Being Fair

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Categories Attitude, Difference, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective

I think I have an overly strong sense of fairness.  Perhaps it was developed during childhood when my mom ensured my brother and I didn’t fight by instilling it in us. I suspect it was so she wouldn’t have to break up our fights. It was weird when I became old enough to notice that other families didn’t always operate this way. I was so used to our one-sibling-divvy-up-whatever-it-was-to-be-shared-and-the-other-choose dynamic.

I’m sure my husband was surprised when he first met me and encountered my sense of “fair”. I would pay for my share of everything when we were dating. When we moved in together, I listed out all the household duties and we divvied them up, much like those days when I would cut the cake/cookie and my brother would choose his piece first.

And so it continues to this day. Now I have my own children. And I also strive to be fair with them. Except it’s sometimes impossible, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty.

Like when I need to decide which baby gets the supplement formula. Since Baby Boy eats more, do I do it proportionally? Or should each baby get the same? Or do I just make it easy on myself and serve up a whole bottle and alternate? In that case, who got the last supplement feeding, so I can make sure I give the next bottle to the other one? I know it shouldn’t matter, and it will probably all even out in the end, but it’s always on my mind anyway.

When I’m out buying clothes for the kids, I have to buy an equal number of outfits for them all, even if Baby Girl already has clothes from Toddler’s baby days. Sometimes I have to leave the store with nothing because I can’t find an equally matching/cute/priced item, or I simply run out of time looking. Toddler usually ends up with more clothes now, since her needs are greater (with her actually leaving the house regularly and all), but they really aren’t that far apart in age, so I can see this being a problem for me far into the future.

I never had to be “fair” with Toddler until her siblings were born. Now I am torn between the time I spend with the twins and the time I spend with her. I give her as much attention as I can, and after explaining that “her babies” are little and need help from all of us, she’s pretty good about sharing Mama, but then I feel guilty that the babies don’t get time with me to “play” as much as they just get fed/changed/put-down. Even as I’m already feeling guilty about Toddler not getting the undivided attention she used to have.

Actually I had these issues even before the twins were born. I had to purchase a brand new carseat for Baby Girl, because Baby Boy got his own new one and it didn’t feel right. I felt guilty that I was able to spend more money outfitting the twins’ room this time around, even though Toddler’s is a perfectly good room and I probably spent more time doing hers (which really isn’t fair either). If I bought something nice for the babies I always felt like I should buy Toddler something too.

The babies are just starting to develop some jealousy when they see their twin being held/fed/soothed/played with. I can only imagine it gets much worse as they get a little older, and I also know that I won’t always be able to be fair. Or be perceived as being fair. And I will be beating myself up about it.

Does anyone else have this issue?

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lunchldyd is mom to 3 year old boy/girl twins and their 5.5 year old sister. She is now teaches part-time to juggle the needs of her young children. When not at work and the kids are asleep, she is addicted to watching TV and sometimes sacrifices sleep to read in bed. She lives in the Los Angeles suburbs with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.

6 thoughts on “Being Fair”

  1. I really, really think you need to RELAX! Your kids don’t know the difference for the most part, and the thing is, not everything can be “equal,” but you can still be fair. I don’t have the luxury of being equal in my buying purchases like you mentioned, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. Different needs at different times.

  2. Having my twin daughters forced me to completely reexamine the whole concept of fairness. I thought that fairness, equality, equity meant treating people exactly the same way. My daughters quickly taught me that they had very different needs. Infant M wanted to be held all the time. J didn’t. Was I going to deny M snuggles because J wanted room to kick? Should I force J to be held because that’s what M wanted? These days, J likes to be held and M loves to talk. I find that fairness often takes the form of letting J read in my lap while M and I carry on a conversation. As the girls have grown, I’ve learned more and more that fairness comes in the form of meeting my children’s needs, and those needs balance out over time. I’m lucky, I think, that my kids are so evenly balanced in their intellectual, emotional and physical needs. I don’t think fairness would even be on the menu otherwise.

  3. Another thought that just occurred to me: I hope that watching me shift and rebalance as our individual needs change, my daughters are learning something about prioritization.

  4. I think so long as there is no overt favoritism just do what is best for each kid and don’t worry about it. My son spent much more time at the breast than my daughter and you let it go (she was failure to thrive for a year – more important that she be strong and healthy). II’m also a multiple myself and if I worried about counting to the nickle on parent gifts/etc. it would have irreperably harmed my relationship with my sisters. Instead I focus on playing to strenghts – from everything to birthday gifts to household chores (or in that case, who cares more/hates doing it less). buy more clothes for my daughter but more books for my son and my third gets all handmedowns but is cuddlier so gets more snuggles from mom. Is it fair? Well, it’s overall fair for our situation, family and economic realities. Life isn’t equal. Would you really want to live in a world that was? Instead you can teach kids to overcome difficulties by not always playing the equal share game. In fact for toy sharing we always tell the kids, when X kid is done, then it is your turn with the toy. We suggest that the kid who wants the toy finds something that X wants (a toy trade). I think getting a job/supporting myself knocked all that nickle and diming out of my system (my “fairness” meter I had from childhood) and my family relationships and life are better for it.

  5. I totally agree with the women above-especially the part about things not always being equal while still being fair. The reality is that life is not always going to be fair- it just isn’t- and children need to learn how to handle that (and all the emotions, etc it is going to cause) so they can function when they get into the real world. Kids (especially little ones) don’t care how much money you spent on stuff- they don’t even remotely understand it- so who does it really matter to if you bought one a shirt for $10 and other one a $20 shirt- they will just be excited for the present! The part where you wrote that you actually leave the store with nothing if you can’t find everyone something they would like sounds like it makes the shopping experiences overly stressful- maybe just buy the thing(s) you like and put them away at home until you have found something you like for everyone?

  6. Gah! I was hoping someone would say that they had struggled with the same issues too. I know I have a problem, and I know it comes from my control/perfectionism issues, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling bad. Of course my kids get what they all NEED, regardless of “fairness”, I guess it’s just the stuff beyond that. Like the fact that my twins have to share a room… sigh. A first world Mommy problem for sure.

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