I feel guilty for having a third child.
Yes, I know this is absurd, especially since I have dealt with this guilt before. When my second, Casey, was born, and I came home from the hospital, Braden was not happy. He was downright pissed, actually. He was merely two years old, but he tantrumed, he screamed, he cried. He wanted mommy all to himself. In the midst of sleep deprivation and hormones and PPD, I let it get to me. I felt awful for ruining his life, for taking myself away from him, for shaking up our perfect little family of 3.
I laugh at myself now. What is more irrational than being guided by the emotions of a two year old? And obviously, Casey's birth was a gift to Braden, and a gift to the whole family. I can't imagine it any other way.
But for the past month or so, I look at Casey - the very child that was the source of my guilt for his other brother - and I feel guilty for adding another baby to the mix. For taking away some of the little one on one time I already have with him. For making him a middle child.
There's a lot written about birth order, and for the most part, I try to ignore it. Probably because of this guilt that I carry around with me, but also because it seems pointless to research. What am I going to do about it? Braden will always be my oldest. And now, Casey will always be a middle . This new baby will always be the youngest. It is what it is.
But the notion of a middle child is an enigma to me, in some ways. I know what it's like to grow up with two siblings - that was my experience, with my sister. I know what it's like to be the oldest, and through my sister, I have a sense of what it's like to be the youngest. But what is it like to be the middle? To be sandwiched in between two siblings? To never be the "only," ever - not as a baby, and not as an older child when the other two are off at college? Will he get lost? Will he be resentful?
Is there anything I can do about it?
One thing I have learned, since having two children quite close in age, is that trying to make things "equal" among siblings is a losing battle. Casey will never have the attention that Braden had at his age, and Casey will always have to share things more than his older brother did. But, I have come to believe that that's okay, and that to divide them and try to "equalize" time and resources is actually detrimental, and creates resentment. The fact is, what Braden had in solo attention, Casey gains as a playmate. They both will develop strengths, and weaknesses, accordingly. And it is already showing. Casey is far more independent at his age than Braden was, thanks in part to the fact that I can't cater to him the way I did his older brother. And, he will be the stronger for it.
No, things will never be equal in terms of time or toys.
But in terms of love.... I could not love this middle boy more.
Rightly or wrongly, I tend to measure my performance as a mom in measures of time. If I am spending quality time with my children, then I feel good about myself as a mother. This has been a driving force behind many of my decisions, including the big one I made a few years ago to leave my job . I think I rely too much on this particular rubric, and in any event, it's certainly not the be all end all criteria. There are plenty of amazing, excellent, loving mothers who aren't able to spend the bulk of their time with their children. And I consider my husband to be an amazing father, notwithstanding the fact that he isn't around all that much on weekdays.
So why the double standard on myself? Who knows. But I think I need to let up on it a little, because it's that time factor that is driving my guilt. Notwithstanding the fact that I know things can't be equal, I can't help but think about the impact that this baby will have on the little one on one time I have with Casey, and all the time he will lose in relation to his brothers. All the time that no matter what, I will never be able to make up to him.
But how does the song from Rent go? That one about measuring a year not in time, but in love? (God, I love that song - listen to it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsj15wPpjLY).
I love this little boy more than life itself. He may be a middle, but that is such a small part of who he is. He is a little boy who is curious, stubborn, independent, cuddly, and silly. He is loving, brave, and crazy smart. He is my little boy. And while he no doubt will be shaped by the fact that he will have both an older and a younger brother, he will also be shaped by a multitude of other things. And he will be so incredibly loved.
He will still get time, of course. He will just have to share that time. And that's okay.
Every night when I put Casey to bed, I go through a montage of sweet nothings I like to whisper into his ear. One of them is that "No matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby."
And it's true. There may be a new baby coming into the family, but this boy will always be my baby too.
He's going to be a great big brother.