When your family goes from three to four
I have had multiple friends give birth to their 2nd child lately and more about to do the same in the next 4-5 months. One such friend recently asked me, “What’s it like to parent two kids?” I thought it was a great question to think about … what exactly were the biggest changes that our family and I as a mother had experienced when our family went from three to four?
I still clearly remember the day I went into labor with Abigail. I had several uncertainties about having a 2nd child, a few being the unknowns of whether or not I could love a child in the same way I loved Elijah, how he would respond to being ‘dethroned’ as the baby, and how our family dynamics would change. Well, December 12th, 2010, came and I had to face those uncertainties head-on because our baby girl was coming! I remember shedding many tears that day because I realized, as much as we were ecstatic to welcome a 2nd child into our family, that life as we knew it with the three of us was over. I realized my parenting attention would never again only be for Elijah. I realized that his little world, in some ways, was about to change in huge ways that he had no idea about. I mourned the losses we would experience in leaving being a family of three behind as I breathed and worked through each contraction that came (Whew – back labor … now that’s an ‘adventure!’ ;)).
It really is a big change, although I realize it’s easier for some than for others. As the mother, you go from being one-on-one to one-on-two. You have a new child to learn about and figure out how to love well, without just assuming s/he will respond and act like your first child. You have two little ones demanding to have their needs met right now, and yet you are only one person. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! But I’ll be honest – as much as I want to run and hide in my room some days, I wouldn’t trade having two kids for anything. As people told me, having a 2nd child only brings more joy and, any ‘losses’ experienced by it are far outweighed by the ‘gains’ your family receives (I just couldn’t believe them until I had experienced it myself). I loved watching Shun-Luoi love on his little girl. I enjoyed watching Elijah watch her and get to know her. I loved her sweet little demeanor and how she grew to have such a quick smile. Her name is Abigail, meaning, “father’s joy” and she is just that – joy – to each of us and our family as a whole.
But back to what I told my friend … and c’mon – we all know I am not the resident expert at having multiple children. I am not claiming to be that; I am only offering what I shared with my friend, the new mom of two kiddos:
- At first it’s hard because you try to meet both childrens’ needs right away, which is, I’m sorry to have to tell you, impossible. One of the biggest lessons I have learned with two children is that sometimes the reality is that one of them is going to have to wait. Chances are, s/he is going to be just fine, even though they may communicate that they will not be. 😉
- In the same vein, once I accepted the fact that I was just one person and there was just so much of me to go around (when Shun-Luoi is not home), things got easier.
- It is a transition for Child #1 to realize that Child #2 is not going anywhere, but then they settle in and pretty soon (especially if they’re close enough in age), Child #1 won’t even remember when Child #2 wasn’t around.
- Having two kids can be pure chaos at time – that is just a reality. However, you will get into a routine (a new one! Clinging too tightly to the routine you had when you just had one child will only lead to stress and frustration) just like you did when you learned about having one child.
- Have Child #1 help out in little ways with the new baby. Even though Elijah was just 20 months old when Abigail came along, I was amazed at how much he could help. He could bring me new diapers, throw away old diapers, etc. Letting him help out communicated that he was part of things and could be “mommy’s special helper.”
- Make sure both parents (if that is the dynamic in your family) have good alone times with Child #1. Elijah and his dad are trying to begin regularly going on ‘man adventures’ together, which both love, and I too love when he and I get out alone, even if just to do things like run errands.
- Explain what you can about the new baby’s behavior (as best as you yourself understand it!) to Child #1. For example, we explained that Abigail cried because she could not yet talk like Elijah could, so that was her way of ‘talking’ to us.
- Although there are many more that could be listed, I will stop with this one; the one I feel is most important. Give yourself grace because you’ve never parented two kids before! Don’t expect yourself to automatically know how do it. It will get easier as you realize what each child needs from you and then as you accept what you, as one person, are able to give each of them.
Oh, and one more thing … ask for help if people are not offering to do the things you really want/need help with. Others want to help, but just sometimes don’t know how, even thought their intentions are great. Help them help you.
What about you other parents who have had more than one child? What are the biggest pieces of advice you would add to the thoughts I offered my friend?