• Fri, Jan 18 2013

I Could Barely Handle 1 Kid, But Having 2 Kids Is Easier

Of course you still have to do all the work required of having an infant – the late night feedings, the overflowing laundry, the soothing.  None of that gets easier, but it is far less daunting.  This time I was prepared for the relentless 60-minute breastfeeding sessions (it’s two hours from the time you start), the sleepless nights, and the endless diapers.  I knew when to roughly expect each phase to pass.  Even the really bad days didn’t quite feel as long.

Then the newborn phase is over and you can steal quiet moments to really appreciate your infant.

I can’t tell you the exact day my daughter shared her first real smile, but I can recall the vision of her toothy grins just as vividly as with my first born.  In fact, I have so many more memories of her milestones, not because they are memorialized in a book (they aren’t), but because I wasn’t waiting for them – I was simply present enough to notice them.

I was more relaxed about her growth, allowing it to unfold on her timetable rather than checking What To Expect The First Year at the beginning of every month and taking note as to all the things she should be able to do in the next 30 days.  And you know what?  She essentially followed the same schedule as my son.  Can you imagine?  She learned to crawl by eight months old without my rigorous schedule of daily tummy time.

It’s not just about muddling through the second time.  In some ways, I was smarter and more confident than I was as a first-time mommy.  That first diaper blowout that leaks so far up their back you find poop in their baby fine hair?  Child’s play!  With an extra outfit on me at all times, I could deal with that mess blindfolded when it happened to my second kid.  On the occasions I was caught off guard without every possible emergency provision, I shrugged it off.  A postpartum maxi pad left in my purse from the hospital doubled as a diaper in a pinch.  I wiped bottoms with napkins from Starbucks on more than one occasion.  Having set foot in the “terrible twos,” nothing a newborn could throw at me would catch me off guard.

Even at the volatile age of two, my son did not act out when his baby sister arrived ( I was fortunate).  My daughter was so low maintenance that he barely suffered any loss of attention.  Instead, he adored this little girl from the moment she was born.  They shared glimpses of love and affection – a kiss in the swing, a hug on the couch – as baby and toddler, and I cherished my two children’s brief interactions.

But somewhere along the way, those small moments got longer and more frequent until the most amazing thing happened – I realized they are tried and true best friends.  It is awwww-inspiring to see them embrace at school pick-up, like they were reuniting after days apart rather than just three hours.  It is hysterical to hear them locked in the bathroom while my son tries to teach his sister about going in the potty.   It is a proud moment when I hear them negotiate time with their favorite toys without my help.  Overhearing their conversations and catching their sibling gestures could melt my heart any given winter day.

After my second child is born, I spent the first year patting myself on the back for getting the hang of this motherhood thing — and then I realized having two not only makes me a better mother, it makes them fortunate to have one another.

If you are on the fence about having the second, I say it is a no-brainer.  Once you’ve paid the price of entry, you might as well go for it again.  The struggles are the same but the benefits are tenfold.

(photo: Kasia Bialasiewicz / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • Amanda

    This made me smile, and even cry a little. I just had my second (she’s 4 months old), and for me it’s been exactly as you’ve described. Easier, I’m more prepared, I know there’s an end to the never ending night feedings. My 2 year old has made the transition to be sister really easily, and they really seem to like each other. I only hope they’ll be best friends too as they get older. Thank you for writing this!

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      Awww, you are right in the thick of it. I am glad you have the perspective — and it keeps getting better in my opinion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristinacw Kristina Wright

    I completely agree! I wasn’t sure I wanted a second child, but it really has been easier the second time around. Mine are 21 months apart and are the best of friends even at this young age (3 and 16 months). Going from zero to one baby was tough– really tough– but going from one baby to two felt natural.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I think that’s the key – if the first was a real shock, the second time around you brace yourself for it, but it ends up feeling so much easier.

  • outlaw mama

    Isn’t it ironic? I am so with you. Two was a million times easier because there was more company and there was that steep learning curve I just hurdled. I tell people this all the time and mine are only 18 months apart. My son’s babybook is pretty empty but we have plenty of great memories that I will figure out how to commemorate at some point.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      Oh I won’t debate that one – the second has zero baby book!

  • Justme

    Thank you! My husband and I have been on the fence for a long time about having a second child after I suffered through months of PPD. My husband initially was concerned that I would even want to put myself (and our family) through that experience again and I don’t blame him, quite frankly. But I also think that my expectations will be different the second time around – for myself, my child, my husband and our families.

