Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Wednesday, The Mom Guilt, The Husband, and God

We call the day my daughter was born "The Thursday".

Every so often, I think about the day that will always be stamped in my heart as "The Wednesday". That is the last day that I had with just Will and I before I was blessed with his baby sister.

It was a gorgeous April day, the kind of day that I wasn't wearing any jacket at all and I was comfortable just throwing a little vest on Will to go outside and play. I wasn't feeling too terrible even though I was a week or so away from my scheduled c-section date to welcome Evie into the world. I felt puffy, large, and pregnant - but I still felt fairly mobile.

We went outside that afternoon after his nap and took advantage of the gorgeous weather. Winters in New England are always hard, so when those first few 50-60 degree days start to appear you learn to take advantage of them. Will had asked me in his cute little almost-two-year-old way to go outside when he woke up from his nap that afternoon, so we did.

He climbed on rocks in our garden. He wandered around the driveway and drove his little truck. We walked together up and down the sidewalk as he looked at ants and picked up sticks and examined the grass. We enjoyed the weather, we enjoyed each other.

Will's last day flying solo with Mommy - April 2014.

Then I went to bed. I got up. We did our hectic day. We had Evie by dinner.

The arrival of Evie grew our family in size, in heart, and exploded our capacity for love even further. She's sweet, she's energetic, she's bold, she's hilarious. I don't think that Steve, Will, or I can imagine her NOT being a part of our lives. She's seriously an amazing kid.

Sometimes Steve and I will split duty with the kids, either because he's got a day off from work or he's home for the weekend. Usually either he will sit with both of the kids while I do errands without needing to juggle extra people or we will split the kids up and take them for some one-on-one time with Mommy or Daddy. For their own reasons, both of these arrangements are wonderful and I've come to appreciate them. We have found that the significance of these times is not lost on any one of us, and we love when we all come back together.

I've never really thought twice about our little upgrade from 3 to 4. Having Evie and Will together all day was just a life change that I accepted and welcomed with open arms. I had never pined for the days of only one child, maybe because I grew up in a family with 4 (sometimes 5) children and never thought about the bond my parents had with each of us individually. I never asked my mom about her feelings as we continued to expand, just knew that she loved each one of us together and separately.

Me and the kiddos - May 2015
Last week, Steve got Friday off to "observe" the Fourth of July holiday. We decided to do our split-duty and I took Will to his speech therapy appointment. We chatted on the car ride up, he excitedly gave me the tour of the therapy center's new digs after the session, then he took my hand as we walked up the sidewalk back to my car to leave. He had his little hand in mine as we paused to check for moving cars in the parking lot before proceeding. Our shadows extended in front of us, and as I looked down at them I caught my breath.

I suddenly longed for that last day before Evie was born. Those days when it was just Will and I and there wasn't as much chaos and I could just watch in wonder as he discovered the world. The days when I could just snuggle with him without worrying about his sister trying to shove him off my lap for her turn or he could pick out a book without anyone quibbling about whose book was going to be read first. My heart had a brief moment of ache and want for those days of only having one child.

Then the dreaded Mom Guilt came over me like a tsunami crashing on the shore.

Image via SeizingHopeDotCom

Later as I was emptying the dishwasher, Steve could tell something was bothering me. So I confessed my horridness as a parent to him, defending myself that I don't want to NOT have Evie, I just miss those days of just Will. That I love Evie with all of my Evie love, but sometimes I just wish I could cuddle Will without them pummeling each other and whining about Mommy's lap.

I cried. I told him I felt horrible, and guilty, because Evie is amazing and I felt like I was betraying the love I have for her in a way.

Steve just laughed at me.

Not in that way, guys.

He gently took the dishes from my hand as he laughed and told me to stop feeling guilty. "Dee, just stop it. Seriously. You should not feel guilty right now."

He took me by the shoulders and just spoke the words that I needed to hear, that he needed me to hear, that God needed me to hear.

I don't remember the exact words, but the sentiment was this: I love Evie. I love Will. I love them with all of the heart that God gave me for each of them. God loves us individually and wants a relationship with each of us individually. And just as He loves us and wants a relationship with us individually, so has he designed parenting for us to love our children and have relationships with them individually.

As his words sunk into my heart, Steve continued to encourage me. "Honey, it is totally normal and OK for you to want to spend time with JUST WILL, and it's OK for you to want to spend time with JUST EVIE, and it's OK for me to want the same things. In fact, we probably should do a better job at making sure we spend time with JUST WILL and JUST EVIE individually."

We have an awesome family, and we need to work on our bonds together and apart. We need to love each other as a whole and as our parts.

Image credit to RLPhoto
I have often said that God created us in His image, and the closest thing that we will ever experience to what it's like to be Him as Our Father is to be a parent. To know what it's like to be willing to do anything for your children, to long for them to have the best, to want to protect them yet know that you have to let the go and let them grow. To be willing to lay your life on the line for them.

To want a relationship with them as individuals. To want them to look at you and say "I Love You" and mean it from their hearts, not because they feel an obligation to say so.

What my husband did as he spoke to me that day is remind me of this; he reminded me of this dynamic we have as parents to want to love and encourage and be with our kids individually. In The 5 Love Languages of Children, the authors write "If you have several children, you need to look for times when you can be alone with each one... The key to quality time is found in its values and priorities you as parents determine to cherish and implement in your home."

I should not feel guilty - that was the reminder my husband continued to give me for the remainder of the day. I love my children. I want my children to love God and have a relationship with Him.

They matter to me individually. The best way for me to know how to serve them and raise them and know what is best is to spend time with them one-on-one as well as together. The best way to know how they need me to love them is to spend time with them one-on-one as well as together.

I no longer feel guilty on this one.

I'll save my Mommy Guilt for the next time I lose my patience and temper.

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