What I learned in the year after having a second baby

I originally wrote this in January of 2014 when my son turned 1 and my daughter was 4. The year after having a second baby was a difficult for me with lots of challenges, but having my son was the best. And it’s hard for me to believe those some little ones are now 8 and 11!

My baby boy turns 1 today. Cliche as it may be, I must say that time really does fly. I mean, I feel like I seriously just found out I was pregnant. And now here we are celebrating one year. It’s been quite a year. Along the way, as always, I’ve been learning and learning. I’ve learnt about being a mom to two. I know moms with more than two children, and I commend them. But, here’s what I’ve learned this past year as a mom to two.

1. Being a mom of two is both harder and easier than I thought it would be.  

I remember when my daughter was born. The shift and adjustment to being a mom was so incredibly challenging and earth-shattering in some ways. I was as ready to be a mom as I could be. I was excited to be a mom, but actually being a mom and being responsible for this tiny, oh-so-needy person was certainly life-altering.  

However, I didn’t have to go through that when I had my son. I was already in mom mode. So, that was easier. The harder part I’m not sure was completely unexpected because I knew I’d have more work as a mom. The hardest part to me at the moment is how different my children are and how much my son is already challenging me.

2. Sometimes even I don’t put on makeup.  

I’m a makeup girl. I’m a do-my-hair girl. I have the whole shebang down to a less than 10-minute process to put on my makeup and style my hair. But, especially in the early days when my son wasn’t sleeping, even I went sans makeup. I seldom left the house. I didn’t put on makeup for a while.  

This was true for most jewelry as well. I’ve had my ears pierced since I was 18 months old. I got my second hole pierced when I was 14. For the first time ever, I had trouble with my earring holes starting to grow back over and had to work through that. Good grief!

3. It is OK for my daughter to be entertained by Disney Junior sometimes.  

In the early days, I’m not sure I could have survived without it some days. There were times I got two hours of sleep at night in the recliner before my daughter was up for her day. I let her watch an extra show (or sometimes two or three!) just so I could actually get a bit of sleep while the baby was sleeping.

4. My support team is invaluable.  

Having a second baby has made me appreciate my parents and in-laws even more. I’ve asked them for advice. I’ve accepted and asked for their help. My mother-in-law has cleaned my bathroom. My mom has done my laundry. They’ve both made us food. Granted, some of their help had to come after my surgery, but so many other times throughout this year (and always!), my parents and in-laws were there to encourage us, help us and babysit for us. It really does take a village and I’m so blessed by my village.

5. The biggest challenge to my marriage has been having kids.  

My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years. We were high school sweethearts whose relationship started with long conversations on the phone. We’ve been married for 14 years. Becoming parents has challenged us personally and relationally as well. For the first time we have to make more of an effort and be more intentional about finding time to really connect and listen to one another. We’ve had to rework our ways to communicate because we often get interrupted by little people who need things. Adding a second child added to these challenges.

6. My husband really is a good man.  

I’ve said this numerous times, but over and over I fall in love with him and appreciate him more and more. He’s settled into being a dad so very well. He’s great at it. My husband is quick to jump in and do things with the kids. He works hard to support us financially. The guy tries hard to make my life easier and do things to help me. He takes out the trash without complaining. He does gross things that I appreciate him doing (like cleaning ridiculous amounts of my hair out of the drain and dealing with plumbing issues) and can’t imagine having to deal with. Most importantly, he loves God, he loves me and he loves our babies.

7. My heart is big enough to love both of my children so completely and fully.  

Sometimes I am sure my heart will burst into a million pieces. Seeing my children interact with and love on one another and/or my husband makes it expand even more. Even just watching my son learning how to play with our dog makes me tear up sometimes. It’s almost ridiculous, but I make no apologies.

8. Time goes even faster when you’re busy with two children.  

My daughter being 4 seems like an impossibility. While her first year went by fast, my son’s has somehow gone even faster. Life is busier this time around and it just flies by. I try hard to suck it all in and appreciate all the good moments when they happen.

9. I can take both children places on my own.  

In this truth, I also have way more physical strength than I ever knew I had. We have a lot of stuff that goes with us and there’s a baby to carry and sometimes a preschooler to hang onto. Even though I’m now outnumbered in taking them places on my own, I can do it without too much trouble.

10. My children are very different and that’s OK.  

My son has had different challenges from my daughter. She struggled with eating as a newborn, but slept like a champ. He ate just fine, but felt sleep (especially at night) was optional. I figured some things would be the same for them like having the baby sleep in his Pack-and-Play bassinet in our room for the first three months or so just like his sister did. Instead, I spent three months sleeping with him on the couch so he could be propped up on his Boppy.

I hoped he would be as easy to discipline as my daughter. She is like me. Even as a baby we could just tell her no in a stern voice and she’d stop what she was doing. We do the same with my son and he looks at us, smiles then continues right on having a pool party in the dog’s water bowl. They are different. As we get to know each of them better we can better help them learn how to navigate life and learn right from wrong.

