For many months before that fateful Easter Sunday when K slipped and slid her way into this world, I listened closely to the jabber of other mamas-of-two. I’d jot down mental notes about the ways in which mothering #2 would be different than mothering #1. I heard lots of familiar tidbits — you’ll be less rigid with sweets and screen time, you’ll learn from your mistakes and sleep train the right way, you won’t care one iota about pacifiers (or anything, really) falling on potentially germy floors, you’ll forget to take daily snapshots, let alone assemble a baby book, and you’ll be way too busy to notice every ounce she gains, tooth she sprouts, new sound she babbles, little milestone she conquers. Now, in reality, as an actual mother of two, my general truth is that parenting the second time around is indeed crazy, absolutely nonstop, but equally (and sometimes even more) enjoyable. Sure, you don’t have as much time, but I think I see more in the jam-packed moments I do have.
My kids are spaced about 4 years apart. I had sort of planned on this child bearing schedule all along. I do love seeing siblings close in age and companions from toddlerhood, but popping two out in a row just wasn’t the right path for me. Having kiddos spread out does mean that I’m out of the full-time work force for longer, and that I was in my early (almost mid!) 30s when my second flew into my arms. But there are so many reasons why waiting a few years was desirable for me, and I still stand by most of them.
- 1. I wanted R to be in preschool a few mornings a week when K was born, so K could get some of the precious baby-mommy time that R and I experienced for almost 4 years.
- 2. I wanted to finish up some stuff in between pregnancies (ok, this mostly didn’t go as planned, as I did not finish my dissertation. Parenting took way more out of and filled up more of me than I had anticipated).
- 3. I wanted my body to myself for a little bit (I nursed R for a whopping 2.5 years, so between pregnancy and milk-making, I needed some physical me-time).
- 4. I wanted R to be more independent and less mommy-centric when baby was born (R is still incredibly demanding of me, but she is finally very happy spending time with a number of other adults and adores school).
- 5. I wanted to mindfully experience the babyhood of each of my babies. And I do. I’m sprinting around without my head for much of my day, but every so often I find time to simply be with K, and really see her. And when she’s sleeping (even if on me), I try to carve out time for quiet, baby-less cuddles or make believe with R.
Most of my mom friends politely smile but inwardly gape at the dear elders who tell us to “enjoy every minute!” But I really do get where their nosey but kind hearts are coming from. I can’t believe R is 4 (or 4 and 3/4, as she points out daily). I really don’t know where the years have gone. And I certainly can’t believe that my birthday last week pushed me into a new age demographic box. Believe me, I’ve never been a youth upon whom youth is wasted. So while it’s actually impossible to enjoy every minute of parenthood (maybe those well-intended ladies in the checkout aisle could change their wording a bit?), I do love almost everything about the baby phase. Of course I don’t relish waking up countless times nightly or carrying around a pint-sized person all hours of the day, including nap times, but I try to remind myself that these annoyances are just that, and pretty inconsequential — note that this calm wisdom was not as plentiful the first time around.
Despite what I was told a year ago by several experienced mommies, I’m not too busy to see the small stuff (even though nearly every second of every day is overflowing). I love K’s babbles, I melt at her squeals, I study her scrunched up nose and determined lips as she latches to nurse like a hungry baby bird, I notice every time her mouth opens a mile long and her inner light shines brightly from her blue eyes. And I just know I’m going to forget lots of those warm and fuzzy moments. If I could record them all, I would. But I hardly memorialize any of them because the moment is over as quickly as it came, and it’s really only palpable for a passing instant anyway.
Those moms were right about a few things though. Food and pacifiers on the floor? Who cares?! Nursing on a schedule? Yeah right. Having a functional sleep routine? Um, so not feasible with an active older sibling. Upcoming milestones? Other than the big boys (smiling, cooing, laughing, crawling, cruising, walking), I’m not too sure of what to expect each month.
Believe it or not, I found motherhood fun the first time around, too. Sure, the first few weeks of being R’s mommy were really rough and filled with hormonal swings and tears I never saw coming. I stressed way more than I should have over sleep training (we still don’t have it figured out) and food schedules and the variety of approaches to parenting and potty training early (ahem, sometimes we’re still greeted with playtime accidents). And when R was about two, my anxiety reached a peak and sent me spinning many for many insomnia-ridden nights on end. But by and large, I just unconditionally loved my new little person and felt pretty comfortable and peaceful in my uncharted (and permanent) identity.
So… tell me about your experiences. Has your perspective of mothering changed after welcoming a second or third kiddo? What has most challenged you in your transition from mommy-of-one to mommy-of-more?