- Having a second child means parents are on duty at almost all times, no longer able to step in for one another when one parent needs a break.
- Assuming everything you learned about infant care will come right back to you when a second child is born means setting yourself up for a collision with reality; you need to prepare yourself before the baby arrives.
- Here are five mistakes I made before our second child was born and some insight to help you avoid doing the same.
No two human beings are exactly alike. As I learned, this fact makes itself evident almost immediately after a baby is born. While my wife and I had more than four years of parenting experience under our belts when our baby daughter arrived, we had absolutely no experience raising this specific young lady. As I would soon learn, not all of what worked for one child would work with another.
I’d also learn how dramatically different life is with two kids as opposed to one. I thought that the profundity of the shift from being childless to being parents would far surpass the change from being parents with one kid to two.
As it turned out, it only slightly surpassed it. Raising kids who are four years apart in age means dealing with two people who both need you for all sorts of reasons, but those reasons have little common ground, so our kids constantly pull us in different directions. And the laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, and that thing called work? That stuff still needs doing, too.
If I could go back a year from today, a couple months before our daughter was born, I'd do myself a favor and read on, because these are five mistakes I made before my second child was born.
1. I thought I'd remember all the baby prep
In an odd way, I felt more prepared for the birth of my first child than my second. Before our son Ben was born, I read several books on pregnancy, birth, and early infancy, we attended Lamaze classes and a parenting seminar, we listened to podcasts and watched videos, and we asked questions of doctors, friends, family, and occasionally fellow grocery shoppers.
During the second pregnancy, I brushed up on things but I didn't read nearly as deeply, didn't go to classes, and generally didn't spend nearly as much time studying up on pregnancy, birth, or newborn care. As we went to the hospital for baby Scarlett's delivery, I felt distinctly less confident than I had with her brother four years earlier; I simply didn't prepare enough. Fortunately, it all came back quickly, though.
2. I didn't fully consider what the new family budget would look like ahead of time
Adding a kid to the family adds a lot of expenses; that much we already knew having done it once before. But as our son was four by the time his sister came along, we had long adjusted to the expenses associated with his clothing, food, art supplies and toys, summer camp, and tuition.
Along with the large but one-time costs of the birth itself, having a baby adds in all sorts of costs, from diapers, wipes, and creams to clothing regularly outgrown and replaced and, soon enough, to food. While all reasonably predictable, I didn't take the time to think through our family's new projected monthly expenses and make sure we were still within a good budget.
3. I thought the baby-proofing process would be the same
Now in preschool, our son Ben is as energetic and active as any kid his age. But as a baby, he was much less physical than many children and he seldom put himself in risky situations. He rarely if ever crawled onto things from which he could fall off and didn't tend to grab for objects on shelves or tables. He didn't try to play with cords or outlets and he almost never put non-food items in his mouth.
Scarlett, on the other hand, was born with a mandate to crawl up (or down) the stairs, she tries to get on top of every piece of furniture, and everything smaller than a shoebox goes straight for her mouth. Safely parenting her means a level of attention in the moment and foresight in how we baby proof a room that is nothing like we experienced the first time, and it simply never occurred to me how different this entirely individual child would be.
4. I didn't know how much longer everything would take
With a preschooler and a baby, just getting out the door to go to a park, museum, or a store can feel like an expedition. The good news is that my wife tends to be fully prepared in terms of diapering supplies, spare clothes, a snack for our older kid, and so forth.
The bad news is that often enough that much needed diaper change occurs just as the preschooler finally got his shoes and coat on, and by the time the baby is good to go, he needs a potty break or a snack. Mealtimes, bedtimes, outings - everything in life now takes markedly more time than it used to, and in a cruel twist of fate, the world has refused to add more hours to the day.
5. I didn't realize just how different life would be with two kids
As a parent with two children, I look at families with three or more children with awe; I don't know how the parents do it. But what many parents with multiple kids tell me is that the switch from one to two is far more dramatic than from two to three, three to four, and so on. When we had our son, my wife and I could tag in and out as needed and give all of our attention to him when spending time as a family.
When our daughter arrived, it meant almost no "adult time" save for an hour or two before bed, by which time we were both exhausted, and few opportunities to give either child full attention. These days, we're more fatigued, we get less done, and we're often stressed. But on the other hand, our son is now learning Mandarin and our daughter has mastered saying "mama" and "dada" and she's working on saying "Ben." In the bigger picture, a bigger family is more tiring, but it's also a great thing.