    This was the most perfect piece for me to read as we start this journey all over again.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      Thank you for sharing that. I think sometimes our expectations carry the heaviest weight. When I let so much of that go, the second experience brought me far more joy.

  • Lucy

    We’re planning on trying for a second this summer, or maybe a couple months earlier. With having decided this so far in advance it gave me a LOT of time to second guess myself. Thank you for sharing! I am very excited again and hopefully my son will love his little sibling as much as yours loves his.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I can imagine I would have done the exact same thing – one of the benefits of an oops baby! It’s beautiful to watch them interact.

  • Jenna

    Agreed! Mine are 18 months apart and not only was I more prepared for the second in his newborn phase, but once he got mobile (he’ll be 16 months old in a few weeks) I suddenly found myself with so much more time on my hands because the two of them will run out and play with each other, occupying one another for hours on end without needing me the way my first did when it was just her.

    Usually that just gives me the time necessary to tackle the overflowing laundry you mentioned.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I expected that as they got older but I started to see those benefits as young as 15 months like you. Such a pleasant surprise!

  • quinn

    Thank you. I recently got some issues out of the way that were preventing me from getting pregnant, and now that it is real I am so freaked out about the thought of another one, even though mine is almost 4 and isn’t a toddler anymore.
    Last night I stayed up til 3 a.m. googling “how do you know if you’re ready for a second baby”, and I’ve got to tell you, there are some scary things out there about people’s meltdowns and horror stories about having more than one. I fell asleep feeling conflicted and dreadful. Your article reminded me of all the things I looked forward to when the thought of having a 2nd baby was still just a daydream.
    OK, yours will be the last article I seek out on the topic. I know that nothing could truly prepare me for how my personal experience will be, God willing I can get pregnant, but this article makes me feel hopeful, and I guess that is all we could really ask for.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      Yes! I am here to tell you there is hope!

  • Lori B.

    I needed to read this today! I have a three and half year old sweet and smart little girl and I am expecting a baby boy in April. We have both been super excited about the baby since the day I found out I was pregnant. I agree that knowing what to expect has made pregnancy somewhat easier (although harder at times because I have to chase around my daughter while exhausted). Last night we babysat two of my nephews (8 and 3) and my daughter was throwing hissy-fit after hissy fit about my husband and I paying attention to my nephews. she did not want to share any of her time! This made me start to wonder how she will react to the baby. This article makes me hopeful that she will not react that way to her new baby brother in a few months!

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      The transition may be rocky at times, but in my house the good interaction – especially as the youngest nears two – outshines the rest.

  • http://twitter.com/BananaWheelz Amy

    Agree! I contemplated having a third, thinking maybe this logic will continue to hold true, but then a good friend told me her third is the one that nearly killed her, so I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. :)

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      It’s true, I can’t be 100% sure the same holds true with the 3rd or 4th and as much as I want more I am a little nervous to push the theory!

    • Beth

      If you want a 3rd, then go for it! My 2 boys are 20 months apart (they are now 3 and 5) and I was still very much in baby mode when my second son came along, which made it easy for me to add another child into the mix. The only downside was that when my younger came along, my 2 year old still needed a lot of attention, so I felt like I didn’t give my newborn son as much one on one time that my first son received. I just had my 3rd baby (a girl!) in October and while I had to adjust going back to baby mode, it’s been the smoothest transition yet, as my boys are so much more independent and great companions to each other, which gives me the much needed time to spend with my daughter. I feel so much more present with her, than I did when the boys were babies. Also, since she is my 3rd, I feel even more laid back and confident in my abilities as a mom. I truly believe that one thing you’ll never regret in life is having more kids. If you want another, and you’re blessed enough to have another, then embrace the opportunity!

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      Oh, I love hearing this!! A girlfriend of mine had her fourth 10 months ago and she said the first year was harder than it was for any of her other kids, but we all know how fast that goes. She’s thinking about having a 5th!!!

