If you’re having your second baby, or you’re thinking about having baby number two, people are probably already telling you that it’s so much easier the second time around. Not to be a Negative Nelly, but I have a few misgivings about that much-spouted statement. Of course you’ve learned heaps from parenting your first child and most people don’t sweat the small stuff quite so much in round two, but what nobody seems to tell you is that it’s really hard having a newborn and an older child at the same time, particularly if the firstborn is still a toddler.
Here’s how I sum it up: Imagine all the work you do to keep your toddler happy and all the work you did when that toddler was a newborn. Now imagine doing both those huge jobs at the same time.
Of course I love having two kids and although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the 18 month age gap to people, I’m glad it happened that way for us and feel so lucky that we never had any trouble making babies. But that doesn’t mean raising them is smooth sailing.
Here are a few thoughts I hope will be helpful for people becoming parents for the second time, or contemplating another baby. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section too and if I don’t have anything helpful to say, hopefully one of my readers will.
Settling your second baby can be harder
This might be unique to me because I had an 18 month old who was as wild as a baboon, but I found getting Annie to sleep so difficult. She’s been a light sleeper from the get go and I’d be in her room trying to settle her when Hurricane Henry would ram his trike into her bedroom door or demand a ‘sammage!’ In a way, of course, I knew more about settling a baby but the peaceful, quiet house Henry enjoyed as a newborn was now more like a chaotic zoo enclosure.
Downtime will cease to exist for a bit
With H-Bomb, Tim and I would give each other time out when we needed it. I’d get up on Saturdays and give him a sleep in, he’d do the same for me on Sundays. With a newborn and a toddler, there was no downtime. Hands were full and we were multi-tasking mad hatters. Well I was, Tim is a man so, you know, he finds that impossible. This full-blown mania passed pretty quickly though and in the end it was just nice to ‘get through’ another newborn with him and give each other a high five.
Fenced in playgrounds are your new best friend
Outings aren’t quite as easy as they used to be. Now you will be entertaining the toddler with a baby strapped to your front or rocking a pushchair while explaining that “it’s not nice to hit a kid, Henry, get away from him!” What took me MONTHS to figure out was that I needed to plan outings where I wouldn’t be worried about Henry running away from me. You might be okay, your kid might not be the Usain Bolt of bolting. Now my least stressful outing is to go to a McDonald’s, get a coffee, let Henry loose on the playground and set Annie up with some snacks in a high chair. Bliss at the golden arches.
Get a double buggy
This isn’t easy if your first child is already getting over the buggy, but for close age gaps, I reckon it’s a must. You need the freedom of knowing they’re both strapped in and if you need to deal with your baby, a least the toddler is stuck there. Sure he could be wailing like a banshee and flopping around like a hooked fish. Oh gawd, the looks I’ve gotten over this past year!
It’s still all about the toddler
Just like most parents, I worried about how Annie’s arrival would affect Henry. When we got pregnant he was only 10 months old and it broke my heart to think about him not getting enough attention. What a laugh that turned out to be. Toddlers have an innate ability to make sure it’s ALWAYS all about them. Having a new sibling is a major adjustment for a toddler, but you will love them just as much and find time to show them that they’re as special as they’ve always been. Just remember that you might have to divide your attention, but you don’t have to divide your love. Each kiddywinkle comes with their own mountain of love and new and unique reasons to love them.
They’ll set each other off
While Annie was on the way, I thought a lot about how having two kids would work, but really I had no idea that there would be hell moments when they would ‘go off’ in unison. Here’s an example of a hell moment: I’m driving to the zoo listening to little dude talk excitedly about the animals we’ll see. Annie May is gurgling away happily. I’m thinking about how lovely they are. It’s Auckland, so we get stuck in traffic, which causes Annie to grizzle. Hold on a minute, thinks the two-year-old, the attention is about to shift to HER. He starts screaming, which scares Annie, so she starts screaming. Now they’re both GOING OFF. My first instinct is to join them, but bloody heck I’m an adult so I have to keep it together while turning up the radio a notch and trying not crash the car. That’s some serious (and dangerous) multi-tasking right there.
You are way stronger than you think
Emotionally, sure, but I’m actually talking about physically. People might say you’ll ‘have your hands full’ raising two kids but you don’t realise how literal that is till you’re walking from one end of the mall to the other, carrying a 15kg bucking bronco boy on one hip and a 9kg grizzling gorilla girl on the other. When I add those 24kg to the extra kilograms I need to lose off my butt, well that’s quite a load on! Surely these bingo wings should be rock-hard arms of steel by now?