doubling up : reality sets in

Welcome to our third day with women who understand what it means to have a second child! We've heard a little about who they are, how they prepared their home and themselves, and now we're ready for some insight into what it was really like. Thanks for joining us. Enjoy!

So, Ladies, what were some of your greatest adjustments or surprises in adapting to two children? How did your work situation affect this life change?

I still remember the first time I was being left alone at home with 2 children.  I was scared that they would both need something at the same moment and I would be lost with what to do.  Of course, it went smoothly and you realize that this is how kids learn patience and resilience.  Carter loved being a helper - getting diapers for his baby brother, finding toys for him, or just making faces at him to keep him entertained so I could run to the restroom!  One time, I left the room for a sec and came back to find the baby with matchbox cars all over his head and body. Carter said he was playing with his brother and that the baby was pretending to be a parking garage.  And, yes, the old story of drawing on the baby with a permanent marker will happen at some point.  It did to us!!

I think the second child forces the parents to have more team work.  With one child it is zone defense.  If the kid is not in your zone, you let the spouse take care of things.  With two kids, you change to man to man defense and try to divide and conquer.  We were pretty good with making sure each kid got one on one time with each parent - and that each parent got a break and a night out every week.

With Gunnar, I took a 14 week materity leave.  It is always hard going back to work.  However, after 14 weeks I was ready.  I am very lucky in that after each child was born, I made a choice to go back to work.  It was never a situation of having to do something that I did not want to do. This is another one of those things where you have to do what is best for your family and what makes you the best mom you can be.  There will always be someone on the other side of the fence thinking the other way is better.

Greatest adjustment on an emotional level was getting over the feeling that by not being able to tend to Abby at the drop of a hat like I used to be able to, that it would somehow scar her or make her feel less important! Sometimes she just had to cry or wait and that was ok. You are so used doting over just your first and of course you want all of your kids to feel equally loved, special, important and wanted. Other than that, getting out of the house on time and doing mundane things (grocery store, target, etc). It was a production until until I got in my groove!

I am home full time and feel very blessed that I am able to be. I won't lie, it can be difficult but playgroups and other friends are essential and I also sometimes will put the girls down for nap and have our wonderful babysitter for a few hours in the afternoon just to get out and get a break.

IT WAS SO MUCH BETTER than having only one beautiful child!!! This was ridiculously surprising to me. Cee and Patrick were companions immediately. And even though they were at such different stages of development at that point, they always knew the other was there. This was difficult when they both needed me simultaneously, of course, but the multiple-child atmosphere nurtured a culture of community. This had good effects on both the children and me. The children, from their earliest memories (especially because child #1 was so young when the second was born), knew instinctively that they were loved and cherished--and so were others. Without detracting from unrepeatable individuality, being with siblings develops a healthy sense of perspective: I am not the only person on this earth; everyone has needs, and sometimes my needs don't come first.

Having more than one child also made me a better mother! Sometimes I felt spread too thin, but I also developed a healthier perspective on child rearing. Whereas I would always run immediately to my firstborn when she was an only child, Patrick sometimes had to wait while he was crying. I never would have considered delaying attention when I had only one child, but now I simply couldn't get to one of the children at the exact moment he or she called. This made me relax. It also revealed something to me: children can learn to play on their own! And babies can sometimes settle themselves down! I always remained an attentive mother, but the multiple-child phenomenon taught me that a little alone-time can be good for children who aren't in an emergency situation.

I stopped teaching after #1 was born, but I spent the next two years finishing my Master's part time. By the time I graduated, I had two babies with the third on the way. By the next year, I began private tutoring in the evening. Although it was difficult to switch gears in my brain from Veggie Tales to A Tale of Two Cities, I'm glad I had some intellectual work to pursue. I kept busy with work that did not require daytime babysitters: I wrote a book, taught voice lessons, chaired committees, sang professionally and in choirs--but I always relied on the advice of my husband and children to help me determine if I was taking on too much. I had to learn the art of saying "no" to opportunities.

I returned to teaching in the university after our fifth child entered school. The university teaching schedule (two days a week) works well with caring for school-age children, although the grading load does, at times, interfere with family life. This is an ongoing conversation.

I am happily amazed to see how my vision for a career is sublimated to my vision for a healthy and intimate family life. I am not scared to consider that my most important work is here with my family. When I graduated from college, I would not have expected to feel this way about my vocation; I sort of assumed that work and public recognition would always be critical to my self-image. College partly prepared me for a career, and partly it formed me into a liberally-educated adult who appreciates richly diverse ways of improving society.

Really, compared to Hannah, who had a few complications and couldn't breastfeed, the second was sooooo easy, and that was the surprise.  The reality was actually refreshing.  I had been so nervous about how childbirth and health of myself and Clare would be that it was a relief.  Things also came easier the second time, kind of like riding a bike--I already know how to breastfeed and what I need to pack and how to change a diaper.  My body was used to being sleep deprived, so I found that I didn't have that zombie-like first 3 months as I did with my first daughter.  I wanted to get out of the house a week later, and had the Baptism and a huge party 3 weeks after she was born.

And all my anxiety about how is Hannah going to deal with it...she loved Clare,  and was such a mommy towards her.  It was really great.

I worked part-time with Hannah, while pregnant with Clare.  When Clare was born, I did some substitiute teaching (about 3 times per month).  It was great being able to stay involved in the schools, while mostly staying home with the girls.  Now I am home full time and it is really great.  I had the hardest time staying home with the first, Hannah, because it was lonely and she couldn't talk to me, but as they get older and I become more used to it, I love it.  I have also made a point to find a supportive group of other mothers. This so necessary.  So is going to Target!

I feel like the adjustment was hard but immediate.  I cried after David was born because I was so worried about how Tom was doing without us, and I kept trying to tell Arch to go home and be with him so at least one of us was at home.  At the same time, when Tom did come visit me in the hospital, I felt like he and I were both different and our relationship was immediately changed because I had David, this tiny person who needed me almost all the time.  I was emotional because I couldn't be there as much as I wanted to for Tom in the same way.  I was blessed to have Arch home on paternity leave for 6 weeks, so my 'guilt' for not being with Tom all the time was mitigated because he was having great Daddy/T time.  When he went back to work I think I felt most like a ping pong ball, bouncing between children.  Nurse David, try to get him to sleep, try to do an activity with Tom and feed him lunch, nurse again, try to get them both down for naps...I still kind of feel that way sometimes.  I felt bad that I couldn't give both of them all of my attention.  But we worked to figure out how to read books and nurse at the same time, and it helped that Tom is very verbal for his age, so I could talk him through things and ask him to bring me books or toys if I couldn't get up right away. 

I noticed I am much more willing to get out of the house with David at an earlier age than I would have with Tom.  I took him to playgrounds and parks even in semi cold weather in order to get Tom out of the house, whereas with Tom I was home snuggling him on the couch the first couple of months.

I was home full time.  I honestly have not thought about how the adjustment to two might have been different had I been working.  It's never really been on my mind.  Some days if I am having a hard day and am still in my PJ's when Arch gets home it can be frustrating, but the joy of being with both of them far outweighs the difficulties.  I am blessed to have so many other friends who are also home and would either come over to help me and keep me company or encourage me to come visit them.


Ladies, once again, thank you for your insight and honesty. I hope everyone is enjoying this series as much as I am. I'm grateful I had these words when I was going through changes in my own life.

Friends, let us know what you think! Are you going through the same things? What is your experience?

And check back tomorrow for another installment: SLEEP.


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