When I welcomed my youngest child, I had braced myself for potential sibling envy from my eldest daughter. However, to my surprise, I found myself to be the one grappling with jealousy over her newly forged bond with her father. Confronting these feelings was challenging, leading me to seek ways to cope. Thus began my journey of what I did about missing my first child after having my second.
It began during my second pregnancy with my daughter. I sat motionless on the sofa due to nausea that exhausted my energy. Those days of playing football with my now 2-and-a-half-year-old firstborn are long gone. I used to enjoy pushing her on the swing or digging in the sand with her while holding a bucket. Now I could only lay next to her and watch Peppa Pig as we awaited the return of my husband.
She had already begun to move away from me. I was aware of it. She was charmed by Peppa, but when her father arrived home, she ran to him, shrieking with joy. “Daddy’s home!” I would close my eyes and listen to them play together because I was too exhausted and ill to be a pleasant parent anymore.
Once the baby was born, I continued to observe them from the sofa, this time while nursing a newborn. I was excluded from their play and the fresh jokes they would whisper to each other. They would visit the playground and then recount their adventures to me upon their return. My kid chose her father to accompany her the first time she used the restroom. I attempted to become involved, but she pushed me away.
I went instead when she awoke one night and called for her father. “He is asleep, but I am present,” I informed her. She yelled, “No, Daddy!” I went to wake my hubby after resigning. Instead of being glad for my bed, as I would have been for the previous two years when she wanted me by her side, I was consumed with envy of my husband, who had become her primary father.
Their games, jokes, laughter, and outings make me envious. I’m envious of how he soothes her, gets her to eat dinner, ensures she brushes her teeth and comforts her at night. I’m exhausted by feeling like an outsider.
Nicole Schwarz, MA, LMFT, a parent coach and family therapist, informed me that every family is unique. “It makes reasonable that parents would battle with envy as their relationship with their child grows and as they observe the relationship between their child and co-parent change,” explains Schwarz, who leads the online community for parent coaching Imperfect Families. She provided the following guidance on how to reconnect with your firstborn.
Consider Your Child’s Emotions
According to Schwarz, firstborn children may experience a range of emotions upon the birth of a sibling. This includes feeling perplexed, irritated, envious, or overwhelmed. She adds, “I advise parents to be attentive about the behavior they notice and to consider the factors below the iceberg that may influence that behavior.”
Spend Quality Time Together
If you are fatigued after giving birth and must care for a newborn, making time can be more difficult than it sounds. However, daily one-on-one interaction is essential, according to Schwarz. Join your youngster in their favorite activities. Or develop workouts that are exclusive to you and your partner.
“It’s also crucial not to stress yourself out,” Schwarz adds. There are times or stages in life when one-on-one time may not resemble what you envision it to be. In these circumstances, adaptability and originality are essential. Keep an eye out for little moments and mini-connections throughout the day.
She suggests prioritizing quality over quantity and focusing on “what makes your child feel the most loved and connected to you.” This can include physical contact, such as a quick embrace or cuddle, as well as expressing praise or encouragement, writing a love note, playing a game, or being humorous.
Share with Your Partner
“It’s acceptable to have a range of emotions when your child pushes you away,” adds Schwarz. Instead of your child, share your large tears, furious thoughts, and damaged sentiments with another adult. She also recommends positive self-talk, such as reminding yourself, “You are the parent your child needs, and your value is not contingent on your child’s approval.”
Avoid Forcing A Relationship
It is acceptable to encounter opposition while attempting to reintegrate yourself into your older child’s everyday activities and create time for them. Schwarz reminds me that I don’t need to force my daughter to like the change; I simply need to be present while she adjusts.
I decided to forego the elaborate one-on-one activities I had planned and ask my daughter, “Would you want to read a book?”
She is staring at me carefully. I can see that she is pondering, but her response is “Yes.” This time, the solution is straightforward: five stolen minutes on the sofa. The ideal, flawed alone time we both require.
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