There’s no denying the more children you have, the more challenging parenthood becomes, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how having a second baby has made everything seem, well, better...
I struggled a lot in the early stages with my first-born daughter, so much so that it took me a good seven months to truly enjoy motherhood. I found the newborn stage so overwhelmingly difficult the first time around, from sleep and feeding issues to general lifestyle adjustments, that enjoying the precious early months was an inconceivable notion. If I wasn’t obsessing over something baby-related (is she putting on enough weight? Is she putting on too much weight? Shouldn’t she be crawling/walking/talking by now?), I was struggling with my lack of identity. I simply couldn’t relate to the new mum-version of me and it gave me all sorts of anxiety. Before my second child was born six months ago, I anticipated feeling much the same and prepared myself for another rough start to parenthood. I wondered (and Googled) how on earth I was going to deal with a toddler who was starting to push buttons and a newborn who was solely reliant on me. Would I fall apart? I expected yes, but the reality has been a pleasant surprise. Here’s why:
Don’t sweat the small stuff
I’m a worrier by nature and having a baby only increased my anxiety in every way imaginable. To say I was a stress-head the first time around is putting things mildly. Strangely enough, having two children has actually decreased my anxiety levels and made me not sweat the small stuff. I now have the experience to know that every stage – good and bad – will pass and that no matter how tough things seem at the time, they will get better.
Ignore the noise
Having a close-knit circle of mum-friends and family to rely on is not only helpful, but essential, but it’s easy to fall victim to too much conflicting advice. I was in a slightly destructive habit of asking everyone I knew about everything baby-related and it became more confusing than anything else. These days I trust my gut more than anything and only ask a handful of people for advice when needed. The lesson here? While everyone has good intentions, not everyone approaches parenthood the same way, so take every bit of advice, wanted or not, with a grain of salt.
Little things are big things
This is something I now live by and it’s been all the more obvious with two kids. The seemingly small things – playtime on the mat, a first swing at the park, a day at home doing craft – are the big things now. When I first had my daughter I would think that I had to “do” something everyday in order to feel like I achieved something. I would book our days with activities such as swimming, Gymbaroo and endless playdates, which not only stressed me out, but also compromised her sleep and consequently her temperament. These days I’m taking the slow parenting approach and doing very little to fill my days with one or both kids. I’m not bothering to enrol my son into any activities before his first birthday, because truth be told, I think it’s a waste of time and money and I’m focusing my energy on a happy and healthy home life. I truly credit this way of thinking with my son’s calm and happy nature – he is happiest when we’re doing nothing much at home and so am I.
Make your own rules
If I’m honest, a lot of my parenting choices with my daughter were largely based on fear. I was so hell-bent on being the perfect mother (ha!) that I went to great lengths to shield her from things deemed as “bad.” She never saw a TV, iPad or phone screen for the first 2 years of her life, ate pureed kale and quinoa and rarely had even the slightest cold thanks to my meticulous (and slightly over-the-top) hygiene practices. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting the best for your child, I do think it’s easy to get caught up in a world that is more idealistic than realistic. I’m taking a much more relaxed approach with my son, partly due to being more time-poor, but also because I don’t actually think it makes much difference in the end. Along with homemade purees he gets a healthy dose of store-bought baby food too and I don’t panic if he catches an episode of Peppa Pig while my daughter is having some TV time. Juggling two children with work and general home duties means I simply don’t have time to be so hard on myself or to follow anyone else’s set of rules but my own.
I can’t have it all, but I can get help
I find asking for help very, very hard. By nature, I like doing everything myself until I basically burn out and fall apart. This way of doing things isn’t possible or smart when two kids are involved, so I’m now much more open to accepting help in all forms before things get too much. If my husband and I have a busy week with work or commitments, we don’t hesitate to order food from a meal delivery service (The Dinner Ladies are a current fave) and if I’m juggling appointments or things are simply getting on top of me, I ask our family to help out with the kids, even if it’s just for an hour to take my daughter to the park or to sit at home with my son while I run errands. Our house isn’t as well-kept as I’d like it to be, I still eat sugar and I do get overwhelmed most days, but knowing that most things in my life are OK means accepting that some things simply won’t be. More often than not, something’s gotta give, and as long as that something isn’t my kids or myself, then I’m more than happy.