From One to Two
People sometimes wonder which is harder, moving from no kids to having them, or going from a specific number of children to another number. It’s not a very good question, as everyone enters parenting with a different mentally and set of resources. A single mother is going to face challenges that a married working mother or a stay at home mother may never encounter. Some moms may be more concerned with putting food on the table, or spending quality time with their children or simply finding a free moment to themselves. Spousal and family support levels make a huge difference in how much stress a mother has, especially in the United States where maternal support is slim to none. It should come as no surprise that countries with good maternal support have lower abortion rates. But I digress.
A better question would be one that asks mothers what particular challenges they faced adjusting as they moved up the parenting ladder.
From None to One
I probably had fewer problems adjusting to the mental ramifications of parenthood than a lot of other new moms. For over ten years I’d been breeding and handfeeding birds. Sometimes this included incubating, hatching, and caring for chicks from Day 1. Psittacines, unlike chickens, are altricial, born naked with closed eyes and a complete dependency on their parents or caretaker. I had tons of experience feeding small pink blobs every two hours around the clock. Instead of diapers, I changed bedding. I had to keep them within a specific temperature range. I had to slowly wean birds to soft foods before moving them on to the regular stuff. My social life was impacted, as I either had to bring birds with me to handfeed or go back home every so many hours to feed them. Bringing them with me involved carrying lots of equipment like formula, syringes and mixing cups, and I required both a way to heat water and wash dishes. In high school I kept chicks in my anatomy teacher’s classroom, where I had access to an outlet, sink and beaker heater.
All this left me really well prepared for handling a human infant. It was basically the same thing, just much longer (the birds weaned in 12 weeks or so). Yes, I’ve had to deal with all the normal parenting crap. When should I offer solids? Should I co-sleep or will that kill my kid? Will I always be this paranoid about my kid climbing on playground equipment? How much TV should I offer, if any? But I think the hardest part of becoming a new parent is the realization that your kid runs your schedule and every waking moment. A friend of mine said the hardest part for her was a few weeks in when she was so tired and she knew there was no way to get sleep. None. She’d just have to deal with it. Sure I was exhausted. However, I was already mentally prepared for giving up many personal things like sleep, going to the movies, a social life, a regular schedule, etc. to take care of completely dependent creatures.
From One to Two
I got over the whole pregnancy thing a lot faster. Pretty much from the moment I got pregnant. I hate being pregnant. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and lasts for such a long time, but the first time around you’re willing to forgive all that. It’s new and exciting! Second time you just want the kid at the end of the tunnel.
After this blogger had her second kid (I was following her on Parenting.com at the time) she confessed that she wanted to skip the whole baby phase and get to toddlerhood. I couldn’t believe it. Who wouldn’t want that adorable, cuddly baby phase!? Now I totally get it. Walking and talking are where it’s at. Your infant spends the first year being very frustrated because either they can’t move or eat or do any of the things they see other people doing. I’d be frustrated too. When they start crawling they get much happier; walking even more so. Talking is huge, because they can finally communicate, and you’ll see tantrums lessen as their vocabulary increases and their pronunciation gets better. Being able to have a primitive conversation with my daughter is awesome.
You’re less paranoid by far. First time around I watched my caffeine intake while pregnant. I didn’t eat any soft cheeses, even though I love bleu cheese. Second time around I could care less. I was less scared of randomly killing my baby somehow. The co-sleeping question? There was no question. You’ve already learned that kids are a lot sturdier than you give them credit for, and with that comes the ability to chill out a lot more.
One mistake I made was to delay potty training. I didn’t want to be potty training while nursing, nor did I want V to regress. I should mention that my kids are 22 months apart. So V was ready to train while I was pregnant, but I delayed it. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account that the whole nursing thing would be pretty consistent until at least six months, probably nine. That’s a long time. Shortly after I gave birth I had to start potty training anyway. V was ready and I didn’t want to lose the nice warmer weather. By delaying, I actually ensured that I would be training at the exact time I didn’t want to. It was every bit of a pain that I thought it would be. Every time I sat down to nurse she had to go and needed help. The whole thing makes me want to space the next kid closer to three years so that A will be potty trained for sure.
Logistically things are more difficult with two. That has probably been the biggest adjustment. Costco grocery carts fit two kids, but most other carts don’t. If they do, they tend to be huge and unwieldy, gross or broken. Our grocery store has the carts with the car attached to the front. They are extremely difficult to maneuver and the seat belts are always broken. This means that halfway through shopping, if that, V is actively trying to exit the car while the cart is in motion. I now just shove her in the main basket, but that leaves very little room for actual groceries. Plus she likes to punch the bread.
The car is now extremely crowded. I have an SUV but it qualifies as a compact car. It was great for two adults and one kid, but now it’s really crammed. If anyone comes to visit they have to take a separate vehicle if we all go out somewhere. My husband is also pretty tall and has even less leg room now. I didn’t think we’d need a bigger car until kid 3 rolled around, but it looks like I was mistaken.
Having two kids pretty much cemented my status as a stay at home mom. Unless I get some really well-paying job, it’s just not economical to pay for daycare for one child, let alone two. Any net money earned, if any, would be offset by the children losing their time with a primary caregiver.
I can’t really say whether the jump from 0-1 or 1-2 was more difficult. Each poses its own set of challenges. I’m guessing that going from 2-3 will just be more of the same, but we’ll revisit that when the time comes. Hopefully not for a few more years.