Two kids. I haven’t exclusively talked about what it’s felt like for me to have two kids on here, and I want to.
But part of me is really scared to openly share how two kids is for me and us because since we’ve had Marin, many of our friends have added or have thought about adding another child to their family. Many of them are pregnant now or have personally messaged me to ask about how two kids is to better prepare their own nest.
But I feel completely unqualified to answer or field these well-intentioned, excited parents-to-be, because for me, on many levels, having a second kid has felt really, really hard. Add to that fact that my children can one day read everything I openly write here – and bam, you have a disastrous mix of isolation and lack of honesty. But I’m going to choose unwithheld honesty this time because I feel secure that having a second child has its benefits – they just may not all happen the first few months of that transition. And I’m secure in that because…
It’s kicked my butt to have a second kid. (And to be fair, I have a very ‘easy’ second kid.)
All of the things I took pride in in my own parenting up until Isaac’s birth centered around the idea that I could give Marin my undivided, complete attention every day of her life. And I was killing it,folks. We were at every possible program that Medford or our church had to offer. We were at playgroups and playdates and we were at the park till lunchtime all summer, making playdough snakes together, and reading story after story before bedtime. It was awesome. I had learned and mastered parenting my one kid and she and I were basking in the rewards of one-nap-days and quality time galore.
And then I had Isaac. On the day that Marin happened to be sick and she only wanted her always-available-till-then Mommy. And in those first few weeks, I didn’t have a terrible problem with our daily adjustments – she was benefiting from deeper relationships with other caregivers and bonding with and loving on Isaac (which are true still). But the problem was that I was slowly losing that quality time with her, that relationship with her, and for me at least, that bond with her.
It felt like I was losing a lot and gaining a lot at the same time. I had a wonderful, new son, who if I didn’t have a toddler, I could have laid in bed and cuddled all day because he loved to lay on my chest and nurse peacefully all day. But instead, I was feeling the pressure to move Isaac to the next step so that I could enjoy Marin again. She was getting the bits of me that were leftover from her brother, and I constantly felt guilty about it.
Because on top of having to meet Isaac’s needs constantly, I didn’t want my extra time to go to Marin. Or to Mike who would also have enjoyed some. I wanted my extra time to go to myself – to my alone time, my personal space, to not be touched by a single person, and to just shut down. I wanted to retire myself to do something for me. That phase of one nap bliss was gone, as one kid went down to bed, another woke up, and our new normal became paralyzing for me to maintain.
I wanted to work out and I wanted to eat food in silence. I wanted to feel like I had something left to myself at the end of the day, and instead, I was constantly snappy because it felt like it was all on me or taken from me or both simultaneously. It felt like the whole world was on my shoulders and whether that day was good or bad or a win or loss too. I’d shut the door to put Isaac down to bed in our room, and after this routine got old, I’d hear Marin cry, or bring me a snack to open for her to eat, or come out to her playing alone without complaint.
I felt like I was missing out on her, and like I was also holding her back. My toddler regressed and it sucked. She was potty trained, and even now, I wonder why I cared to do any of that pre-Isaac. I would get so frustrated when she’d have pee accidents or poop because she failed to get her pants off herself or would have to go when I was occupied with Isaac. I was testy with her when she wanted me and I didn’t want to be wanted. I felt so alone with two kids because we no longer got out and I no longer wanted my extra time to go to anyone but our immediate family. We were frozen in and when we weren’t, it wasn’t worth hearing Isaac scream in his carseat or convincing Marin to walk on ice for 30 minutes of fun. I thought I was crazy for having two kids many times this winter, and I thought of how hard it would be to say that because many of you know that I want a big family – and I still do (despite the insanity I’m writing about. Maybe all of my future children won’t be born into a season with record snowfall…).
But even now, as the weather is nicer and Isaac’s naps are more predictable, it’s still really hard. I still feel a lot of dread many days and I have more anxiety than I’ve ever had in my life (I should note that I truly don’t believe I have clinical Postpartum Anxiety from checking with trusted providers) – although things are getting more predictable, and therefore, easier. I find motherhood more isolating than it’s ever been for me because we rely more heavily on having people over for convenience’s sake and I’ve pulled back from many social relationships and commitments. I’ve become a lot more internal and stayed close only to a small circle of people that I have the energy and time to invest in and be honest with. I don’t feel like I have the ability to get to know someone new, or host get togethers, or stay up to play games with friends, or have an intentional conversation with Mike which were still maintainable with one child.
My kids go to bed collectively by 8:30 p.m. and they can be up as early as 5:30 a.m. which is a serious problem when I need ideally 10 hours of uninterrupted rest. Couple that with the anxiety, and you have a version of me that could easily sleep 12 hours or function as a zombie. Now add to that calling to catch up with someone, wanting to date your husband, making meals, washing dishes, having any kind of social calendar, checking emails, cleaning floors, etc.- and it’s a real struggle to figure out the priority at any given moment. The hardest parts for me, therefore, are when both kids ARE sleeping – and I don’t know what I should be doing because so much feels like it still has to be done. Again, this definitely gets better with time and weather, but I still feel overwhelmed by our still relatively new challenges.
So people, that’s it. I write a lot about the happy and blissful moments which are still abundantly real and present – and they’re valid too – but I feel like I’ve really struggled into two-mothering. Sometimes I can lose perspective and forget that in the trenches of motherhood, there is a lot of beauty and simple pleasures that I would have formerly taken for granted in their routineness. And that appreciation has definitely blossomed since Isaac too. Now, reading books to Marin, especially more than a couple at a time, is a real treat for her and I together. When I sit with her at the kitchen table, when Isaac takes her morning nap, I am more intentional about asking her questions and I treasure her answers more than I ever have. I appreciate the times I’ve gotten to invest in our Mommy-Daughter time, but I’ve also wanted to hide in the bathroom a little longer than ever before from the kids and really, everyone, even my own self and thoughts.
I’ve learned that this two kid thing is requiring a significant jump in my own self care and I can tell how much better my days are when my needs are met before my kids. So with that, I’m showering and going to bed because as the old saying goes “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Time to help make tomorrow a great day for everyone!