying to put the baby to sleep. Don’t think of these times as separate from your older child. For some of them, yes, it might be better to keep her occupied while you’re putting the baby to sleep.
But for other times, double up and use these opportunities to hang out with your older child. Talk or read with your child while you nurse or bottle feed the baby. Ask her to help fetch a diaper during a change. You can always include her in most baby tasks.
3. Help her be excited about the baby
Seeing how excited your older child is about the new baby will help you cope with your guilt. It’s hard to let go of the past when you see how eager she is to meet her baby brother.
Be realistic about her expectations, but also get her excited. This is, after all, an exciting part of her life! Yes, it’ll be a challenge, but she’ll have so many things to look forward to as a big sister.
Talk about all the benefits she’ll have, such as helping to care for her a little baby and shushing him to sleep. A few other ideas:
- Get her a doll or stuffed animal to practice being a big sister to.
- Get her her own “baby book” she can fill out about her pretend baby doll or toy.
- Ask her to come with you to pick out simple onesies and blankets for the baby.
- Read books about welcoming a new baby (here are my favorites).
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The guilt and sadness you feel towards your older child is normal, but manageable. You’ll bond with her in new ways and give her the gift of a sibling. She’ll learn valuable lessons as a big sister. And your heart will swell at seeing how much she prizes her new baby sibling.
Having a new baby to the family doesn’t follow conventional math. Adding an extra child to your limited time should mean your love and attention is divided in half.
Except it doesn’t work that way. Your new baby—and your older child—will only make your love double in size.
Get more tips about welcoming a new baby:
- What to Do when Your Baby Needs to Be Entertained Constantly
- Are You Balancing Your Children’s Needs Fairly?
- 5 Maya Angelou Quotes that Can Teach Us about Parenthood
- Raising a Self Sufficient Child
Tell me in the comments: What are your biggest struggles with second child guilt?
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