When my oldest daughter was born, I was working full time in Lincoln. It was tough to balance work and being a mom.
Two years later, after my son was born, I became a stay-at-home mom — a completely unplanned move. I was born in India and moved to the United States in 2004 as a postdoctoral fellow. But due to the status of my visa, I had to stop working and return to India for a year.
Even though it wasn't planned, I enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. I loved witnessing my son’s key milestones and watching my two children bond. My kids had a memorable year in India with their grandparents and other family members. When we returned to Omaha a year later, I started looking for job opportunities while continuing to cherish being a mom and watching my kids grow.
When I finally went back to work three years later, my kids had started to become more independent. My daughter was in elementary school and my son was about to start kindergarten. I found going back to work at this stage was far easier than going to work as a first-time mom.
Just when I started getting settled at my new job, I was blessed with another daughter. It was exhilarating and also worrisome to go from having two elementary school kids to then going back to diapers and having to find a daycare. I also worried about handling a career with three kids. I knew that not having a family support system in Omaha would mean life with three kids would be a roller coaster ride for me and my husband.
But one thing I didn't have to worry about was preparing my kids for a new sibling. When we told them, they were overjoyed and started to plan their own responsibilities they would undertake once the baby arrived. Aside from my husband, the immense support I got following the birth of our third child came from my two oldest children.
I always thought, "They still needed me to help with preparing for school in the morning and evening; they are not old enough to watch a baby." But I was wrong. They happily adapted to our new busy life and the changes a new baby brought in our lives and house. Here are a few ways they helped out.
• They willingly gave up having their own rooms and moved into one room so their baby sister could have the second room.
• In order to save time on weekday mornings, they began preparing their school lunch boxes in the evenings.
• They started to wash, fold and put away their own laundry. They even started choosing clothes in advance for the school week.
• They completed school tasks in a timely manner without me reminding them. They were also responsible for getting any school forms or folders signed by us.
• They got used to being quiet whenever the baby was sleeping. I didn't have to use the baby monitor because one of them would sit quietly in baby’s room reading a book, waiting for her to wake up.
• They have cared for their baby sister a million times for me. They entertain her, they let me know when she needs a diaper change, they feed her, make her laugh, change her clothes, read her stories and give her love, hugs and kisses.
My oldest kids — who are 11 and 8 now — became amazing role models, which is something I never thought about or expected from them. They proved that an age gap between siblings can be advantageous. In fact, I feel that my older kids’ personalities bloomed with the arrival of our third kid, who is now 2. They just needed a chance — and my faith — to show their caring and responsible attitudes.
Today, I strongly believe older siblings are the best caregivers parents could ever ask for.
Fareha Razvi works as senior research scientist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Originally from India, she has been living in Omaha for the past eight years with her husband and three children, who are 11, 8 and 2 years old.