Double Trouble? Life as a Mom of Two
Author Kara Schaefer for Confident Motherhood
I cried a lot during my first pregnancy. Diaper commercials, wilted lettuce, pinks that were too bright, Starbucks getting my order wrong, and Chick-fil-a getting my order right were all things that just made me sob uncontrollably. During my second pregnancy, my tearful fits were much different. I cried tears of fear and guilt.
Is this the right time for another baby? Could I love another baby just as fiercely as my first? What was I taking away from my first-born by having another child? How could I possibly give two little humans adequate time and attention? These questions swirled through my mind throughout the entire nine months. From talking with other second-time moms, I understood that I wasn’t alone in my fears.
My second baby (a boy!), is now six months old and I can fully attest that the world did not end with his birth. So, if you’re pregnant with #2, take a deep breath and push those fears aside for 45 seconds until you have another mood swing.
Is this the right time?
Trust.In.God. Yes, there may be some lifestyle changes that you'll need to make (aside from the "giving up wine" thing). Yes, this may throw your family dynamic into a tailspin for a short period of time; But trust Him. You are the mama to both your babies for a reason. Make this your mantra. My husband and I had originally planned an embryo transfer for two months when we ended up getting pregnant with my son. We thought we had the "perfect time" planned for a multitude of reasons, but God knew best. I didn’t see it at the time but that little hiccough in our plans set off a chain of events that led us right where we needed to be.
Can you love another baby as fiercely as your first?
I promise you that as soon as you see that your second baby, hear that sweet little cry, and you feel those teeny tiny fingers wrap around your hand for the first time, this question will be non-existent. It will be a different love but a love that is just as fierce. Then when you see your first baby hold your second baby for the first time, the love you have for both of them will soar to a whole new level. Nothing will ever be the same again. Please have someone take a picture of the moment they meet. It is magical.
What am I taking away from my firstborn by having another child?
I’m not going to tell you that you aren’t taking things away from your firstborn when a second child arrives. Your firstborn will probably end up getting less “stuff” than what they are used to in the long run. The growth of my daughter’s hair bow collection has decreased drastically over the past year. Your firstborn’s activity schedule will probably dwindle a little. That is okay. Free play is very beneficial for your child's development, and it’s hard to give when your two-year old’s social schedule is more jam-packed than a Kardashian’s. Your firstborn will also have to wait an extra 5 minutes for you to cater to their whims. That is ok. Patience is a virtue hard to gain when you've never had to wait before. These things that you’re “taking away” from them don’t compare to the gift you are giving them by having another baby. You’re teaching them a new kind of love. You’re giving them another human who will always be in their corner.
How can I possibly give two little humans enough time and attention?
The hardest part of having two (or more!) children is dividing your attention between two kids. You can do it, but it’s easier if you can figure out ways to have the majority of the day be more about the family sharing one another’s attention rather than you “dividing” yours. Some days this is easy to do. On other day’s it requires all the neurons pregnancy brain left you with firing.
Here are my top 5 tips on creating an inclusive environment for both kids:
1. Wear your baby.
Baby-wearing is so beneficial, Y'all and I could write an entire blog going over studies that show the benefits of wearing your baby. However, in the interest of time, I'll share this: babywearing will allow you to have both hands free to wrangle your toddler do housework while still allowing your newborn to smell you, hear your heartbeat, and feel secure and loved. While your baby is growing, babywearing will allow your baby, to safely observe you and your toddler’s activities along with your daily routines. You don’t have to be an essential oil wielding, anti-vaxxing, tie-dye wearing, PETA-supporting cloud of patchouli mom to wear your baby (but if you are…more power to you!). Before deciding on a carrier, try to borrow a ring sling, a stretchy wrap, and a soft structured carrier and see which works best for you. My personal favorite is the Lillebaby Complete, which is a soft structured carrier.
2. Try to foster a supportive, loving relationship between your kids.
This may seem really silly, but watch how you word things in front of your children. One advice is to never “blame” the baby when you say no to your child. Maybe it’s true- that you aren’t going to take your toddler outside to play because your newborn is napping, however, don’t word it that way to them. Your toddler will quickly associate the baby with you saying “can’t” and could start to resent the baby. Also, encourage your children to celebrate each other’s successes, and commiserate when they fail. My daughter is in the final stages of potty training. To celebrate when she goes to the potty, I will have my son “clap” for her. He can’t verbalize that he’s proud of her, but he always has a drooly smile for her to celebrate. The same goes for when she has an accident. He gives her a “hug” to show her how loved she is even when she fails. My son is desperately attempting to crawl. So, I encourage my daughter to clap for him and cheer him on when he gets his little booty up in the air. She rubs his back and tells him its okay when he ultimately ends up red-faced and frustrated on his belly. Lastly, show your kids as much affection as possible in front of each other and talk in a loving way for their sibling to hear (even on days your toddler is driving you crazy). Kids will mirror your affection, reactions and how you speak. For example, I say “Hold on, Bubba. Mama’s on her way” while I’m walking down the hallways to pick up my son in the morning and then proceed with singing him a really silly “morning” song. Now my toddler takes great delight running in front of me down the hallway yelling “Ho on, bubby. Ainsie Grace is on da way!”, climbing in his crib, and singing him an even sillier version of our “morning” song.
3. Find ways to adapt activities up for your older child and down for your younger.
Once my son was over the super sleepy newborn phase, I tried to adjust all of my toddler’s activities to be on my son’s level. If she is doing art, I let him do “squish” painting or gnaw at a clear plastic container with crayons (carefully inspected). However, I soon realized doing this wasn’t sending the right message to my daughter and it was overstimulating my son. I’ve cut back on her pre-planned tot schooling activities and found ways to include her in activities geared more towards my son’s age. For example, she lays next to him under his play gym, and we count out loud the number of times he bats at a ball. Other times we organize his toys by color, or we search in his soft books for things that start with a certain letter.
4. Simplify your personal belongings.
I quickly realized that I needed to maximize every minute of every day once I had my second baby. I already wasn’t much of a sleeper and I expressed this concern to a friend. She recommended I do some reading on minimalism. I already felt like I was drowning in laundry and toys before my son arrived, but those feelings quickly intensified once he did arrive. I do laundry every day no matter how many changes of clothes each of us has but its easier for me to put the laundry away though when there are fewer articles of clothing for each person. It's easier for me to find my daughter’s favorite pajamas or put together a decent looking outfit for myself when we have fewer items. Purchasing items with intention make a huge difference. As for toys, I watched my son and daughter amuse themselves for 45 minutes today with 5 Dixie Cups. So, let that sink in. Your kids need toys but not nearly as many as you think they do. My daughter is much happier now with fewer toys and I more present than when she had every toddler toy Target carried and a mom who was always trying to clean.
5. Be forgiving to yourself.
You don’t need to plan out every second of your and your kids' lives in an overpriced planner that has been decorated with 12 different colors of washi tape. What you do need is a daily rhythm. You don’t need to make your kids a Pinterest-worthy breakfast every morning, but they do need something mildly nutritious. Give yourself the same grace you’d give a friend. Adding to your family is such a beautiful adventure, enjoy the ride and embrace the chaos, mama!
Are you a mom of two or more or are you expecting your second baby? We’d love to hear from you!