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Minding the Age Gap

Filed under : Parenting, Stages, family

By: Carolina Pichardo

Now with two kids, life has become—interesting. For many moms, this is the case when they choose to “start over” with raising young children all over again, after having done so years, sometimes decades, ago. How can parents nurture both younger and older children as individuals, and also foster their relationship as siblings?

age gap young momsEarlier this week, reality television star Evelyn Lozada announced she’s pregnant. According to several news sources, the 37-year-old star is thrilled to be a mom again, but no one seemed to be as excited as Lozada’s 20-year-old daughter, who was the first to broadcast the great news on Instagram.

This seems to be case for many parents when they decide to have another child several years down the line. It could be the relationship with your first child’s father didn’t work out, like Lozada, or you were waiting to get a bit more settled before starting again.

With a parenting age gap at home (we have both a newborn and a 12-year-old daughter), I thought I might share some of my own hard-earned thoughts on the matter.

Here are my top tips for all moms preparing to have their next child in the midst of a gap. Hint: go with l-o-v-e.

1. Your oldest still needs a lot of love, and attention. Once you know a new bundle of joy is on its way, some might argue your older child probably needs just a little more consideration than ever. Just when she thought she’d claimed the lion’s share of your parental attention, here comes a tiny little creature whose needs will seem to constantly usurp her own, and whose every little movement will be fussed over endlessly. Be sure to engage your older child in dialogue about the changes to come and to express your abundant affection for her. Point out how she also used to love to hear you sing, or remind her about the time she took her first steps. Make your older child a part of the process, and the journey. Just be sure to take a lot of deep breaths.

2. Your new baby definitely needs a lot of love. That is not to say you should overlook preparing for and caring for your new baby. You might not think they remember, but research shows babies remember how they felt during those first crucial months. So do not hesitate to revel in preparing for the baby all over again, and deliberating over just the right onesies or stroller, etc. And once the baby has arrived, do not stop from holding him or her close. This is a new time for you as a mother, and for all of you as a family. Celebrate fully, and let your new baby know just how much she is loved. Lots of nuzzling is encouraged.

3. There will be times when you might feel all loved out. Never fear. At some point, if you wait long enough, there’ll be a moment, however fleeting, when everyone in the household will be asleep. Take a look at those resting faces, and take another deep breath. How fortunate you are to be a new mother all over again. Now stop gawking – find the nearest pillow and take a nap. Quick.

Take naps.

4. About the sleep thing…. You do remember sleepless nights, yes? If not, get ready. You will be taxed beyond belief (again), and you will wonder what you were thinking. See Number 3.

5. Respect the differences. Your youngest will be nothing like your oldest. You’ll question each child’s maternity on occasion. How could they be so different? Guess what? You’re different too.

6. Don’t stop snapping or writing. Remember to take a lot of pictures, and jot down your thoughts as much as possible about this unique time for you all. It will never come again, and is worth commemorating. Even those difficult moments when a word of anger or disaffection is spoken, take note. Later, you will have richer stories to tell, and to hear.

7. Enjoy not making the same (exact) mistakes. This time, you’re watching for phthalates, and you’ve probably figured out exactly how much maternity leave you have in store ahead of time. You’ve run the breastfeeding v. bottle-feeding gauntlet. You’ve been here, and done this. Enjoy the foundation of information and experience you’ve built up.

8. Don’t feel guilty about number 7. As you get older, you wise up. There is no reason to feel poorly about having done it less expertly the first time around. Today, you are better equipped. There is abundant information online, more information-sharing and new technology that provides near-instant data and references (just be sure to check in with your doctor on the important medical info). This was simply not the case years ago. Use it to your advantage – your whole family will reap the benefits.

Make one-on-one time with your older child.

9. Don’t let your oldest take care of the baby too much. Although your oldest might be old enough to help, find a way to have them help without also overdoing it. It is bound to cultivate resentment if you constantly rely on your older child to help out, and she might be inclined to blame the baby for her added responsibilities. Better to turn to a trusted family member or friend for structured babysitting time so as to free up an hour or two so that you can spend it – solo – with your older child. Even if you just curl up on the sofa in the next room and watch videos, it will be “your” time.

10. Be thankful. It is sometimes going to feel like you’re doing this for the very first time. Embrace that feeling and enjoy those first milestones with your new baby. Every child is different, and so is every mothering experience.

This articles first appeared in YUM’s Weekly Column for the Manhattan Times and Bronx Free Press.

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