  • HeatherK

    Wow! There are a lot of things I agree with in the article, but I found the takeaway to be untrue in my situation! First off, my kids are 26 months apart (2 and 4) and just now things are starting to get easier. My husband and I planned baby #1 and were ready for him to arrive: we were ready to get away from our childless existence and were ready for sleepless nights. Overall, we are pretty laid back about parenting and never really freaked out about anything. It helped that my son was a near perfect baby, he rarely cried, always smiled, was a great eater, and started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks. We were caught by surprise by my second pregnancy (two months after I finished breastfeeding my son, and with only one period in between). It was earlier than planned, but we were ecstatic, especially when we found out we were having a little girl! You are right about the second pregnancy being a breeze, I was so busy I often forgot I was pregnant! Then my little girl was born, and any bit of relaxation, peace and quiet, or breaks flew out the window. My son was in love with his baby sister, but they (obviously) could not play together. There is basically no time to lay around and gaze at your beautiful new baby: I had an active toddler to deal with. No time for long breastfeeding sessions: I had an active toddler to deal with. I often fed my daughter in the sling while playing with my toddler. My husband and I would switch off taking my son or my daughter so they could have some one-on-one, but that meant we each had a kid and NO BREAK! I never had a chance to take a nap when my daughter was a newborn. A nap for me meant a messy house, piles of dirty laundry, no food in the house and no dinner on the table. I was completely exhausted all the time the first year. When my daughter was old enough to nap consistently we found that her two naps did not coincide with my son’s one nap. We were stuck at the house ALL DAY for three 2-hour naptimes. As soon as my girl transitioned to one nap, my son stopped napping altogether: I cried, a lot. Two kids for me meant zero downtime: if I needed a break my husband had to tackle both (which he often did) and vice versa. Almost as soon as my daughter turned two things got markedly better. My kids are BFF and are (finally!) at the age where they play well together. I don’t mean to scare anyone, but no one told me how hard two would be, granted I didn’t ask either. Going from none to one wasn’t hard at all for me, I was ready. Two: I was not. One thing I do agree with the author on: you won’t have time to freak out over the small things, but then I never did with my first either : )

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I know a lot of people who share your experience as well. The trick is if the first was terribly overwhelming, the second is exponentially easier – hence the title! But if you had one easy baby/experience, then adding more would just complicate the situation. I’m happy to hear things are getting easier as they get older.

    • zeisel

      Everything you just said is word for word, what my friends who have two within two years of each other. Almost all of them went on anti-depressants and I’ve thanked them for being so open with me. We have one and may only have one, not because of what they’ve dealt with, but because we find that one is enough and completes our family. However, we do feel the baby bug come one every once and awhile, so I know that it’s not set in stone. With that being said, if we do have a second child we are waiting until our first is close to 4 and more self-sufficient. And that decision was made purely by countless friends, whom have been struggling with two. I haven’t talked to anyone who has two and says it’s easier then one.

      You’re totally not alone!!!

    • msenesac

      Your son sounds like mine. He has been a breeze! He just turned one this week and we are planning on starting on number 2 any day now. I’m hoping number 2 is just as easy, but karma will probably bite me. I’m most dreading the newborn waking to feed every 2 hrs and then having to have energy for the toddler. Thankfully, both sets of grandparents are eager to help. But I know it’s going to be tough for awhile.

  • Arnebya

    Our move from one to two wasn’t exactly planned, but certainly not prevented. It was the best decision for us. The girls are just under three years apart and it was definitely easier with two (but of course each family is different, right?). The boy, though, is a whopping 9 years after the oldest and here I am wanting a fourth.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who wants more!

  • Stacie

    I see how this is true, but I missed out on a lot of those benefits since my sons are 7 years apart. I felt like I had to relearn everything! But it’s great they have each other and I sometimes have a babysitter (on the rare occasion when the teen decides not to go out).

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      My brother is 14 years younger than me so I was also roped in for the occasional teen babysitting. You’ve earned it!

  • Joanna

    This article is spot on! A sibling is the best gift you can give your child and the payout is huge. It’s pretty awesome to see them interact with each other. It also takes a lot of stress off of me to constantly have to listen 1-on-1 to their jibber jabber!

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      Right? Especially with my first born, the 1-on-1 time is far more intense than juggling the two of them.

    • 1-time Mommy

      I understand that your comment is coming from a good place, and I’m sure you don’t mean a thing by it, but, for future reference, please keep in mind that statements like, “A sibling is the best gift you can give your child,” is like a kick in the soul for someone going through secondary infertility.

      Again, no hard feelings because I know you didn’t mean it that way, just trying to offer perspective.

