Friday, July 10, 2009

Choosing to parent

Last week, Lyn and I had a crisis of sorts. Really, it was just a late-night breakdown in which we grappled with the difficulties facing us as we deal with having a new baby. My big revelation came when we were talking about the long list of things I have on my plate and Lyn told me that she wanted me to put baby Ira at the top of the list. I realized that instead of being at the top, he was probably fourth, after taking care of Leigh, taking care of Lyn, and taking care of the house. Not good.

So I decided to put Ira first instead of fourth. But I also realized why and how he had dropped so far down on the list. Back when Leigh was a newborn and I was the gestational parent, I didn't have a choice. When Leigh was little, I got enough time during nursing (which Leigh wanted to do 24 hours a day) to solidify my bond with her. I never had to choose to spend time with her. In fact, it was best for our family if I left much of the non-nursing time available for Lyn to wear her and snuggle with her so that she could develop a bond.

As an non-gestational parent, I'm required to do exactly the opposite. I must choose to spend time with Ira in order to bond with him. This isn't actually something I'm good with. Time with a baby is too unproductive for my tastes. I'd rather be making some sort of progress around the house or feel useful to the family in some other way. Time with a baby is just time sitting around being useless. I felt this same way when Leigh was a little baby, but I didn't have a choice then. I had to be with her, and thus I came to love being with her. I am having trouble choosing to spend time with Ira.

This week has been much better. I've decided to put him first and it's making a difference. When he fusses, I go to him instead of assuming that Lyn will take care of him.  Once he's happy, I take time just to hold him, or sometimes feed him.  I'm hanging out with him more and falling in love with him more. As a result, I'm less available for our daughter Leigh, but Lyn is more available, which is helping their relationship, which did take a bit of a hit during late pregnancy and the first weeks of Ira's life.  A lot of the pressures that we anticipated dividing our family are very real. Being an NGP is harder than I expected, even with all of my advanced preparation. But this week I feel like I'm starting to hit my stride.


Casey from said...

Now that we've met Lyn and Ira, it's time for us to meet you and Leigh too!! :)

And to comment on your post, I sometimes feel like I just use nursing as my time with my Bird and forget to just have hang out time with her. It's so important, and that is sadly, low on my list (since I often don't have much time between nursing), but on the days that I make the time for the little moments, I feel so much closer to her and enjoy her so much more.

PS Ira is so completely perfect. I am so happy to have met him today! And Lyn is pretty perfect as well. But you already know all of this. :)

StephLove said...

Good luck finding the right emphasis/balance.

I'm the bio mom of both our kids, but I found the biggest first time/second time difference for us was that I worked full-time until my first was four years old (the first year my partner worked part-time and we worked around each other's schedules to care for him at hom-- after that he was in daycare) whereas I've been a SAHM my second's whole life. There are good things about it, but I miss the more equal division of parenting.

amy said...

i can totally relate to this as the ngp for our 2nd child. i hadn't put her first until my wife had to leave on a business trip this week and it made her absence all the more challenging as a result. it's easy to get complacent when they aren't relying on our bodies as their primary source for nourishment and there's so many pulls to the limited time we have available in the day.

Lex said...

Struggling with the same issues here. Especially since we have THREE older children who are all almost completely dependent on me (new baby is only just two weeks old, so I'm sure this will shift as dw becomes more physically able to be up and about), I find it very hard to prioritize chilling with the babe. I know that my wife is doing an excellent job of it, and I also don't want to make her job more difficult by disturbing Leo while he's sleeping and thus making him just want to go back to nursing. I also feel a kind of pressure to be the one keeping everything under control re: the house and the older kids, and I feel like a total slacker if I spend two hours just lying next to a sleeping baby when there's so much that needs to be done. It's been really tough for me to feel like I can't put the baby first when, in my heart, it's what I want to do. I find myself really looking forward to when he's older and life is more back to normal and I can be more of a TRUE help with the baby (i.e. entertaining him when he's awake), but that also makes me sad to think that I'm wishing his tiny babyhood away.

In general there has been a lot of sadness around here in the last week or so, mostly mine, and I'm pretty surprised by it. I wish I could just feel happy about my new role and the new look of our family, but for some reason it is a real struggle.

Very glad to have your blog/experience as inspiration/company.