11. It’s OK to do things differently for my kids.

In my head, I want always, always, always to be fair. I want things to be the same for both children, but that’s just not reality. We had professional newborn photos taken of my son and didn’t of my daughter. I almost felt bad about it, but then I realized with just one baby I was able to do my own photo shoots easier. With two, that was more of a challenge. I don’t love him any more or her any less. It just worked that way.  

She didn’t have pizza until after she was 1. He had some a couple of weeks before his first birthday. She has had a bedtime of 8 p.m. since she was about 9 months old. He still goes to bed at 9 p.m., because it’s easier for them to be on different bedtimes and gives us a chance to have some time with just him.

12. I have to cut myself some slack.  

I need to continually remind myself of this lesson. I am still learning daily to give myself a break and remind myself that I really am doing the best I can. Being a mom to two is hard work. It’s busy work. It’s so very much. I can’t do it all. I just can’t. There will always be something left undone. I just have to make sure that the important things are done. The other stuff will fall into place.

13. My lap is big enough for two children.  

Even now that they’re both bigger, there’s still room for both of them in my lap at one time. It makes my heart happy.

14. I am a better mom to my son because of my daughter.  

I used to tease my parents that they learned the hard lessons with my older brother. He loved to push the limits as much as he could. They learned from their parenting of him, I think. However, it’s 100 percent true and it’s not a bad thing. I remember even just figuring out the best way to bathe a baby and feeling, quite frankly, a bit intimidated by it when my daughter was a baby.  

With my son, I was an old pro. I had no qualms. I am better at this mom thing because I’ve had more practice. Also, I have more perspective. I knew the newborn days really wouldn’t last forever. I knew that it would eventually get a bit easier and more fun.  

Right now as I’m struggling with a baby boy who is getting into everything, I’m reminding myself that he won’t be this way forever and will eventually learn what no means (and that my husband and I are going to need a lot of patience to get through our battles of will with this child!).

15. Having a second baby is good. Being a mom of two is very good.  

I can’t imagine life without my two children. They are so much a part of me and my life and who I am right now. They consume me. Sometimes that’s incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes I’m just plain worn out and drained from having two little people who need so much so often.

But, it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s good! I would never be happy without them in my life now that I have them. They are perfect, frustrating, loving, demanding and hilarious all at once. My children make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me frustrated and they make me love. They keep me from getting too self-involved. Right now there’s not a huge amount of time for Stacey, but there will be again one day. And I’m sure I’ll somehow miss these days when I’m so consumed with being mom.

16. Sometimes the squeakiest wheel really does get the grease.  

Before my son was born, I read advice from other parents of two. Some parents said if you have to pick between meeting the needs of a baby and an older child, go with the older child first because he/she will remember this moment. I have done that sometimes, but other times I haven’t. It’s not always feasible. Sometimes I work like the ER at the hospital and prioritize who needs the most help first. And every so often it’s the kid who is squeaky the loudest.

17. I can survive sick children.  

Before having my son, my daughter was hardly ever sick. She’s been a healthy kid. After he was born, he had a few issues here and there. Some were accidents, like when he was a newborn and raked a fingernail down his eyeball on a Friday evening.  

But, many things started popping up when my daughter started preschool last fall. Like all parents of school-aged kids can tell you, there are so many germs that go around with school. For three months one or both of my children was sick. My husband and I were sick. And, since part of that time included my surgery recovery and our parents were here helping, our parents were sick. It was tough. It stunk. But we all survived. And I know now how to help a baby through a cold more than I did before because I hadn’t dealt with all that much.

18. I have to learn to let go of my to-do list sometimes.  

Yes, I need to get things done around the house. Yes, I need to do some work. However, I’m learning that with two children who are unpredictable in their needs and require me to be flexible, sometimes I just need to let go of my to-do list and do what I see needs done at the moment. I need to not chastise myself. When I get too focused on my to-do list, I just get irritated that I can’t get it done and turn into Grumpy Mom. Nobody likes Grumpy Mom, not even Grumpy mom herself.

19. I can breastfeed.  

I debated as to whether this was a lesson I learned by having a second baby and decided it most definitely is. The first time around, I had unexpected trouble with breastfeeding (thanks to my kiddo’s issues). I didn’t know how hard it would be. I learned that. And I learned what it meant to exclusively pump breastmilk for a year.  

When I had my son, I learned that some babies are just better at nursing and he was one of them. I still daily think about missing that relationship that had to end a couple of months early thanks to health complications on my behalf, but I know I can do it. I did it for nine months. And it worked even while managing a preschooler at the same time.

20. My absolute biggest lesson is I can do it.  

I have learned this year that I can be a mom to two children and manage just fine.  Of course there are bumps along the way.  Of course nothing is perfect.  Of course I make mistakes, but I’m doing it. I’m living this life.  My children are surviving having me as their mother and they’re both pretty happy kids.  I really can do it!

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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20 Lessons from having a second baby20 Lessons from having a second baby