Reader Tip: Pretend your only child has a big brother

This guest post is from our real-life friend Amanda Papanikolas, rookie mom to baby Felix.

Before I had a baby, I mildly judged the few mothers with whom I spent time for being upset when their babies would cry. I figured, “Hey, babies cry. That’s what they do. Relax. Let me finish telling you my story about my big break up/realization about my father/the annoying woman on the plane.”

I was correct in guessing that it would be different if I ever had my own baby. But I was wrong about the reason.

I thought it would be hormonal (OK, maybe it is). I thought it would stem from some primordial sense of being a Mother. (It doesn’t. I really don’t feel like a Mother because I keep on thinking I have to return him to the library any day now.) It stems from knowing little Felix, and knowing that he’s a pretty happy guy and he really only seems to cry if he’s distressed.

felixpop

When he was younger (newborn), his distress was pretty much all food-related and very easy (lucky for me) to allay. As he gets older (10 mos now), I think some of his distress is sometimes more related to liking the frequent attention he receives from his parents, who both work part-time and have no other children and sometimes dare to not engage with him while he’s awake. So, sometimes when I’m trying to clean a mess, get his dinner ready, get myself ready to take him on a walk, send out a quick work email… some of those times, Felix cries. And I think, “Hmm, I could go to him. I could hold him and type this email/puree this spinach/brush my teeth (but not put on my pants) one-handed.

But then I think, ” Hmm, would I be spoiling him if I did that?”

So, then I don’t go to him, and his crying gets more frantic and I question my mothering decisions: is it better for him to cry sometimes? Does it help him get out pent-up energy? Does it teach him the important life lesson that you can’t always get what you want? Or, am I stunting his emotional development by denying him a little affection?

I’m pretty sure that it’s not the latter, to be honest, but here’s my trick to sparing myself the quandary: I pretend that Felix has an older brother. Let’s call him Javier.

It’s realistic to me that if Felix had siblings, I would sometimes have to prioritize their needs over Felix’s. So, I pretend I’m taking care of Javier instead of pureeing spinach/brushing teeth/writing emails. Right now I’m giving Javier a bath, say, and I would never abandon Javier in the tub to possibly drown (Javier and Felix are very close in age) to mollify Felix’s every little fancy. So, there it is. Sometimes, I invoke Javier to get other stuff done and it really minimizes the guilt I feel in leaving Felix screaming on his toxic-free playmat.

Photo of Javier in the bath:

empty-bathtub

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.