I have three beautiful children, two boys and a girl, all under the age of eight. I love them, but every day I’m plagued by thoughts that I’m failing them as a parent. My husband works long hours and although I do my best to fulfil their needs, my daughter, the youngest, is very demanding. I find it difficult to spend quality time with my boys as she simply monopolises my attention through her behaviour. I compensate for this by indulging the boys with material things so they don’t feel neglected. I feel so guilty.
You shouldn’t feel guilty. You are trying to do your best and that counts for a great deal. Parenting is one of the most demanding and difficult jobs in the world.
You say that your daughter monopolises your time as she is so demanding. You don’t mention her age, so it’s difficult to assess whether she is going through ‘the terrible twos’ or whether she is older and perhaps, dominating your attention by testing the boundaries due to jealousy.
Whatever the case, consistency is key to reduce the impact of this on your family life. Every time she crosses those boundaries you need to respond in the same way and don’t ever give in to unreasonable demands. To do this, give one clear verbal warning. If this is not heeded, give her a timeout for a number of minutes corresponding to her age, and keep doing this until she apologises for her behaviour. It will be intense at first, but if you remain solid in your responses, you will break the pattern of ‘tantrum equals attention’. Couple this with making sure you praise her when she’s being good, and you will begin to change the dynamic.
Hopefully this will give you more time to spend with your boys. An hour of quality time, where you’re all enjoying something together, is worth far more than anything material you could give them. And this includes Dad too. So plan ahead and work out when you can all be together, and in this way you can give your husband the opportunity to support you in a positive way.
It’s vital to recharge your batteries once in a while. It’s so easy as a parent to subjugate your own needs in favour of doing everything for your kids. For your children who are near to age eight, it’s a great time to give them small household responsibilities that will help them to develop independence and help you. Also make sure you build some ‘me’ time into your schedule. Try to get a friend to step in for an hour or two every now and then, so you can take time to relax and reconnect with yourself and your husband.