Says the mum to Louis, her 2½-year-old son, “With Louis, there were many times I panicked because I didn’t know what to do. For example, why am I not producing enough milk for breastfeeding? How should I respond if he wakes up during the night and crying?” she says.
Adds Lim, who reckons she has learnt a lot from her experience with her firstborn, “I hope to do better with my younger child. At the very least, I know how to cope with sleep deprivation and soothe a wailing baby! I’m expecting the greater challenge from having to give enough attention to Louis.”
“I hope to do better with my younger child. At the very least, I know how to cope with sleep deprivation and soothe a wailing baby.”
Indeed, Lim’s concern mirrors that of many mothers in Singapore. Philip Ang, a psychologist in private practice, says it stems from mothers striving to give their best to all their children. The stress can worsen with other challenges, such as having to juggle between career and family.
Says Skye Tan, a family life specialist with Focus on the Family, “Left unchecked, such concerns can cause anxiety and stress to accumulate. And research shows that prolonged anxiety can affect one’s health in ways such as loss of appetite and poor quality of sleep.”
Not feeling their best can affect how mothers relate to their husband and children. She notes, “They may become more authoritative as they seek their children’s compliance, or they themselves may become more distant and emotionally withdrawn. Such actions can negatively impact the kids.”
So, a mother should observe the following strategies to stay sane when she has her second or more children:
1. Focus on the positive
In parenting, experience is indeed the best teacher.
Linda Lim, mother of a son, 1, and daughters, ages 4 and 6, says that she and her husband became more relaxed as more kids came along. The corporate communications director laughs, “By the time our son arrived, we’d become less paranoid about hygiene. It’s exhausting to keep up with the tension if you are so uptight about everything…I decided I might as well be chillaxed about it!”
In fact, Geraldine Tan, a principal psychologist at The Therapy Room, encourages mothers to focus on what they have done well with their elder child(ren).
“With the younger child, mothers will find the routine easier to adjust to because they have gone through it. This includes changing diapers, sterilising milk bottles and bathing the baby. They will also know what classes to enrol the child for and where these classes are available,” she notes.
2. Know that new is not necessary
Having another child involves more expenses. So, prioritise your spending and find creative ways to maximise necessities. For example, Joyce Lim accepts pre-loved items such as books and toys from friends or relatives.
Although corporate communications executive Karen Sum, 37, had to switch to a bigger car and move to a larger house to accommodate her growing brood ― two sons and two daughters, aged 10 months to 9, she makes it a point to recycle toys and clothes as much as possible.
3. Enlist the older children’s help
Mothers with older kids can enlist their help with chores. These can range from doing the dishes and getting fresh diapers to entertaining their new brother or sister. Giving them responsibilities and a sense of “promotion” lessens the feeling that they have been replaced.
Ease them into their new roles by involving them in the pregnancy. Skye Tan suggests, “Show them the ultrasound scans of their soon-to-be-born sibling and share memories of when you were pregnant with them and what they were like as newborns.”
Becoming more relaxed shows that you’re more confident as a parent. Having gone through pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a baby, you have learnt to prioritise your tasks and are beginning to enjoy your journey as a mother.
You might become tempted to compare your parenting abilities to others, such as in the areas of breastfeeding and sleep-training your baby. But such comparisons are unrealistic, Tan warns, and can intensify your sense of dissatisfaction. So, stay calm, and be kind to yourself.
I’ve accepted that I need to rest. If I end up sleeping in on weekends, I don’t feel guilty.”
4. Divide and conquer
A mother’s attention can become scarce when she has another child.
Both Sum and Lim admit they haven’t been able to ensure equal attention for each child. But they try to get around the difficulties by singling out more crucial tasks.
She adds that on weekends, although she has a very small window, her attention is focused on her sons’ schoolwork. As for her daughters, aged 10 months and 3, “Both girls get time with me only after the boys have gone to bed”.
As for Lim, she ropes in her husband. “When I have to look in on Oliver, who is 1, my husband reads a storybook with our girls, Chloe-Ann, 4, and Zoie, 6. When Oliver is asleep, I will bring them to the playground or do crafts such as painting and drawing together.”
5. Accept help
Mum of three Sylvia Ong, 37, a communications manager, remembers roping in her parents, relatives, cousins and even neighbours to bring her two older sons to the park in the first few months after her third son arrived. She was focusing on her baby as she was breastfeeding him.
Geraldine Tan suggests setting aside 20 or 30 minutes every day to spend exclusively with each child. It not only allows you to get to know him or her better, but also helps him or her to feel more secure in the knowledge that he or she will get some attention.
Ong, whose sons are now aged 6, 7 and 9, sums up succinctly, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
3 things mothers won’t compromise on
While they may let go of certain rules, they won’t make concessions on:
- Breastfeeding For each of her three son’s first year, Ong insisted on breastfeeding, even on days when she felt tired or weary. “I believe that breastmilk has the best nutritional value for babies, so I wanted to ensure all my three boys had that.”
- Instilling values Greeting the elders, listening to instructions and eating meals at the table are among the house rules Lim and her husband set for their three kids. “Inculcate these practices in children early, so that they grow up to respect others,” she points out.
- Arranging me-time Sum uses this opportunity to recharge from her heavy parenting demands. “I’ve accepted that I need to rest. If I end up sleeping in on weekends, I don’t feel guilty,” she states.
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