28 Apr 2007
Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with potty training. I am just trying to analyze if a mother treats all her children the same way.
When I was pregnant with my toddler I had the visions of the perfect mother I was going to be. I took plenty of rest, listened to classical Mozart and Beethoven, I used to strap on a head phone to my pregnant tummy and played music for the baby every chance I got. After she was born I would nurse her till she turned one, nothing other than breast milk for the first six months, I will play classical music when she slept, she would be this angel who spent the first three months of her life feeding and sleeping, she would do great with all her milestones (rolling over, crawling etc just like they say in baby center). Have you seen kids who yell and throw tantrums at public places? My angel would never be one of them. Any new scenario or change of schedule I would calmly explain to her once and she would quickly understand and follow my directions. I would be her best friend and she would be mine. My expectations could go on for pages.
Out came the baby with plans of her own. She was one of those colicky babies who cried and cried and cried. I had to start supplementing because she was hardly gaining any weight. I had to stop breast feeding after 8 weeks and switch her to hypoallergenic formula because her pediatrician thought that it would help with her colic. I have never felt more of a failure in my life.As she grew, she never rolled over, never crawled, never sat up, never moved on her own till she was 11 months. I never played classical music when she slept. She did not like her routine to be disturbed when we took her out, so she threw tantrums in restaurants and other public places. After 5 months she did not want to drink any more milk. Till she was a year old she threw up at least once a day.
All my expectations were shattered and I was not handling it well. Parenting was new to me, this one was not a text book baby, I wasn’t abusive, but I used to force her to drink milk, was in tears every time she threw up (try cleaning throw up from the carpet at least once a day and the laundry…oh God). I was embarrassed with her tantrums, so stayed at home and kept to a few familiar places and was getting depressed because I felt I missed out on lot of things.
When I got pregnant the second time, my elder one was barely 7 months. It was a whole new experience. I was sleep deprived most of the time. I was running around all the time, I hardly put on any weight, my OB was worried. I never listened to classical music, I never had the time to play music for my pregnant tummy. Sometimes I would even forget that I was pregnant. I would look at a nice maternity top and would think, may be during my second pregnancy I must get something nice like that and then it would hit me, “I ALREADY AM PREGNANT WITH MY SECOND CHILD!” I was prepared to supplement or for that matter put her entirely on formula.
When my younger daughter arrived, she was a screamer, who never slept, just like her elder sister. But luckily the new pediatrician diagnosed that the baby had acid reflux and hence the non-stop crying. She was prescribed antacids and I was able to breast feed her exclusively for the first four months, and kept at it for three more months.
After a rather long rambling, the point I am trying to make is, I saw so much difference in my attitude even when the baby was in the womb. With the first one, I thought of nothing other than this precious little thing that was inside me. Every action I did, every morsel of food I ate was targeted towards the baby’s welfare. With the second one, things were different, I had to take care of my elder one plus you are no longer a novice. You realize that it is perfectly okay if you don’t get your 4 servings of dairy for a day, it is not going to affect the big picture.
After the child is born the differences just keeps growing. My elder one started day care only when she was 22 months, but my younger one had to start day care when she was just 8 months. I force fed my elder child milk till she was 20 months, with the younger one, I gave up in 7 months (yes, both my kids are milk-o-phobic). Now the guilt starts, who am I being unfair to? My elder one (because I forced her and now she hates milk with a vengeance) or the younger one (by depriving the younger one of the nutrition). When my toddler asks me to carry her, I sometimes give her the, “You are a big girl” speech, the guilt just kills me that I am forcing her to grow up and be the big sister. Again I look at my baby, hey she didn’t ask to be born, I feel even guiltier. I end up carrying both the kids at the same time. I have a whole bunch of picture of my toddler, I have probably a tenth of that for the baby. My toddler was not allowed to watch TV till she turned one. The baby started watching TV when she was 6 months. And the list goes on…
So if any one tells me that she treats both her kids the exact same way, I don’t believe it. Every one makes mistakes the first time and corrects it the second time. So either the person still hasn’t learnt from the previous mistakes or is under some kind of an illusion. Plus every baby has his/her personality. How you interact with them depends entirely on their personality and their personality gets formed depending on the way you interact with them. It is a feed back loop.
In a nutshell the minute we sign up to have kids, we sign up for a never ending guilt trip. Even people who have just one kid sometimes feel guilty that they are depriving their child of the joy of growing up with a sibling don’t they?! Guess all we can do is assess the situation and do what we think is fair.