Why the void?

When I was initially looking for material on welcoming a second child I wasn’t that surprised to find so very little. Still, it was a disappointment, and I hungrily bought up all the books about having a second baby that I could find.

After reading some of those books, I now am VERY surprised that there exists so little on the subject. From what I can tell, having a second child can be even more emotionally, mentally and physically draining than having a first. And the majority of mothers end up doing it, so their seems to be an audience. While it’s true that for mothers most of it can seem like “been there, done that,” the truth is, the experience of having a second child is vastly different from having a first, because, well, you have to fit that first child into the mix. While having a first child changes your life in infinite ways–having a second child does so again. I guess we just assume that since we have already stopped going out much, sacrificed our sleep, become beholden to a nap schedule, greatly altered our professional, social and personal lives, we don’t need to think much about adapting to another child. Except it seems, that we probably should.

What nobody seems to want to talk about it how challenging it is to manage a newborn and a little one. They don’t want to talk about what it does to your marriage to divide and conquer instead of tag team. And no one seems interested in acknowledging the complicated process of opening your heart to another child, when the first is still clamoring for his or her rightful claim. Having read these books, I’m really glad that I know some women actually feel they stop loving their first borns when their second babies come. If I hadn’t read that, I probably would have been horrified if the same happened to me.

Honestly, the only information I can seem to glean from my many friends who have gone before is, “it’s crazy.” And while yes, that is valuable insight, it doesn’t really let me know what to expect. How is it crazy? What can I do to make the craziness a little less insane? Sure we have strategies that worked the first time that we plan to implement again, like setting up a real bed in the back room so at least one person (ahem, my partner) can get a good night’s sleep. But we haven’t discussed what will happen if my daughter wakes up too, especially not if she wakes up after the baby has cried, or dare I suggest it, because the baby has cried. I usually get up with Isa during the night. Does my partner realize he will probably have to now? And when he does, will he have the skills to soothe her when she wants me, but can’t have me, because I’m half-crazed with sleep deprivation and breastfeeding a baby. Will my husband even hear her in the back room, over his own snores? We feel prepared because we know what worked the last time, but this time our daughter is here with us and we can’t imagine how she will react. We also have no idea if our son will sleep in the same ways our daughter did, or if he’ll sleep at all.

The truth is we have NO IDEA what is in store. Sure, we didn’t have any idea the first time either, but I worry that our previous experience since then makes us feel more confident than we should be. If this baby has colic I will have not one inkling of what to do, and that doesn’t even take into account the possibility that his crying might prevent my daughter from sleeping as well. I mean this whole enterprise could be one, big giant cluster fuck.

From what I’ve read, I should be expecting as much, because even if it goes well, it’s going to feel like a getting hit by a mac truck, repeatedly.

Most of the books seem to suggest that it gets manageable right around 12 weeks, which is exactly when I will be retuning to work. Of course none of the authors returned to work at that time, so I don’t know what it will feel like to throw myself into my professional obligations (at a job that requires a very high mental and emotional commitment) when I’m barely able to function at home. Frankly, just the thought of it absolutely terrifies me.

Some may say I should stop reading so much about having a second child, that I can’t know what it will be like until I’m living it. And I know that is true, but these books aren’t focusing on the worst case scenarios, they are presenting very common scenarios. And I appreciate having some idea of what to expect, even when I know that no other situation will completely mirror our own.

Ultimately, I’m just surprised there doesn’t exist more on this subject. Certainly there is an audience for it, as the vast majority of parents go on to have a second child. If most families in the US have two children, and most mothers and fathers are only parenting one child for a very finite period of time, why do ALL THE BOOKS treat parenthood as a two on one enterprise? Why do they all cater to the one mother-one child dynamic, when that dyad only exists for most women for a short couple of years? It’s great to know how to set boundaries and such for your first child, but what about the intricacies of doing so when you have a baby or another toddler to tend to? How do time outs work when there is another child vying for your attention? How does attachment parenting work when there is only one of you and two or more of them?

