I always knew I didn’t want my son to be an only child. And short of adoption, there was really only one way around that. So I knew, logically, we had to have a second child. But when I actually saw that positive pregnancy test, even though it was intentional, my first thought was “what have we done?”
If It Ain’t Broke…
Prior to number two, I felt like our family had a nice routine and a rhythm, and that we had nearly ‘mastered’ parenting (ha!) And that somehow, adding another human to the mix was going to ruin all of that. Not to mention, the sheer logistics of taking TWO kids anywhere seemed daunting. How was I ever going to get anywhere with just myself? What if they both needed something at the same time? How would I load them both in a Zipcar? Would bedtime be twice as long? What would I do when they learned to team up against me?
Friendly Baby Advice
Not to mention the fact that for some reason, my friends with two kids felt the best baby advice they could give was to tell me how much harder it was going to be. “It doesn’t just get twice as hard, it gets at least three times as hard!” they’d say. Or “you have no idea how bad it’s going to get!” I mean, who says that? Apparently all of my smug friends with two kids. At least when I was expecting my first, all of my parent friends had the decency to keep their mouths shut about how hard kids were. Now, it was like my parent friends figured I was already initiated into the club, so they might as well tell me the truth. Bunch of jerks…
Two Kids Under Three
But now, on the other side of it with a 3 month old and a nearly 3 year old, I can say to anyone expecting their second: it’s going to be okay. In fact, it’s going to be great.
Don’t get me wrong, newborns are demanding. They don’t sleep well, and nursing still hurts like a beast, BUT, they’re a lot easier in many ways. You can put a newborn down in a swing and walk away to get a cup of coffee. Ever try doing that with a toddler? Your living room will be ‘decorated’ in shaving cream by the time you get back (where did they get the shaving cream from?) Newborns can’t tell you “no, I’m not wearing those shorts, I want the shorts that I wore yesterday and I DON’T CARE THAT THEY’RE COVERED IN JELLY!! I NEED TO WEAR THEM. JELLY SHORTS! JELLY SHORTS! JELLY SHORTS!” And although newborns go through a lot of diapers, you won’t have to engage in a battle of wills eight times a day when you’re potty training them. So in a lot of ways, the newborn will seem like a breeze.
The largest struggle we’ve found so far is the battle for attention from our older toddler. But some of the things that have worked for us are the following:
- Taking turns: Even though our newborn can’t understand us, we make a big deal about saying “BFF you’re going to have to wait your turn while Chewie gets his turn” whenever the newborn is crying and my toddler wants something. That way, when I have to tell the toddler he’s got to wait his turn, he can at least understand that yes, the baby has indeed waited his turn plenty. In reality, our poor second child only gets my attention if he’s hungry, has a blow-out diaper, and is about to roll off the couch… all at the same time.
- Divide and conquer: Although it means less time with my husband, having one-on-one time with my toddler on the weekends seems to take the sting out of the fact that he gets less of my time during the week. We go somewhere fun- or where my toddler thinks is fun; if it were up to me we’d be doing brunch and shoe shopping- while dad and the baby stay at home. That way, they both get some nap time, and we get some together time.
- ALL of the Books: We got a lot of “big brother” books, but the only one my toddler took to was this one by Joanna Cole. It talked about how babies don’t get to eat pizza or cupcakes, and how babies can’t do fun things. So that seemed to resonate with my egomaniacal toddler. Although, I will say I was surprised at how many “big brother” books and shirts we got as gifts, so you may not need to buy this yourself.
I highly recommend getting a lot of good “special” books to read with your toddler while you’re feeding the baby. This seems to be the one time when my toddler really pushes back and acts out for my attention. So offering a “special” book during this time has really helped. Because you’ll be reading them a lot, I suggest something you won’t get tired of.
Some of our favorites are:
- In the Town all Year Round This book has no words but TONS of detail in the pictures. It’s great for language development because you can talk about so many different things. And since there’s no story, we can make up different things to talk about each time and I don’t want to poke my eyes out reading Curious George for the millionth time. We’ve spent hours looking at this book in our house, and I’m not sure who is more obsessed with it, him or me.
- What do People Do All Day A Richard Scarry classic. Again, there’s tons going on in this book, so it will give you plenty to talk about and keep your toddler’s attention. Plus it explains how a lot of things work. Although I wish there was a page explaining email rather than how to mail a letter…
That’s really all the second baby advice I’ve picked up in the short three months of being a two-kid mom. I’m sure it’s all going to change when my newborn starts really demanding my attention, and crawling places, and sticking things in his mouth. But by then, I’m hoping there will be some kind of relationship between him and his older brother…maybe he’ll entertain him by stacking blocks on top of him or something.
Generally, I’d say that you’ll find your footing in the same way that you found your footing with the first. And at least this time, you’ll be a bit more of an expert at it. And hopefully, it will become somewhat easy. At least I’m hoping so, because another mom at the playground the other day who just had her third said to me “I can’t believe I ever thought two was hard”. Which means if we’re going to expand our family any more, I might be in a lot of trouble.
Photos by kind permission, Katy Doyle