When I got pregnant with my second child, our son was 4-years-old. I was so excited for him to get a brother, but I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t be able to handle it all. I was scared that I would either drop the ball with him or not give the new baby enough attention.
How in the world would I have time to heap loads of energy and attention onto our almost-kindergartner and care for a new baby? Turns out I didn’t have enough time to raise our big boy as, well, as thoroughly as I had been. And it just so happens that was the best thing to ever happen to him.
1. I had to step back.
My oldest son has gotten exponentially closer to his father. Dad was present and willing before the new arrival, but now I see how frequently I took over. When you are the default parent, sometimes it is just habit to take charge of every bedtime or school project. Once I was occupied with nursing an infant, my husband had time to shine. They have grown so much closer, and I realize that by being so involved in every aspect of his care I had left little room for day-to-day bonding with dad.
2. I encourage more independence.
I used to be the mom playing with her kid on the playground. Now that we usually have little brother along for the ride in his stroller, I hang out on the bench and supervise. I do love playing with him, but now I encourage him to play by himself. I’ve noticed lately that he seems much less hesitant to try new things or spontaneously run up to play with kids he doesn’t know. His confidence has flourished.
3. I don’t run the second he calls.
I admit it. I used to run whenever I heard him call, “Mom, I need you!” although it was rarely an emergency. I usually found myself summoned to take apart some Legos or help him find a pair of socks. Now I have learned to ask what he needs when he calls before I come rushing in. More often than not he is capable of solving whatever dilemma he has on his own. The less I assist him, the better his problem-solving skills get.
4. I finally make my needs a priority.
I found out quickly that trying to juggle two kids without any moments for myself burned me out. So I have learned to insist on a few moments of self-care per day. Like many moms, I have a tendency to push my needs to the bottom of the list. But now there’s an added person and a much longer list, so I had to start giving myself a little better billing. It might only be 10 minutes for (an uninterrupted) shower or insistence on exercising before taking him somewhere. But these little bits of sanity incorporated into my day make me better equipped to deal with issues that arise, and they also teach him an important lesson. They teach him that we are all important members of this family and that Mom’s needs matter too.
5. I have better perspective.
Not every hiccup is a big deal. I see now how seriously I used to take every tiny thing. Of course important issues should be treated as such. But if my son gets in minor trouble at school one day or misbehaves on the tee-ball field, it’s much easier for me to see it as the small event in parenting that it is. Now that there are more of us, I look at my family like triage: The most severe issue gets treated first. If my 5-year-old gets a “yellow note” at school and my baby has two ear infections, suddenly the note makes me chuckle instead of fret. The fact that I am no longer overreacting (as often) has made life quite a bit easier to deal with, and puts less pressure on him.
I know so many moms of singles who worry incessantly about juggling two kiddos. I was one of them. But in the irony of all ironies, I am such a better mom now. I still pay attention to my older child, but the new baby has forced me to give him some more room and quit being so
neurotic attentive. He has some space to grow now and has done nothing but flourish.
So if you’re expecting your second child and concerned about it, I’m here to say it will be just fine. You might not struggle with the same challenges that I do, but I guarantee you’ll be amazed at the way your family, and you as a mom, evolve in your new normal. It may just be better than it ever was before.