Motherhood is not a one time been-there-done-that (BTDT) kind of a deal. Sure, the BTDT acronym is a popular one that does the rounds of pregnancy and baby related forums, but as even BTDT moms know all too well, how kids are raised not only varies significantly among kids in general, which is a given, but also sometimes between siblings.
Even so, when you have to manage 2 under 2, 3, 4, or 5 years; or 2 under 2 years and 1 month, such as in my case, you learn some things along the way. Here are some things that only moms who have a toddler and an infant baby, know:
1.Sleep deprivation is JUST NOT FUN but you are better adapted than your first time around
Just as your older kid learns to sleep through the night and you finally get used to long nights of peaceful sleep, BAM! your latest edition to the family reminds you that life is not exactly there yet. What makes this not as bad the second time around is that if your firstborn is like most kids, you are used to waking up at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. anyway.
Still, waking up multiple times throughout the night, whether it is to give the baby a breast or a bottle is not a party, and sleep deprivation still sucks. However, one amazing thing that you will notice during these times is that even being sleep deprived, you are way more productive than you were ever before.
2. You will see a new side of your firstborn
If you have raised your kid well, which of course you have, you will get to see, in practice, what a kind, helpful, and thoughtful child you have. Whether it is in helping you change your baby’s diapers or grabbing your Boppy for you or bringing you a clean bib for the baby, you will see a new and more mature side of your firstborn.
They will appear to have grown up overnight and you may wonder where the little child in him went. He is still there, of course, and he still needs you so there is some solace in that.
3. Nobody buys you anything anymore, at least not like they did when you were pregnant with your firstborn
I still think baby showers for a second child are a little tacky. This is the case especially if the two kids will be close in age and even if the second child is of a different sex. Instead, you could hold a Gender Reveal or a Sip and See party.
Close family and friends may still want to get you things and there may be things you want to buy for the newborn too. It is a great idea to still do baby registries to avail of completion discounts but don’t expect as many presents for your second or third or..child as your firstborn got.
4. Disciplining your firstborn will make you feel guilty and yet there are times when you just have to do it for your baby’s safety
Your toddler has gone through a lot in a short span of time so naturally, there will be occasional tantrums and meltdowns that need some disciplining. Disciplining is especially difficult if it is for showing too much affection toward their newest sibling. Too many hugs and kisses from a germs-carrying preschooler who has just returned from school, too many face touches that can cause poking in the baby’s eyes, or too many cars or superhero fights close to where the baby is laying, are examples of activities that need to be managed and to which, a toddler may react with cries and screams which in some cases, may need disciplining.
While there is always a little parental guilt associated with disciplining, it is more pronounced when you want to make sure your toddler doesn’t feel unfairly punished or feel like the baby is getting preferential training (although the latter may be sometimes necessary).
5. Watching your two kids interacting in their own special way will melt your heart
I look at the way my little girl looks at her big brother and break into a resplendent open-mouthed gummy smile that my toddler son then reciprocates with a somewhat shy but gleeful smile, impressed at his ability to make his sister happy with his mere presence.
I hear him console her by saying, “No, baby, no thy [cry]” or exclaiming, “Baby…[we’re] home, baby…home” when we’re almost home after a long drive. I watch him bring her his toy car or train when she cries, to make her feel better. I watch him kiss her toes and fingers every chance he gets. I watch her looking longingly at everything her big brother does as if she can’t wait to join him in his play. I see her turn her head and body in a reverse “C” following his movements as he runs around the living room floor.
I watch them look at each other with fascination and admiration. These amazing interactions always make me hit a mental pause and just take in all my beautiful present unfolding before me.
I hope this bond continues to grow strong and get stronger by the day, long after Aaron and I are gone.
6. Grocery shopping carts will start to look incredibly small
Before having two kids, you never cared about grocery/shopping carts but now that you have two, they figure prominently in your shopping game plan. Heck, they may even make or break your relationship with specific stores.
Putting a carseat in a cart and perching a toddler in its basket takes away precious space from the groceries that you would otherwise put there. Some carts don’t even have the storage stand underneath the main cart which means everything needs to be wedged around the carseat.
While you may have previously ridiculed the growing sizes of grocery/shopping carts, you may not recognize the ‘before-kids’ you as you find yourself doing a little jig when you find generously proportioned carts at your local store.
7. Things will start to get expensive and costs add up
…And another baby makes four. I am Indian. My husband is Canadian. You can imagine how expensive traveling to these places will get for our family of four. Even domestic travel can get pricey depending on where we want to go.
Additionally, memberships to museums, zoos, theme parks, tickets to the movies, grocery bills, daycare and healthcare costs, a new car to accommodate a growing family, a bigger house…you get the drift. Pretty much everything goes up.
8. You’ll look at moms of older kids with some mixed feelings
I see the moms of potty trained older toddlers and can’t help but feel a tad bit envious of the life stage that they are at now. There they are, stroller-less and without baby carriers or huge diaper bags, walking next to their kids, all confident and happy going about their errands, making it look so easy (they may have their own issues, of course, but to a detached observer, it all looks good).
Here I am, infant in a baby carrier and toddler in a stroller or walking beside me repeatedly being told, warned, or yelled at to stay close, or in the midst of negotiating or calming a meltdown because I wouldn’t let him buy whatever marked up stuff the store decided to slam in our faces that day at the check out line. At the same time, I love the life stages at which they are currently.
These are indeed some of my favorite times with my kids and while I sometimes want to strangle the challenging times, most other times, I just want to hold on and make them last just a little while longer.
9. You will become a pro at thinking and planning ahead, strategizing, negotiating, and speaking two languages
With an infant and a toddler, you don’t have the luxury of time to lollygag your way through life. You have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice because a lost moment could mean a delayed departure or none at all. Between diaper changes and clothing changes, you have to grab snacks, drinks, the diaper bag, a baby carrier, the right stroller for the place where you are headed that day, the sunscreen, their hats, your hat, purse, sunglasses, and don’t forget, the car keys.
All of these contingencies means that you become a master planner. You are able to think ahead and plan accordingly, at least most times. You become good at carrying multiple things in your arms and your baby just to save yourself more trips to the car or house.
You also become a multi-linguist, of sorts. One second you are yelling, “Drink your milk!” to you toddler for the seventh time. The next second you are sing-songing, “Somebody is ready for milk” while carrying your baby and artfully walking across a minefield of overturned trucks and toys.
10. You will have an incredible new sense of personal self and confidence as a mother of two.
You will recognize this confidence in your stride, in the way you get your kids in and out of the car like you were meant to do this all your life (after a few initial hiccups at the beginning of your two-kids journey) and as if all the joys and tears of early motherhood were preparing you for just these kinds of moments. You will be able to look at new moms with engaged but dispassionate empathy and develop a renewed appreciation for just how far you have come since your firstborn brightened your life, and finally, your confidence as a mother of two will be apparent in the way you express gratitude for having been there, done that.