Maybe it’s just that parents don’t have as much time to read, so books cater to the audience that is buying, and hopefully reading, these books–parents-to-be or parents of one. Maybe most professionals–and parents–really do believe that everything they learn the first time around will adequately prepare them for having a second. I don’t know. In my opinion, taking on two seems like a vastly more complicated enterprise, one that deserves some attention in the vast canon of parenting literature. I just wish someone would recognize that and write something to fill the void.

And I hope when my son comes, that I’ll find the time to write here about what it’s really like, because I can’t believe I’m the only person who’s wishing she had a better idea of what life with a second child will look like. If anyone knows of any blogs that have tackled this transition, PLEASE send me the links. I really want to see, first hand, what it’s like.

Why do you think so few books exist on the transition from one to two, or rarely touch on strategies to use with two children? If you already have a second child, what was the transition like for you?

10 responses

  1. this is a great post and I found myself in the same situation almost 2 years ago when my daughter was born…we were lucky that my son 16 months at the time (yes, I know crazy..it took us 3 years to have him we really did not expect to get pregnant that fast for #2!) was really attached to his dad…As you said we divided and conquer…my husband took care of Elliot days and nights and I took care of Iris….it was hard because I felt I had no time with my son anymore but it was also great to be able to bond with my daughter…when Iris started daycare at 3 months i still had my fridays off and spent some quality time with Elliot. Now that they are older we alternate….My husband cook when I play with them, we give the bath together and one read books or do the night routine…I could not do it without him…

  2. I agree, great post. My son is 9 months old currently and after it took as 2+ years to conceive him, we are starting to talk about baby 2 now since we don’t know how long it will take to bring a baby home.

    I think part of the problem is that everyone waits (willingly or bc of IF) a different time period after the first baby to bring home another that it’s hard to say what life with two will be like. The dynamic with two is different if the older sibling is 13 months vs 3 years old. Since it’s hard to pinpoint the exact age of the second child, I can see how the market for second child literature is lacking.

  3. Mine was five and a half when our second was born, so he’s sort of a little adult and is super helpful.

    Our favorite book about welcoming a new sibling is the children’s book by Dr. Sears. Most of the sibling books explain to the oldest that he or she should feel jealous, and we didn’t want to introduce that concept. The Sears one is better on focusing on the family as team aspects. Lots of what the older sibling can do to help out.

    We read Siblings without Rivalry, but I didn’t care for it. I think we review it somewhere on our blog.

  4. I think the void is explained by the fact that when in the thick of it, there is no physical time to write anything. And then times passes, and everything gets better, and you forget most of the rough times anyway, and you start doubting the purpose of writing such a thing. And THEN you do not want to be the douche who told women that having a second child is going to be mofo hard, and just because you had one child it does not mean that you know how it is going to be. It might show disrespect, condescending attitude that does not breed popularity or best friends. Or best sellers. If the writer could do it, warning others that it is difficult would sound patronising. And then, it really gets better in time, so every one needs to find their own way to stay sane. You will need help, that is for sure, but then again, wouldn’t I be a stuffed up prick to tell you that, as if you couldn’t think that yourself?
    You are never ready for the change a child brings in yours life, or better said, you are as well prepared as you are ever going to be. You in the sense of anyone, not you personally. But you welcome it and forge your new life.
    Good luck! 🙂

  5. I think these books don’t exist because people don’t think they need them, even though they do. Also because people who are already parents have less time to read! I read What to Expect a handful of times during my second pregnancy, but not obsessively like during my first, and i’ve yet to open a parenting book since C was born. I didn’t take childbirth classes, either, even though they offer a refresher class. As you know from reading my blog, #2 did kind of hit me like a Mack truck, and maybe being prepared would’ve been nice. But i think I knew more about how hard having a child is, and I was probably scared to really make it real for myself. I hope my blog is kind of showing you what having 2 is like – I haven’t talked about it explicitly in awhile, but it’s there.

