Here’s the truth about parenting two children: It feels a lot like winning lotto and then getting punched in the stomach.
Just think on that analogy for a few seconds.
I don’t mean that it’s awful or miserable or that I wish I’d never given birth to my second. However, when your family grows from three to four, there are hidden implications that not many people seem to talk about.
There are so many things that are different to how I thought they’d be. I’ve gone through feelings of resentment, guilt, self-pity and frustration. Yet, through it all I’ve felt an intense, unparalleled love for these little beings I brought into the world. What kind of sick paradox is that?
I’ve had three and a bit months to get used to loving two children. Here, in my experience, is what they don’t tell you about it:
A fast birth is just as bad as a long birth
It doesn’t matter if it’s your second time around either. Nothing is stretched, your body still has to do a lot of work. That being said, I was a lot less tired during my second labour and, a few hours after it was all over, I got up and went to the bathroom and laughed at myself in the mirror, yelling to my husband “I’m not pregnant anymore!”
For more on my birth story, visit my blog post titled The Best Birth Ever
Your heart won’t double
Everybody tells you that it will, but the reality was so different for me. Although I loved Jia instantly, it was undeniable that our relationship still needed to grow. I’d had almost two years getting to know my first son, Ashton. Why would I want to compare my love for Jia against that?
I had to get to know this new baby with all his different charms, needs and quirks. Our bonding didn’t happen as quickly as it had for Ashton. Why? Because I was juggling his needs with the needs of my toddler. It made sense.
Please don’t believe that there’s something wrong with you or your new child if the love isn’t as strong in the first few days. You are not a terrible mother. It will get there if you give it time.
I learned this the hard way and it almost wrecked me, feeling like I couldn’t give him my all. It almost wrecked me because I knew I couldn’t give my toddler my all either.
They don’t need your all
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your children need your best, not your all. Do not compromise your best by trying to give your all.
When it comes to raising two children, my toughest critic so far was ME. The household still had to be run and neither of my children were about to give me any breaks. Breakfast still had to be served, washing had to be put out, the house needed dusting… and for who? For my kids?
Children don’t actually care if there’s a little dust on their dresser, just as they don’t care if you serve up porridge for dinner. They want YOU. The best of you. The washing can wait. No, the washing WILL wait for you. Let’s get real, it’ll always be there. Their littlest years, however, will not.
You will grieve
Not much rallying happens when a mother has her second child. People assume, much like I did, that we know what we’re in for, but we don’t. We know how to look after one child, we don't know a thing about looking after two.
Whenever I looked at my eldest son, I felt sadness. Ashton, who had watched this stranger come into his life and take over his mother, seemed like he needed his mum more than ever.
I began to resent my husband for being able to take him out for one-on-one time while I was stuck under a small, dependent being who only fed, slept and pooped. I just wanted the time back with my toddler, even the tantrums! I wanted to wrap him up in my arms and not let go until he was ready for me to.
After about a week of feeling this sadness, I saw it for what it was: Grief.
The strong bond that had kept my son and I together over the past two years of his life had changed so much that it was barely recognisable.
You will grieve your first relationship with your oldest child, it IS normal, just don’t sit in it too long. Just like a baby, raising two children has many stages. This is just one very short phase in which you will learn to grow, to love and most importantly, to cherish the time you are able to give each child.
While I’m at it - please also remember to check in with your friends who have newborns. Whether it’s their first, second or seventh. This is a tough gig, don’t assume any of us know what we’re doing (we don’t).
You will be more tired
Sorry to break it to you! Just when you thought it wasn’t possible. In the rare chance that you do get both kids to sleep at the same time, don’t take your chances, HAVE A NAP.
Time will go faster
These children keep you on your toes most of the time, you won’t even realise the days rolling. Before you know it, your sweet newborn baby will be ROLLING (okay, okay, Jia is almost four months so I guess he’s not technically a newborn anymore).
You will love it more than the first time around
Some of what I’m saying here might paint a pretty dark picture. Please know I am disclosing everything in the interest of being honest, so let me continue that way. Trust me when I say that you will love this.
The transition feels like you’ve been slapped in the face. Twice. But it’s like jumping into a freezing pool of water. Thrash around for dear life and yeah, after a while you’ll acclimitise. And in this case, it gets better than that. The sun will come out, settling will get better, your newborn will need you less and your toddler will stop being such a dick. Most importantly, you’ll start to see the two of them bond and form their own relationship that exists outside of you.
The second time around feels better than the first. Not because you have all the answers, but because you have perspective:
This time around, you know that every difficult phase is followed by a beautiful one, just as every first time comes with it’s very own last time. This time, you already know that as your child grows, so do you. The growing just happens internally, not externally. Because for every part of you that feels stripped away by motherhood, there is a stronger, more resilient, more understanding and more complete part being built.
Never lose sight of that.