4 Differences Between Parenting My First Baby and My Fourth
Over the years, I've definitely changed as a mother.
I'd like to think I've grown older and wiser, more Martha Stewart-y (minus the prison part), and definitely more patient.
But when it comes right down to it, I know the truth about my evolution as a mother. It has a lot less to do with any of my own abilities and everything to do with the children that I have been blessed with. With four of them in my life, I have to say that there are a few differences from how I parented my first child to how life is now with my fourth baby, such as …
I put her down more.
With my first baby, I literally never wanted to put her down. Not only did I simply love holding her, but I just wanted to soak up every single minute of her babyhood. Sometimes I would even refuse to let other people hold her at family gatherings simply because I couldn't bear to be parted from her. I held her so much, in fact, that my first baby never even crawled — she went from snuggling in my arms to walking all in one week.
Now, with my fourth baby, I still try to soak up every moment of her babyhood, but I've also learned that letting her explore the world in places other than my arms is not only necessary because I have other kids to care for, but it may offer her some advantages. She's more content being with other people, and she's seeing new things from the comfort of her play mat. It's a different experience for both of us.
I trust my instincts more.
When it comes to the “burning” questions of early motherhood — the breastfeeding vs. formula, the vaccinations, the attachment or cry-it-out — I've learned to tune out the voices of the rest of the world (for the most part) and trust my instincts on what feels right for me and my family.
I understand that even babies have personalities.
It may sound silly, but it took me a while to realize that babies, like adults, are all different. Some like to be held 24/7, some enjoy exploring on their own, some have colic and won't allow their mothers to drink any type of coffee, and some wouldn't even bat an eye if she guzzles the whole carafe. Moral of the story? Sometimes, it's easier to just hang back and let the baby take the lead.
I don't take a break from her.
Ha! Bet you weren't expecting that one, were you? Popular mom advice will tell you that with more kids, you learn to take more breaks, you're OK with just living in the moment and not snapping pictures every five seconds, and that, sometimes, you have to place yourself first.
But out here in the real world, I know that my time with my baby as a baby is fleeting and honestly, right now, with four kids and work, I'm not getting a lot of breaks. There are a lot of factors at play, namely a baby who won't take a bottle and not a lot of sitter access, but for the most part, I am looking at the next nine months of my life as some quality mother-and-daughter bonding time.
For me, exerting the energy to take a “real” break from her just isn't possible for more than an-hour-or-so increments, so instead, I focus on some smaller ways to recharge — escaping to exercise, being OK with letting her fuss for a minute at night time, and shamelessly having her older siblings hold her while I gulp down an actual hot cup of coffee. I know, the horror.
What have you done differently with your after-the-first babies?