My second child is a few weeks away from turning one, which is so surreal because this has been the fastest and also craziest year of my life so far. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that going from one to two kids is life-changing (maybe not quite as much as going from no kids to one kid, but still). Not only because, hello, new human!, but because going from one to two kids has been a constantly evolving ride.
The transition of going from one to two kids impacts people differently — for some moms, the transition is a breeze, while for others, it’s fraught with challenges (here’s a post from Scary Mommy on why it’s a “shitshow”). For me, it started out challenging, but progressively got easier as I became more comfortable, and eventually, it became amazing. Here, I’m talking about what the transition from one to two children was like for me, some words from other moms describing their experiences, and the 5 pieces of advice I wish I could give myself if I could go back. (Where relevant, this post contains affiliate links; disclosures here.)
First, some words on the earliest days of having two kids…
Introducing toddler to new baby
There is nothing like the very first moments of my kids meeting each other for the first time. My parents were watching my older son, and brought him to the hospital to see us just a few hours after my younger son was born.
When my parents and my older son arrived, I followed the oft-shared advice to not be holding my younger son, so that I could greet my toddler with open arms, and then introduce him to his new little brother.
We had prepared for the moment by having a wrapped gift “from” his baby brother (his little brother “got him” this Paw Patrol watch, because he was a big brother now and therefore gets to wear a big brother watch).
Then, he got to meet his little baby brother. And it kind of rocked my world.
Aman, a mom and old friend I asked about the transition from one to two kids, warned that it’s a challenge to suddenly see your older child as a big kid:
[You’re] now seeing your baby all of a sudden grow up over night. As soon as the second baby is in your arms, [the older one] instantly feels like they’ve aged.Aman Sarai
…and this is exactly what happened. My older son, who was just a little over 2 years old, suddenly seemed like such a big kid.
And of course, this (false) perception impacted what happened when we got home.
Next, what happens when you get home…
The transition to two kids at home
The actual transition of going from one to two kids was, admittedly, really hard for me at first.
To be clear, taking care of a new baby for a second time felt much easier than the first time around (the stereotypes about second-time moms being more laid back proved relatable for me). Breastfeeding was much easier. (I was even more comfortable with the idea of nursing in public this time around!). Generally meeting the needs of a newborn, and of becoming a mom in general, felt easier this time around.
BTW – it also didn’t help that I didn’t feel great right after delivery: I had an accidental dural puncture (here’s a scholarly article about it) during my epidural, due likely to the fact that my epidural was being placed while I was in transition and was already pushing (!), and should not have been getting an epidural at all at that point; and then I had a failed blood patch procedure — and consequently, ended up with a debilitating positional headache for over a week. (Alas, a tale for another time!)
Balancing two kids
What I struggled with was balancing the needs of two kids with very differing needs was hard.
Specifically, in the beginning, I struggled to meet my toddler’s needs while taking care of my newborn.
And no, it wasn’t because I was doing anything other than taking care of my kids! A quick note on that:
Things that make balancing two kids easier in the early days
To the degree that it’s possible, when you’re going to be home with your two kids for the first time, do everything you can to make your life easier.
Meaning: get your groceries delivered (you can actually try AmazonFresh for free if you’ve never done a trial, or get Prime and do “PrimeNow” for free grocery delivery), get Amazon Prime Family (I think it was formerly Amazon Mom) and get diapers delivered at 20% off (you can even do a free trial if you don’t already have it),
…while we’re at it, don’t try to schedule too much, if you work from home then put as much work on hold as you can, hire a cleaning service if needed, and just generally, set up whatever systems you can to simplify your life and routine. (PSA — if you’re looking to give a second-time mom the perfect gift, it’s THIS RIGHT HERE.)
Even though I really didn’t have a ton outside the kids on my plate, I felt like I wasn’t “handling it all” very well. And I really had a lot of help — obviously, my husband was amazing with both our toddler and the new baby. And when he returned to work, I had family around to help.
Yet even then, in the early days, I often felt like I wasn’t able to give my best to either of my babies; I couldn’t play with my toddler quite as much as I had been before his younger brother arrived, and I wasn’t getting the same kind of bonding time with my new baby as I had with my older son. I struggled with mom guilt pretty much daily.
At least some of that guilt might have had to do with feeling like I wasn’t making my toddler feel as important as I could or should have been. Which leads me to this…
Balancing your toddler and your newborn means making your older child feel important when the baby arrives
My mother-in-law had shared her experience with her two kids with me — describing how when her younger child (my husband) was born, she tried to make her older child (my sister-in-law Kelli) feel extra important. (The quote is below). I tried to implement my mother-in-law’s advice to make sure my older son felt important when his little brother arrived:
I had primed [my older daughter] Kelli from the beginning of my pregnancy that this was her little baby… I was always putting David in her arms and I would load them in the car and go places as usual…
I didn’t want Kelli to feel like [her little brother’s] arrival would change her life as she knew it, so believe it or not, we all went to Chuck E Cheese when David was four days old.
Maybe being a girl had something to do with her anticipation and acceptance of this new little living doll but it was an easy transition for her which made it easy on me. There was no jealousy whatsoever on her part and she adored this new little person.Mary Rice, on helping an older child prepare for the arrival of her little sibling, and continuing to make them feel important when the baby arrives
But in hindsight, I think I could have done a better job here. Instead of going above and beyond to make my toddler feel like everything was the same, I found myself getting frustrated about behavior regressions that were happening. In spite of being an educator, and in spite of typically researching everything to the nth degree, I somehow was not prepared for behavior regressions from my firstborn. Therefore, I struggled with my toddler acting out (which I felt was my own fault).
