After adjusting to having one child, I thought I had this whole parenting thing figured out. We are now a family of four and I have found that having two kids is so much different than having a single child. I have learned many lessons and come to the realization that I am no longer in control. Here are a few things that happen when you go from one child to two:
1. You start to wonder if your house (or car, or purse) will ever be clean again.
Your entire house is covered in boogers, spit-up residue and other unidentifiable sticky or oddly- colored substances. Your kitchen counter is covered in hand wash only breast pump parts, unopened mail, and magazines that you plan to read “someday”. The amount of laundry generated in your household doubled when you had your first child and now it has somehow quadrupled by adding one extra person. It amazes you how two tiny people can create so many things that require washing. You have no problem running the loads through the wash, but once they are clean it is somehow impossible to put them away. The laundry baskets fill up with clean clothes and soon you are choosing your daily attire from a basket or the dryer instead of from your closet. Your car is covered in crushed goldfish, melted fruit snacks, toys and chocolate milk drippings. The toys and books that you keep in your vehicle for entertainment are covered in a rough, crusted glaze of some questionable marinade. Dumping out your purse at the end of the week is actually kind of fun. Instead of just a wallet, phone, and some lip balm, it may contain random tools, snacks, socks, farm animals – You never know what you might find!
2. You have a sudden affinity for drive-thru.
You once viewed using the drive-thru as a lazy, frivolous treat. Now you wish that everything had a drive-thru or home delivery service. Running errands with multiple children under the age of 5 can be quite a feat. The thought of entering a Starbucks with an infant car seat slung over your forearm, dragging a restless toddler with your other hand, and actually making it out of there with a vanilla chai tea latte intact sounds more like a James Bond adventure than a relaxing coffee shop visit. Even getting groceries can be a challenging task. Toddlers aren’t generally huge fans of sitting still and express their preferences by adding things to the cart for you. Babies can be a wildcard – sometimes they will be lulled to sleep by a bumpy cart ride, and other times they will scream and insist that they be in your arms at all times. Even on the off chance that both children are completely content, if you have a toddler and a bulky infant carrier in the cart, where on earth do you put the groceries? If you must take multiple children on errands with you, follow these simple rules: 1. Have a plan – map out exactly what you need and do it as quickly as humanly possible, 2. know the escape routes, and 3. don’t let them smell your fear. It is also helpful to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” or the Mission Impossible theme song prior to departure.
3. You need to review and probably rework your budget.
You made some lifestyle changes with the first child – dollars once allocated to happy hours and pedicures now go towards diapers, wipes, and butt paste. You traded in your gym membership and your extensive shoe collection for an AmazonMom subscription and a one-piece bathing suit. Some budget transitions happen naturally and don’t affect the bottom line – you buy less clothing for yourself and more for the kids since they change sizes and need a new wardrobe every 3 months. The bar tab decreases while the grocery bill increases, etc. However, when you bring a second child into the mix, the picture can change more dramatically. Perhaps you start to outgrow your current home, need to upgrade or do some remodeling. If both parents work outside of the home and both children are under age 5, paying for daycare for 2 kids can cost just as much, if not more than a mortgage payment! For many households, the mortgage is by far the largest monthly expense, so adding another large monthly outflow can be a huge adjustment. More kids also mean more germs, stomach bugs, and doctors’ appointments for the whole family, which could mean more unpaid time away from work. The good news is that a lot of things you purchased for the first child can now be used for the second child – car seats, high chairs, cribs, etc. If you have two kids of the same gender, you can save quite a bit on clothing items, accessories, and shoes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that it costs approximately $245,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18 – YIKES! Having a family doesn’t have to break the bank – just be ready to make some budget adjustments and don’t get caught off guard by sneaky, unexpected expenditures.
4. The thought of family travel ranks right up there with root canals, a trip to the post office, or your annual “girl” appointment.
Your firstborn was on 8 flights before his first birthday, but the thought of flying with two babies is utterly nauseating. The term “Carry-on luggage” has a whole new meaning when flying with kids. Packing for a road trip is like a life-size game of old-school Tetris. You can’t just grab your toothbrush, hop in the car and leave – packing for an overnight trip is like prepping for a safari. Your car is filled to the brim with two car seats and two adults, not to mention a stroller, two sizes of diapers, several changes of clothes for EVERYONE (because no one is safe anymore), blankets, binkies, snacks, books, and toys. The console is overflowing with extra napkins, wipes, and boxes of expired raisins. You thought you had a good-sized vehicle, but now you are seriously contemplating a 15-passenger van.
5. You wonder if you are literally losing your mind.
We have all heard of “Pregnancy Brain” when you start to do silly things like putting laundry detergent in the refrigerator, misplacing your keys, or leaving the water running after you have left the room. Then you have children and you develop a condition called “Mom-nesia” that seems to become exponentially more severe every time you procreate. You leave groceries in the back of the car for hours (maybe even days), respond to text messages in your mind and realize two weeks later that you never actually typed a response, and walk into a room and have no recollection as to why you are there. You can’t remember if you have put on deodorant today, or if you’ve worn it at all this week. You assume that you brushed your teeth this morning, but who really knows?!? You run to the store to get milk and come home with a hammer, toilet cleaner, and scotch tape. When you finally get a lunch out with a girlfriend to have an “adult” conversation, you keep losing your train of thought mid-sentence so you have no idea what you said or what was discussed.
6. EVERYTHING becomes an adventure.
Getting through an hour-long church service is now a better workout than a P90X “legs and back” video. Between the nursing, shushing, wrangling, entertaining, and clean up – I’m in a full on sweat by the time we get to communion. Trying to keep the slobber at bay when my tots are munching on the hymnals, my skirt, or each other is quite a feat. No paper product in a 10-foot radius will live to see another day. If you are really looking for a challenge, try unloading the dishwasher with your toddler around and see how many things you can get out and put away before he gets them dirty again! You may think you successfully unloaded everything, but soon you will find Tupperware mysteriously placed in your nightstand and spoons in the doggie bowl.
7. You start to question your parenting ability.
When you had your first child, your life was changed forever, but you eventually got the hang of it. You developed a system for getting out the door on time, got your toddler to sleep through the night, you even managed to get a workout in a couple of times a week – this parenting stuff is a breeze! You thought you had it all figured out. When baby #2 arrives, you realize that you are no longer in control. You can no longer say with any level of certainty –“I will accomplish, X, Y, and Z today.” The odds of one of your offspring developing a fever, refusing to eat, or having an issue that requires your attention exponentially increases and can completely derail any tasks that you had planned. Even if you accomplish a thing or two, all are easily undone by a wily, determined toddler. You find yourself doing things that you said you would never do – plopping the toddler in front of the television, bribing him with M&Ms, or letting the baby sleep in your bed. You wonder what you have gotten yourself into and if you are really cut out for being a parent. Hang in there! Amidst the chaos, crumbs, and slime, there are moments of pure joy where your children literally melt your heart. These are the moments that make everything worthwhile. You’ll love seeing your firstborn transition from being an only child to a big brother and how seriously he takes this new role. The baby will look at his older sibling with wonder, glee, and complete adoration. When you start to question yourself, remember – you WILL get through this! That sweet little smile, contagious giggle, or sweet, slobbery kiss is just around the corner. Just make it through today – you can always try harder tomorrow.