When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wondered how I would be able to balance the individual needs of two small children at once. Of course, centuries of women have achieved this and some with more than two offspring. I knew if I gave it my all, life with two would fall into place, yet I also knew finding the sweet spot of balance was something I would have to learn along the way. To say the least, I was uncertain.
Last January, my baby girl was born and the delicate task of balancing newborn needs and toddler needs began. Now, one year later is a natural time to evaluate the direction of a forever swinging pendulum in the parenting arena. Both children have birthdays this month, so I begin 2014 with a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Have I found the right formula to keep my attention from swinging too far toward my daughter’s needs or too far toward my son’s needs? Have I found the answers to equal attention and fairness between them at all times? Not really. Instead, I have learned that my pendulum swings back and forth with every new stage. I have also found the sweet spot in the middle where I happily and confidently rest on occasion, but my equilibrium never stays that way too long.
Over the last year I have learned to recognize the who-needs-me-most moments from the I-need-time-for-myself moments in order to figure out which way the inertia is pulling me. Carving out precious moments of kid-free time almost always re-centers the forces of parenting responsibilities between more than one child. Prioritizing a few off-duty hours to write, jog with a friend, have a movie night on the couch with my husband, or grab a drink with the girls usually leads to a more natural rhythm. Part of that rejuvenation also includes time to simply be still. Only then do I find myself back in that sweet spot of balance at home with my children. Then, I can assess new ways to engage two growing little minds while simultaneously creating boundaries. I can balance my son’s thirst for new challenges with a consistent discipline plan when he steps out of line and balance my daughter’s intense curiosity with the “No” to keep her away from danger.
This year I continue to strive for the art of parenting as a mother of two — with much more certainty than I had last January. In fact, I will not reread this article to make sure I made the same number of references about my son as I did about my daughter. Instead, I will sit back and continue to watch their budding personalities with equal love.