Are you contemplating the huge question of whether to bring another child into your family? I went through the transition to second-time motherhood one year ago this month. Being a mom to two girls under 4 for the past 12 months has been amazing and challenging.
I always thought if I had two kids I would have them very close together, as I am a twin. I finally felt ready to think about another child when my older daughter turned 2 and I turned 39. The clock was ticking louder than ever. So we started trying and it took a little longer the second time, but we conceived after about 4 months. We were glad they would be three years apart—good spacing for many reasons.
Being seasoned parents, we wanted to be really prepared for No. 2. First, we moved from San Francisco to Palo Alto for access to great schools as well as proximity to work and a good community of friends with kids. Our new house was a block from a park.
We also made many other changes to streamline our life as a family. For example, my husband started putting the older one to bed, and I prepared to spend many hours during the night nursing and comforting. I also spent lots of precious alone time with our older daughter—which would never return again after the arrival of her sibling—and prepared her for the huge change and even bigger blessing that was going to arrive with the new baby in her life.
Even with all of this preparation, many of the realities of bringing baby home and truly transforming into a family of four were challenging: Now I had the baby in tow with me everywhere. I constantly barked at my older daughter to keep it down and not wake the baby. I was so exhausted from sleep deprivation that I had a short fuse. I also missed spending time with my older daughter. And she missed it, too, and felt sad when I snapped at her. The baby was beautiful, but she just lay there, ate and slept. It was tough on so many levels. It took a good nine months for me to get my bearings.
- Accept that until the baby is 4 months old, you will be doing a lot of parallel parenting. Dad will be with the older sibling, and you will be with the baby. It will feel like you have a split-up family, and you will feel even more like you have no relationship with your spouse. This is temporary and necessary. Dig in, and do what you have to do to get through those first several months.
- Create some special time with your older child so that they will receive one-on-one time with each parent during the week—even just 10 minutes. The older child needs to connect with each parent, especially the mom who is ALWAYS with the baby. When the baby goes down for a nap or if someone can take the baby for a little while, take the older child out. It can be to eat a snack, read a book, go to the park or do Special Time. The last one is a technique taught by Hand in Hand Parenting: Set a timer for any amount of time between 10 and 60 minutes, tell your child, “we can do ANYTHING you want to do” and let him or her lead the special time session. You give all your attention (no phones or other distractions) and just play along with what the child wants to do. It will fill his or her need for attention like nothing else and help him or her with the difficult feelings of sharing you with the new baby.
- If you haven’t already put your older child in preschool, do so and consider extending how much time he or she is in school so that this child is entertained, well cared for and stimulated during the difficult months when you have to give your all to the new baby.
- Get as much help as you possibly can. If you don’t have help from a family member or friend, bring a babysitter or nanny into your household mix as early as you can. There will be times when you want a sitter to be with the baby so you can spend time with your older child. You may need time to do some self-care, as you will be exhausted. Or maybe you will want help with cleaning. Whatever you need, this is the time to be liberal with getting help with all kinds of tasks and duties as it will take several months for you to get into a rhythm with two kids. It can get expensive in the spending department, but remind yourself that it is temporary and an investment in your emotional well-being to have help around your home.
- Join or create a second-time moms group. DayOne has a wonderful class that meets for 4-week sessions on Tuesday mornings. It’s a place where new second-time moms come to talk about what is really going on, commiserate and generate ideas for support. I created a Second Time Moms playgroup for kids born spring–summer 2012 through PAMP. It has been nice to meet with moms who were all going through the same things at around the same time and to get out of the house and get some fresh air.