    • Meg

      Then maybe you shouldn’t be reading an article about how great it is to have two kids!? It’s not everyone else’s job to protect your “soul”. Hope you teach that kid if yours to be tougher than you.

  • bumbler

    I was a foster parent to sibling groups before we adopted our singleton and quit fostering. We never had less than 3 kids in the house…we usually had 5-8 of them! Parenting a “herd” came naturally and easy for me. Now that it’s just our one kid…My god! It’s the hardest year of parenting I’ve ever been through! People think I’m crazy when I try to explain this but it’s totally true for me…one kid is way harder than 5 at our house.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I love this! What an interesting perspective — can you talk to my husband now? Cause I still want two more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

    Congratulations. My aunt (who had 10 kids!) would probably agree with you. However, I would say that a lot depends on if your 1st is an “easy” baby or not. My mother and her good friend had their first babies at about the same time. I was a monster while the friend’s first was a dream. Friend got pregnant again within the year and didn’t understand why my mother didn’t want a 2nd right away — until her 2nd turned out like me. (I did get a younger brother 4.5 years later – Mom told me that she and Dad figured that lightening didn’t strike the same place twice:) )

  • Mamacita74

    Completely agree! I have a just-turned-three year old daughter and a 4 month old son, and I was shocked by how much easier it was this time around.

    But I do totes agree with those who say that it depends on how easy the first was. My daughter was very high needs, so I went into the second pregnancy preparing for that all over again and was pleasantly surprised by how much more laid back my son has turned out to be. :) Though, the second pregnancy was much hard for me than the first…

  • http://www.facebook.com/megan.baznikwilson Megan Baznik-Wilson

    My transition from 1 to 2 children was easy. I had my son at 23, so none of my friends had kids yet and I was really isolated when he was a baby. I was 31 when I had my daughter. Now most of my friends have infants, preschoolers or toddlers, plus I had the older mom friends that I made when my son started school who were delighted to dote on a baby again(and had teenage daughters who baby-sit). Both of my kids were pretty easy babies, but my daughter was taken everywhere. My son was in second grade when she was born and I took her to a Cub Scout meeting when she was a week old. She was at the dance studio with me to pick up her brother the day after we came home from the hospital. And she got sick even less often than her brother did.

  • Meg

    I am 24, My first is only 18 months and I am pregnant….I have watched people with more than one BABY. I do not know how they do it. It is not like the first baby knows what is going on. He/she can’t help you get the diaper or wipes. I am freaking out. My husband is all happy about the new baby which I don’t understand. I feel like we did not even get the chance to show our baby girl all the love we have for her. When she was finally born I was happy but scared out of my mind, especially with a c-sect and only my mother to help me through this. I couldn’t stand the sound of my daughter’s cry, very annoying, I still cannot stand it. I told my husband that plenty of times about the cry. So does he think that I will love the cry of our second baby…. lucky everything that she has such as strollers, highchairs, and car seats are very neutral colored so no money going to waste but I cannot shake of the feeling that this baby is going to make me go insane and not want to be part of my children lives…..

  • Meg

    I am 24, My first is only 18 months and I am pregnant….I have watched people with more than one BABY. I do not know how they do it. It is not like the first baby knows what is going on. He/she can’t help you get the diaper or wipes. I am freaking out. My husband is all happy about the new baby which I don’t understand. I feel like we did not even get the chance to show our baby girl all the love we have for her. When she was finally born I was happy but scared out of my mind, especially with a c-sect and only my mother to help me through this. I couldn’t stand the sound of my daughter’s cry, very annoying, I still cannot stand it. I told my husband that plenty of times about the cry. So does he think that I will love the cry of our second baby…. lucky everything that she has such as strollers, highchairs, and car seats are very neutral colored so no money going to waste but I cannot shake of the feeling that this baby is going to make me go insane and not want to be part of my children lives…..

  • Suburban Mommy

    I know that this post is old, but thank you for writing this. My first is 2 and I am expecting my second in June. Everyone keeps asking me how many kids I want and my answer is that I truly don’t know. I can’t say emphatically at this moment whether I’ll be done at two or want more. In response, people keep telling me that I’ll only want two children and all I keep hearing is how hard it is going to be and to “get ready!” While motherhood was a total sucker punch to my system, it’s still been both the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done in my life. So, thank you for writing a piece that was actually positive in tone about having a second child. I’m going to re-read this when I need the reminder that having another baby really is a wonderful thing.