Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twinning Tuesday: Mama Guilt

I don't think there is a parent who doesn't have feelings of guilt over something ...

- not enough time
- work
- the food they are serving to their family
- what they want to do versus what should be doing

Guilt  certainly isn't a special experience for parents of twins, but I think there is a special kind of guilt for parents of multiples. The guilt of trying to meet the needs of both twins, particularly when they are infants.

I think any parent who has more than one child gets a taste of this as well; both children have wants and needs, and you cannot always meet those of both children at the same time.

Little Guy helping  Baby Girl with her pacifier

I remember when my own twins, Baby Girl and Little Boy, were infants, I went through much the same thing. Baby Girl was the needier of the two; she cried more easily, wanted to be held more, was more sensitive to her environment, and to physical needs. Little Boy on the other hand, was always more placid, more easy going.

Baby Girl would cry, so I would pick her up to comfort her. If she had her own way, she would have been held. All. The. Time!

And although Little Boy would have the same needs as Baby Girl, he didn't vocalize them as readily.

Despite wanting to treat them the same, to give them the same newborn experience, they didn't. It was easier to theorize all of this while I was pregnant with them, but once they were born, and the reality of having two babies set in, it was near impossible to treat them the same.

I've read about similar situations on plenty of forums for multiples; one twin nursed longer than the other, one twin co-slept while the other didn't, one twin was worn more, carried more, cradled more etc etc.

Thus the Twin Guilt.

I would love to say that over time I found a magic formula, a way to be able to fulfill the needs of each child. The truth is a little trickier though.

I gave what I could to both of them, and worked on the guilt. (I won't say "I did my best"; I have always had a difficult time with that phrase. No one is capable of 'doing their best' all the time. We do what we can, and that has to be okay).

Of course, it would be dreadful of me to leave you with no light at the end of this tunnel, aside from the acknowledgement that you are not alone in your mama-guilt. So, I offer you a couple of things that I found did help:

~ take any help you can! When friends and family come over to visit, and offer to hold a baby, ask that they hold the more demanding twin, giving you some one on one time with your less needy baby. Or, ask them to take both babies, and take ten minutes by yourself. Alone. A little alone time will help with just about everything!

~ wear your babies. I wore Baby Girl on my back a lot, once she could hold her head up (at about 3 - 4 months). This kept her close and happy, so I could focus more on Little Boy's needs.

~ remember that different children WILL have different experiences. My eldest child Little Guy was an only child for his first three and a half years; his infant and toddler years were shaped by our undivided attention. Comparing his experience with that of his younger siblings, is really different. Different is not necessarily bad, it is just that - different!

~ remembering that I am not advocating neglecting one of your babies, but that if you are giving them both what you can, while still leaving a little left over for yourself, then you are doing fine.

~ find a balance that works for you and your family. That might mean using tools that you may not have considered as an Attachment Parenting family, such as baby swings, bouncy chairs, sleeping alone, pacifiers, or supplementing with formula. You can still be an AP parent and use one of these! Work to release your expectations, or even the expectations of others, either real or perceived.

~ I first heard this advise from Melisa Nielsen, writer of the Waldorf Essentials curriculum, and I love it so much, I have it written out and tacked above my desk ... save guilt for sin. Parenting is a tough gig, and parenting multiples can be an extra challenge. Do what you can. Love them as much as you can. Hold them as often as you can. Take some deep breathes ... you're a great parent!

Have you found good ways to move past parenting guilt? What advice would you give to a friend in the throes of mama guilt? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!