…and of course, because of that, I struggled with feeling guilty for having both less patience, and less time, to deal with it.
Looking back, I think I was just unprepared for the reality of taking care of two kids at once, and I can see that now.
Luckily, after about two months, we all turned a corner.
Next, what happens as the months wear on…
Becoming comfortable with two kids
As the months passed, things started getting better and better.
I started to feel better physically, which certainly made a big difference.
I started getting better at managing both my kids’ needs. I got better at making sure I was giving my older son all the love and attention I could, and still meeting my younger son’s needs. I got better at managing my toddler’s big feelings, and responding to them with positive parenting techniques.
I started to get more comfortable being a mom of two.
My older son, the toddler, started to get into the groove of sharing me with a new little guy, and got used to having him in our lives. He got used to having a little brother.
I fell so crazily in love with both my boys — not just as individual babies of mine, which I already had felt from the moments that each of them arrived — but collectively, as “my boys.”
And as we got closer to the one-year mark, I wasn’t just comfortable anymore.
In these last few months this year, I’ve completely fallen in love with being a mom of two.
Next, what happens as you come up on the one year mark, and realize you’re IN IT, and you’re in love with being a mom of two…
Falling in love with having two kids
The way my friend Alexandra describes her feelings on going from one to two babies fits here:
My heart is so much bigger because I have two people I love more than I can even grasp.Dr. Alexandra Murtaugh (mom and educator)
My mother-in-law, Mary put it this way:
Children are the pulse of a family and add meaning to your life.
What greater joy and accomplishment is there than to shape and mold your own child, the product of the love between two people?… Adding a second child just completes your family and it just all falls into place naturally.Mary Rice (my mother-in-law)
Finally, here are some words of advice — the FIVE pieces of advice I wish I could give my newly-a-mom-of-two self…
Advice on going from one to two kids
In the spirit of this being happy mom guide, if I could go back, I would give myself some advice to make the transition from one to two kids a happier one. My advice to myself would be:
1. Focus more on older child
I wish I knew I should focus more on giving my toddler way more attention and love than I did. Obviously, I gave him love and attention but looking back now, I know it should have been even more.
Especially because I should have known to expect my toddler to regress and act out. I wish I could have told myself:
He’s been used to having you all to himself until now, and even though he can’t articulate it, this is hard.
And it’s hard for you too (because you’re also taking care of the new baby!), and of course, your toddler needs even more attention. But be extra patient with him, and give him even more attention, and it will help.
2. But realize there is going to be less time
…BUT going along with that, recognize that there’s only one of me, so I won’t be able to give my toddler the same time and attention as before… but this is just a reality! Most importantly,
I shouldn’t feel guilty about it, because we will all adjust!
As my mother-in-law, Mary, mentioned when describing her transition to two kids:
Life goes on and the kids adapt so easily.My mother-in-law, Mary, on kids’ adaptability
When I realized I wasn’t giving my toddler the same amount of attention as before, I felt awful. Now, I wish I could go back and tell myself:
Kids are malleable and resilient, and yes, transitioning to being a sibling can be hard, but and as long as you’re giving your kids a lot of love, everything will be okay!
So to that point, I wish I could go back and tell myself recognize that I’m in a delicate space (having just had a baby), that it’s okay that it feels hard right now, but that everything will be okay, and that I should be kinder to myself.
But first, I wish I could go back and sort of shake myself to say:
3. You’ve just had a baby.
If I could go back and tell myself something right after having my second child, it would be this: you just had a baby.
I know, obvious.
But I think as soon as I was recovered enough from my ADP that I could get up and move around, I was so anxious to get back into the swing of things that I didn’t really honor the reality that I really just had a baby, and it’s okay if I’m in a delicate place mentally or emotionally. I wish I could tell myself, you’re recovering, still. You’re in the fourth trimester too, it isn’t just your baby who is in it. You’re in the postpartum period. Give yourself a break.
In hindsight, I should have been taking a few minutes a day for some dedicated self-care practices. I know this is one of those things that’s easier said than done, but it would have been much better for my mental wellbeing.
To that point, I also wish I could go back and tell myself…
4. It’s okay that this is hard.
Looking back, I think I made things harder for myself because I felt like I shouldn’t be getting frustrated, or shouldn’t be having a hard time juggling both kids while in the fourth trimester postpartum period.
It would have made things easier for me to really internalize this truth:
The postpartum period is hard.
And it is hard to meet two babies’ needs.
And it’s okay that it’s hard in the beginning.
And because of that, it is that much more important to be kind to yourself. So the last, and most important thing I’d tell myself is this:
5. Remember to be kind to yourself.
If I could go back, I’d tell myself to remember to give myself grace through the whole process.
I wish I could say, we are all learning and growing — and it will be okay.
More Reading on Going from One to Two Kids
- Words of advice on going from one to two kids from Cup of Jo (peruse the comments section under that post for great insights)
- 10 tips for transitioning to two kids, from Keeper of the Home
- The surprising truth about the transition to two kids from Pick Any Two
- Advice for parents going from one to two kids, from Huffington Post
If you’re a mom or dad of two, what was the transition from 1 to 2 kids like for you?