  6. Very interesting stuff here. I haven’t really thought much about this yet, but reading this post, it makes sense that adding a second child could be easier than having a first. I guess I’ve noticed that my friends and family members who have second children tend to say that it’s a lot easier to care for/parent the second than the first. But like everything, I suppose it’s different for everyone.

  7. Parenting two is… Different. I actually have had a post started for a week now called, “parenting two.”. No surprise it’s not done yet!

    B is still home with us, but being perfectly honest, he makes things harder for me. When it’s just the boys and me, we do really well. Because we HAVE to. I’ve taken the boys to the mall and the grocery store with me, and it goes better than when B and I take them to the store together. I think this is because Matthew knows it’s just me, and to relax. My mornings solo parenting the two boys are blissful, when they’re hard with B. I say this so that you don’t think, “yes it’s easier for you because you have a husband at home for a bit longer.”

    With all of that said, it’s not easy. Its not as exhausting as I thought it would be, but it’s emotionally difficult. I have cried only 3 days, and one was due to breastfeeding and the other 2 due to missing my time with Matthew. I sobbed for 2 whole days, and I’m not kidding. Sobbed every time I thought about missing Matthew.

    The hardest thing for me has been losing time with Matthew. Nursing has taken 2.5-3 hours out of my time with him. This is why I can’t imagine not feeling like I still love my first baby, because my intense love for him has been my biggest problem.

    Now that I’m back to putting Matthew down for his naps and at bed time, I’m much happier. I just needed my time back with him!

    Bryson is VERY different from Matthew, but we’re also living in a much noisier house than we did with Matthew. The only quiet that we get is when Matthew naps, which explains Bryson’s crappy sleeping (he sleeps, but only in bed with us at night. I’m losing my mind, and this changes tonight!). You MUST let Teo sleep in a quiet room (tranquility!) every day!!!

    I dont have much advice, but what I know so far is that you should get some normalcy back for Isa ASAP. Giving Matthew his time back gave us all peace!

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  8. See, its funny that the book says it gets better at 12 weeks. Because for me (us) the whole thing was turned around. Adding another newborn was not the problem (I think I’ve discussed this on my blog a few times). B was in a daddy-obsessed phase already, so it was no biggie for husband to take B, while I focused on the baby. It was when “baby” became a personality with his own wants & needs (besides nursing/sleeping) that the reality of having TWO CHILDREN really hit us. They still are completely on different schedules for sleeping, eating, playing…even though they are so close in age (21-months apart) we can’t lump them together for most things, and I can’t just throw the little guy in an Ergo or attach him to a boob while I deal with whatever 3-year-old nonsense is going on with B.
    Why aren’t there more books? I agree with whomever said above that timing of the births makes all the difference. VERY different to have older sib be 16 months, vs. 3 years, vs 5 years. No way to generalize advice. Also, yes, first-time pregnant ladies have way more time to read…

  9. For us, the baby totally clicked. We got a champion baby who gets nursing and sleeping really well and it’s been reasonably smooth. That said, the kid (age 5) was at daycare days so there was time alone with the baby and for her to nap undisturbed. When they both went to daycare briefly, the baby slept much less during the day and was a sleepy critter at night. With both girls at home all the time (and the spouse… oh unemployment) it is challenging to manage the joint schedules so the kid gets to do things like leave the house and the baby gets to nap properly. Currently our strategy is to follow the baby schedule and use her awake time to play together and go on adventures. At 5 months and nearing mobility though, this will be trickier… so I’m glad that kindergarten starts soon so we can spend some time with just the baby again where she isn’t getting smooshed or dragged around.

    What we have found is important is honoring solo time with each child with each parent at least once a week. It helps everyone stay focused on family stuff. We did very little “sibling prep” beyond talking about things that would be different and installing a snack and drink glass drawer in the kitchen for the kid, in case she got hungry/thirsty while the baby was eating and couldn’t wait.

    I think that so much of how things goes depends on the moods and life circumstances of the older kid. Our kid did really well with the baby until we stopped daycare, and the change in her routine has just demolished her reserve of patience and she’s ignoring the baby as best she can and her tantrums wake the baby often. At least it’s temporary…

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