Don’t you just love how as soon as you have your first baby, people start asking you when you’re having a second one? I have two boys and strangers are constantly telling me that I should have a girl. I always smile politely and tell them that I’m pretty sure that if we tried, we would end up with a third boy.
When I became pregnant with my second baby, I was excited for my first born, who was going to gain a childhood playmate and lifelong friend. As my belly grew every day, I was eagerly awaiting the blissful moment when I would get to hold a tiny newborn in my arms again. Midway through the second trimester, I had already happily finished decorating the baby’s nursery. But by the end of the pregnancy, my excitement was clouded by some guilt, stress, and uncertainty. How can I manage with two kids under two when one is already so hard? Here are the 9 things I wish I had known before having a second baby.
1. You will feel guilt…lots of guilt
There have been many times I have felt that by having a second child, I was robbing care and attention from my first child. It is a fact that your newborn will initially demand much of your time and energy, but by the time your second baby is about a year old, things will start to balance out. Your firstborn and baby will learn how to co-exist with each other, share toys, and effectively bid for attention. Team work, sharing limited resources, and taking turns are skills that will give them a leg up when it comes time for school and beyond.
2. You don’t know if you will ever love your new baby as much as your first
What other parents have said is true. Your heart will wondrously grow and the love you will feel for your second baby will be second to none.
3. Sibling rivalry is real
There will be lots of fights over the same toy and lots of tears over who gets to go first. When you’re just about ready to sell them to the gypsies, there will be the sweet moments that make having another child worthwhile. You’ll spy your little one lying next to his older brother who has a tummy ache. You’ll witness your older one muster up the courage to ask the waiter to bring his little brother some crayons at the restaurant. These small but symbolic moments will make your heart overflow with joy and pride.
4. One is easy
Having a baby was life changing and becoming a mom was the hardest thing I have done….until you have a second. Looking back, you will find that only having to care for one child was actually easy by comparison. With only one, you can divide and conquer with your spouse. When we had our first, my husband and I took took turns taking the baby out so that the other person can sleep in a little or take a much needed break.
5. You get real
You will learn that perfection is not always necessary (or possible) and it’s okay to bend or break a few rules. Parenting is not about doing everything perfectly but about trying to get the important stuff right (and not sweating the small stuff). When my kids eat food they dropped on the floor, I chalk it up to boosting their immunity. When things get too hectic and we don’t get around to bathing them, I rationalize by thinking that it’s better for their eczema-prone skin. When I need a few minutes to myself while get ready for work, watching one more episode of Daniel Tiger won’t do any permanent harm.
6. You’re a better parent
It’s not really that you weren’t a good parent the first time around, it’s just that you can be a better parent with more perspective and experience. You will be more patient and understanding, and you are less likely to overreact to things. Have you ever noticed how grandparents seem more relaxed and have more fun with your kids? This is because they are just enjoying the moment and not worrying about every little thing. When you hit a terrible sleep patch where your baby consistently wakes up at 5 am or wakes up 2-3 times a night, you know that it’s just a phase that will pass…eventually.
7. You will treat your second baby like a baby a lot longer
Maybe I’m just being sentimental, but knowing that our second baby will be our last baby makes me want to hang onto every precious baby moment. It doesn’t help that our second son likes to snuggle while my older son is more independent.
8. You become more practical and buy into convenience items
By the second child, I was no longer documenting every little milestone and taking a million pictures. Hand-me-downs are softer and more comfortable anyway, right? With limited time, convenience is everything. Whoever invented the snack and yogurt pouches is a genius and probably a bazillionaire because every mom I know buys those pouches in bulk.
9. You’re more confident as a parent
You already know that you can survive (barely) on zero sleep and change dirty diapers in near darkness. You’ve pared your diaper bag down to the bare neccesities and can multitask like nobody’s business. My friend’s mom told me that she used to vacuum and nurse her baby at the same time! While I don’t have those superwoman multitasking skills, I have learned that it’s okay to not be perfect in everything I do. The best thing you can give to your children is your love. Like Jim Rohn says, “do what you can, do the best that you can.”
Do you have more than one child? What were things that you wish you had known?
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