Here we are, a few weeks into life as a family of four.
I think there’s a lot of reasons people typically say it’s easier the second time around and honestly, I have to agree with them. This first weeks of having two kids has been easier than I imagined.
In my mind, I thought I’d be out of commission for months. I prepped mentally, said no to any commitments I had for at least the first three months of new baby, and bought a freezer full of microwave meals so I could still feed my family while struggling to stay awake at all times.
But now, almost a months in, my home is clean(ish), I’ve been cooking all of our meals, and my blog is full of posts I’m ready to share. I even managed to some how DIY some family photos of all four of us.
I think it’s true that having experience with having a newborn really helps to make those first days bearable.
While the oldest is definitely a little more moody, it’s no where near the tantrums I was expecting. His transition has seemed so much smoother than I ever imagined.
Though, I may have to give some of that credit to season 5 of Daniel Tiger where he gets a baby sister.
We aren’t as exhausted this time. Something about knowing what to expect and preparing for the exhaustion actually helps to make it a little easier. I think having a toddler’s schedule to keep up with also helps us to maintain a daytime/nighttime routine much better than before.
Time doesn’t disappear as much as you’d think. I forgot how much newborns sleep in the beginning. I actually have time to make simple meals and take baths. Especially if your first kid is on a decent sleep schedule, it’s not as hard to find “me time” as I thought.
I have a better understanding that it’s OKAY when a baby cries. I don’t feel stressed, rushed, or panicked. I just simply give him what he needs as quickly, but calmly, as I can.
Still, I have wondered what it is that has made this transition so much easier than I thought it would be. There’s something about your first child, at least for me, that made it seem SO exhausting SO time consuming and SO overwhelming.
I’ve spent most of my time questioning why I was remembering the newborn days in a negative light. Why it seemed so impossible. What was so different that first time, when I only had one, that made me prepare for months of chaos?
That’s when I realized:
The major difference between the two boys was me.
The first week my second child was born I felt like I was living in two different realities. One where I was experiencing this new baby in front of me and another where I was reliving the first week after my first child was born. The two experiences were very different even though both my boys have been very similar newborns. They both slept well, ate well, and generally didn’t have much to complain about.
My first child was born into a very different house with a very different mother. We didn’t make as much money. Our house was a run down rental that stressed me out every time I pulled into the driveway. We didn’t have anyone over if we could help it because we really just felt shame and embarrassment in our home which means my first child was brought home to a place that left a layer of stress in the air at all times.
Besides the environment, I was much different two years ago than I am now. I didn’t have a schedule, I didn’t have good habits. I didn’t cook, I sort of cleaned, and though I had my nesting kick in, I still wasn’t in the habit of maintaining a space. Especially one I hated.
Most importantly, My first child had to teach me how to be a mother.
We all go into parenthood with some idea of the values we want to pass on, but how we’re going to do that is something we have to learn along the way. My first is the one who taught me all of that.
Being a first child myself, I know it can sometimes feel like you get the short end of the stick. Your parents are stricter, they test out new discipline tactics and strategies that may or may not actually work.
Most importantly, the first child is the one who has to push all the selfish tendencies from their parents.
Before having kids, your time is yours. There’s not much telling you what you need to do and when you need to do it. You get days off and then on those days off you get to decide exactly how to spend that time. You can leave when you want, binge watch TV all day with no distractions, be creative, put your things where you want them without worrying about someone getting into it or breaking it. Even if you’re the most selfless person in the world, life before parenthood has room for selfishness. There’s room to give to yourself the most.
As a very independent, introverted person who feels stress when people rely on her, this was a very hard thing for me to get used to. The idea that I haven’t really “had a day off” in the two years my first son has been alive would have, at one point, put me into a spiral of stress that would have left me bed ridden for a day.
That meant my first born had to endure the painful process of me learning how to be there for him, whole-heartedly.
He’s the kid who had to teach me how to keep my cool, even when I was getting interrupted every few minutes. Or to stay present when what I really wanted, what I really needed, was to hide away from everyone. He had to deal with frustration being projected onto him for simply having basic needs in the times that I just wanted to indulge in my own selfish desires.
You’ll hear a lot of moms say that they lose a part of themselves when they have a baby. They feel a transformation happen.
For me, I didn’t realize it right in the moment what exactly was happening to me. I did feel that loss of self and when I found my sense of self again it was definitely different than before. But it wasn’t until I had my second that I realized what had happened to me. What I went through that made me more ready for this next step in life than I even realized.
I had let go of the idea that I need everything I want right away. The things I wanted changed. I learned to manage my time in a way that works for me AND my kids. My heart opened up to deeply care for more than just my personal reality.
I learned to see things, not just from my point of view, but from theirs.
Essentially, the biggest difference between my first and second is:
With my first, I wasn’t a mom yet.
Technically, I became a mom the minute I got pregnant. Even more so the moment he was born. I had instincts, assumptions, tips, advice, and all the google answers in the world. But I’d honestly say I didn’t truly become a mother until I learned to be okay with sharing my time and priorities with someone else. And I didn’t even begin to understand what that meant until I took my baby home and realized that I had no idea what being a mother truly meant.
Now, with my second, I have close to two years of experience in my motherhood career. He was born with a true mother while my first was born with a mother in training.
This second baby has a patient, kind-hearted caretaker who understand the importance of balancing love and boundaries. Who knows that she can’t feed him unless she feeds herself and understand how to do so in a way that makes everyone happy.
I have healthy habits now. A home I love. I’ve dedicated myself to motherhood and I actually understand, as much as I can, what that really means and what it really looks like.
I’m not learning how to be a mother now. And really, that process can be harder than any sleepless night you endure.