First off, as part of the 21 days of gratitude, I’m so very grateful today for my husband, hands down. I am very lucky to have him as my partner and father to my two boys. Today was a hellish day. When I call him in a panic, he comes running (not walking) to my side. Without him, I don’t know if I would have made it through today with my sanity intact. Thank you, D.
This is my first “more wordy” post–it’s been weeks in the making (writing, deleting, rewriting, etc.). I’m terribly self conscious of my writing. Please bear with me through it…I’m not the most eloquent.
It seems like everyone around me lately is either having their 2nd child or actively trying for #2. I wanted to write a post about this topic–having your second child–because in all honestly, these past almost 9 months have been such a challenge for both D. and I. I never, ever expected to be this frustrated, exhausted, defeated and just plain burnt out all rolled up in one. I love my sons very much but the adjustment to having 2 young children to take care of has been difficult.
No one talks about this–at least not to me. When I was pregnant with Q., I have this vivid memory of going to the library with E. and there was a mom there with a 3 year old and a newborn. Everything “appeared” to be going superbly. She looked rested, no one was screaming, the baby was dozing away, everyone was happy. I asked her a few questions about how she was coping and she said it was “fine”. She said her 3 year old doesn’t nap anymore but she was able to manage the 2 children on her own and seemed to be enjoying herself. Fast forward ~9 months and I’m currently thinking to myself, “what the heck!!!!!”
On a daily basis, I feel like a horrible mother. My eldest son, E., is now 28 months and over the past month or so I believe we have officially hit what is called the “terrible twos”. I’m not dealing well with the “terrible twos”. Basically, if E is not constantly stimulated by something (a game, toy, activity, etc.), all hell breaks loose. E., if bored, will get into everything he is not supposed to and/or start smacking his little 8 month old brother. I have a tough time finding the patience within myself to calmly deal with these situations. I wish I could quietly and slowly say to him, “please dear, don’t smack your brother” but to be honest, E. doesn’t listen to me and finds more joy in continuing to smack his brother after I have told him not to (he just does it harder this time!). I usually lose my cool after the 3rd smack and take him up to his room for his 2 minute time-out which I really didn’t want to ever do (this is where I start to feel like a crappy mom). I don’t know how else to get the point across to E. that this behaviour is unacceptable. I feel like a horrible mother because I can’t seem to constantly keep him occupied with some sort of fabulous brain stimulating, educational activity (I’m usually dealing with Q.–and no, I’ve tried to get E. to help me take care of Q. and he wants no part of it!).
The lack of sleep also gets to me at times although, that’s one thing I think you get better at as the years go on–dealing with the sleep deprivation/interrupted sleep. The worst lately has been when both boys were sick. No one was sleeping. I can handle when one doesn’t sleep but when both are up at night, I feel like I’m going to go bonkers.
I have run into moms with similarly spaced boys on the street or in the library and they are so encouraging saying things like, “it will get easier”, “they will begin to occupy themselves”, “you will eventually read the newspaper again”. I love these women. I need to spend more time with these women. They are my cheerleaders. I don’t know if it’s because my first child was E: busy, active, VERY short attention span, etc. Maybe if I had a child who would read books by themselves or play with a toy for more than 30 seconds at time, I wouldn’t be writing this post? Recently, I spoke to someone who was surprised with my admission that having a second baby was a HUGE challenge for us. For her, she didn’t have this experience. Admittedly, the other piece of the puzzle was that I had two children 20 months apart. If you wait until the “terrible twos” are over when you have your second baby, is it easier? I suspect so.
My friend, B., keeps saying to me, “I don’t know how you do it?” She has her eldest 3 year old daughter in daycare 3 days a week so she can spend time alone with her baby at home. She’s right, I probably would be a little more sane if I had some time on my own with Q. every week but honestly, that’s not what I wish for. I wish I had more one-on-one time with E. Since Q. came on the scene, I feel like I’ve had no time on my own with E. I’ve always got Q. attached to me in some way and poor E. seems to always have to share me with his little brother. A few months ago, upon the advice of another friend, I tried to implement “dates” with E. We only did this date thing once. E. and I walked to Starbucks and ordered him a milk and me a decaf Americano and had a wonderful time together. I wish I could keep this going but it’s tough when you’re entertaining or travelling on weekends. I need to make this more of a priority.
After having baby #2, you will absolutely have no time for yourself anymore. It’s over. Whatever your spare time was, is now your children’s. You will have to learn how to do laundry/make dinner/respond to phone calls (the other day I had to call about our Raffi tickets with both kids screaming in the background!)/use the washroom with a child or children attached to you, possibly crying. You will be covered in spit up, snot, poop and pee at some point throughout the day (I’ve had days where it’s been all four!). You will begin to talk to yourself, in public and people will give you weird looks. Eating meals becomes all about how quickly you can shove enough calories in your mouth. It’s also very difficult on your marriage. There are days when D. and I barely talk (and the ridiculous thing about this is that D. works from home!). It’s especially hard to have a conversation when E. is vying for our attention. A friend of mine said that the hardest year of marriage is the year after the second child is born. Initially, I didn’t agree with her but now, 9 months in, I would have to say that’s been true for D. and I.
Now the venting is over…yes, it’s been a real challenge. There are days/hours/moments when I feel like I can’t do this anymore and then…that day/hour/moment passes and things are better again. I think that’s the best piece of advice I received from someone that in tough times you just have to say to yourself, “this time will pass”. The challenging time will end and it will be quickly replaced by an 8 month old giggle or a dance party in the kitchen with my 2 year old. We’ll all be smiling again and I will look into my boys eyes and feel very, very lucky to be their mum.
Here are few things that have made my life with “2 kids in 2 years” easier:
-find yourself your closest Starbucks drive-thru and frequent as much as you need to (and don’t feel guilty about this–sadly, it has recently brought real joy to my life)
-get yourself a good double stroller (I own a Baby Jogger City Select–I’ve been happy with it and it’s very popular in our neighbourhood so I suppose it’s a good buy)
-during nap time, don’t do anything and give yourself a time out
-schedule regular time off (to blog, to cook, go for a run, get a pedicure, talk to a friend on the phone, whatever just do something for yourself)
-take advantage of those times when the baby naps to reconnect with your older child (when Q. is napping, E. and I cook or do crafts together)
-find other moms who are in a similar circumstance to commiserate with (I have a friend who had her children pretty much about the same time as I did and although we don’t live in the same country, we communicate often over email and phone. She just “gets it” and I need someone like that right now).
-try to come to peace with the fact that your house will be a hell hole for the next 2-5 years (or if you can afford to, hire a housekeeper!)
-for the first ~2 months postpartum, we primarily ate frozen dinners or a meal delivery service–you will have absolutely no time/energy to cook (we also used a meal service for part of that time). If you have family, ask for frozen meals.
Is it getting easier yet? No. Every time Q. changes (developmentally, starting solids, sleep patterns), I find it’s tough until I adapt too. I’m not overly looking forward to when Q. starts to move–will have to deal with baby proofing everything again and worrying constantly about what he’s putting in his mouth. Eventually, it will get easier, I know. They will start to occupy themselves and not need me anymore to feed them, put them on the potty, clean up after them. I’m trying my best to appreciate this time when they are both very young as I know it will be over too soon and they won’t need me anymore. That’s why this time is so bittersweet, I suppose. You are so exhausted but at the same time, you’re blissfully grateful for your little babies.