The Impossible Task of Treating Your Kids Equally


There is a silent battle waging for every parent who has multiple children. This battle relentlessly tries to tell us that we’re not giving our kids equal attention and love. It may be a silent battle, but it is far from insignificant. I’ve decided that it is an impossible task to treat our kids equally.Mom with babies in stroller and kid in helmet next to them.

Of course, I love all three of my kids, but how can I demonstrate that when they’re all pulling me in different directions throughout the day? Treating your kids equally is so much harder than it seems.

This is especially difficult, I believe, for parents of twins. It is heart-wrenching when one of my twin girls bursts into tears because I picked her sister up out of her high chair first. I’m not made of stone! I can’t help but feel guilty that she had to wait a few extra minutes for me to attend to her sister.

It can feel like I have a tiny character from a Dr. Seuss book living in the back of my mind, constantly reminding me in an annoying sing-song voice that I gave one of my kids more hugs than the others on any given day. Cue the music: You gave Emmy 3 kisses before nap time while Mae only got 2. You must love Emmy more… But, what can a mom do!?!The Dr. Seuss character Fox in Socks cartoon image

Here are a few other scenarios when this little creature cheerfully reminds me that I am not treating my kids equally:

  • Mealtimes: did I give Mae 7 bites of a pancake and Emmy only 6?
  • Walks with the stroller: did I forget to pat Emmy’s head after I patted Mae’s?
  • Playing on the floor: did I let Emmy’s sticky fingers pull my hair for 3 seconds before I yelped out in pain and Mae only 2?Twin girls smiling in playpen

If someone told me I’d feel this way after having multiple children, I’d say they were crazy. In fact, I did! My sister had twins just two years before I had mine and she would admit that she felt this similar pressure to keep things perfectly equal between her kids. Otherwise, it felt like she loved one more than the other. I remember answering her with a “Are you nuts!? It’s so obvious how much you care about your kids; you shouldn’t worry about that at all!”

And yet, here I am recounting how long I held Mae this morning in comparison to Emmy and Jackson. That little creature in my head is singing again:

You spent too much time just holding baby Mae. Poor Emmy and Jackson; you must hate them today!

It’s time to turn this thing OFF.

I want to stop worrying about treating my kids equally because I know I love all of them and I also know that I love them fairly and in proportion to what each one needs at each moment. Ultimately, I believe that treating your kids equally is not as important as loving each as much as each needs. In this case, fair trumps equal. It’s not pie, right?

I am attempting to achieve this goal by repeating one key phrase to myself when guilt hits.

In the past, I’ve used mantras to get through tough times. For example, while scrambling around the house trying to get ready for work and out the door before 7 am with baby Jackson, I’d repeat to myself “I have all the time that I need.” Surprisingly, repeating this mantra helped me relax and I lost that panicky feeling that was making me less productive in getting out the door.

So, it was time to pull out the ol’ mantra tool again.

Here is what I came up with: my kids have different needs at different times.

There are days when one of my kids shows more independence and is content by themself so why should I feel guilty for letting them enjoy that time alone? I try to remember that there will be other days when they will need my constant attention. It will even out.

Cue the (nice, peaceful, NOT annoying) music: my kids have different needs at different times.Three little kids sitting together wearing superhero capes

Here’s the truth: I know I love my kids equally. Some days, however, one kid can be much more challenging to parent and needier than the other two, and I’m learning that that is okay. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re having a harder time with one child on one day than with the others. Needs change and treating your kids equally doesn’t always even make sense.

These little munchkins are continuously making new discoveries and learning new behaviors and it’s our job as parents to help them along the way. This translates to the reality that there will be days when one kid is driving you nuts and it’s harder to spend time with them and they probably need that extra bit of love and attention even more.

From now on, I plan to repeat my mantra when that little creature starts to sing his annoying songs in my head. It takes effort to slow down and give each child undivided attention, even if for only one uninterrupted minute.

At the end of the day, I know in my heart that I’m trying my best and I’m positive my kids can feel my love. My vast love for my children reassures me that treating your kids equally isn’t as important as I initially thought and that I really am doing a great job loving each one of my children.


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