Thursday, June 2, 2016

What I've Learned (already!) as a Second-Time Mom

The learning curve to becoming a new parent is steep. It was like a shock to my system, if I had to describe it concisely! My first baby is now almost 2 years old, and our newest little bundle just turned 3 months. Yep...I have 2 kids under the age of 2. Fun stuff!! So if you're reading this for some advice, you've come to the right place!


1. Your Parenting "Standards" Will Lower

Take the current bar of expectations and standards in your world of parenting with one child and drop it down. 

Now drop it down much lower than what you just did in your mind. 

There. Just right!!

I quickly learned that survival mode goes on a whole lot longer than just that initial 6 week recovery period after your second baby is born! My parenting style is full of structure and routine. But once you have 2 tiny humans who need you nearly constantly, something's gotta give! 

Ava gets oh-so-much screen time, both the iPad and the tv. I've struggled with this now for 3 months and I'm DONE stressing about it. She's learned a few shapes and lots of animal names and sounds and songs and even improved her fine motor skills. I kinda now see it as a plus!!

Sometimes Avas snacks or lunch or nap can be up to an hour late because I simply can't get to her because of whatever chaos is going on with my needy Liam. Most of the time she doesn't care or notice, which brings me to my next standard: food in the living room. THIS IS A HUGE NO-NO FOR ME. I don't want my couches/carpets ruined due to a messy child that could be eating at the table. I have enough to do and clean already; I'd much rather the mess be contained in the kitchen. We had a "Cheerios only" rule for the living room - a simple snack that wouldn't leave sticky residue in the wake of Ava eating. 

But along came Liam. 

Sometimes I just needed to sit on the couch and zone out. I didn't want to get up. Or sometimes I was feeding Liam or he was sleeping in my arms and getting her in and out of her chair at the table wasn't really a good option. So now she gets a little bowl of a low-mess snack and she knows to stay near us with it. 

Am I ever going to give my kids yogurt on the couch? Heck no!! Maybe when they are older. I was raised with a "food only in the kitchen" rule and I like it. So this is a good compromise for me. 

And sometimes I regret my snack choice for her and I have to vacuum that night. (Who knew Frosted Mini Wheats would be so incredibly crumbly and messy?!)

Also, I'm not picking battles with food. Ava can eat what she is served or not eat at that meal. I'm not a short order cook and I don't have time to fuss over what she is or isn't eating. With that being said, Ava had a ton of mac and cheese and pb&j's because we were so exhausted and just needed food on the table for her.

Remember, survival mode!

It doesn't really matter what your oldest eats - just feed them something! It will be okay.


2. Solo Errands Are A LOT HARDER

Liam maintained his "I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime" ability for about 4 or 5 weeks. 

And then it was just gone. 

I tried to wait for the window of time when Liam had just woken up so I could feed him and then we could load up in the car. We'd have time to get to 1 store and then I'd need to come right back home so he could sleep again, or else he'd wake up the next time we got out of the car and couldn't fall back asleep. Or Ava would throw some kind of fit and her yelling would wake him. I didn't count on tantrums from big sister being a reason Liam wouldn't sleep!! But then I realized I was kind of becoming a prisoner in my own home. I couldn't do much of anything! So now I make sure he's rested and fed like before, but if he's tired and can't stay asleep, well...we just try to hurry through the rest of our errands and get home. Sometimes both kids are screaming by the end of the trip. That's just how it is sometimes. Until Liam can handle staying awake longer, some days one of his naps is the sacrifice for the greater good of getting groceries and toilet paper!! I hate for him to cry and be upset, but there's not a whole lot I can do when I'm in the checkout lane or driving home.


3. You Can't Keep Both Kids Happy All The Time 

This one is hard. Having a new sibling is an adjustment. At 2 months in, Ava finally understood that when mommy is rocking Liam in his room with the lights out that we need to whisper. Until she leaned that, it was the most frustrating thing when Ava would bang on the door or come in dancing and singing or yelling and wake up Liam. 

Ava had frustrations along they way. She just wanted me to play with her! Getting down on the floor was hard for me because of my csection. I had to be careful for awhile. So I'd manage to get on the floor and a few minutes later Liam would cry for whatever reason. I still feel bad when Ava and I are just getting started on something together and I have to walk away to go help Liam.


4. MOM GUILT

OHMYGOSH the mom guilt. This one was (is) a doozy. And one I didn't really see coming until it all came crashing down on me. It's gotten a lot better as now I've had 3 months to adjust.

But oh. my. goodness.

I felt so bad for Ava. Like I was neglecting her. I was afraid she'd thought I had forgotten about her. I had spent all my previous life of being a mommy focusing entirely on Ava, and now she wasn't the [only one who was the] center of my world anymore.

And it was really, really hard on me!

I missed her, even though I saw her every day. I wasn't allowed to lift her for 6 weeks (I think I made it to week 5 before I said screw it and I'd gently scoop her up for a giant bear hug), so I couldn't even hold her like I used to.

I needed my girl, but Liam occupied so much of my time! It was also hard for me to let go and let other people help take care of her. As a SAHM who doesn't live near family, I have never been away from Ava for more than a few hours at a time. I'm attached to her, for better or for worse!! So knowing that I had to leave her at home for 2 DAYS was so, so hard for me. I almost couldn't tell her goodbye at the hospital the morning of my csection because I was afraid I would burst into tears in front of her and freak her out. But she did great at home with my mother-in-law; she only had a few sad moments on the second day, which is pretty impressive for a young child who has never been in anyone else's care!

I still have frustrations when I want to do something with just Ava. I try my best to prioritize one-on-one time with her. Some days we fit a lot of time in, and sometimes we don't. Sometimes it ends up being me just letting her play in the bathroom with me while I get ready in the mornings, and sometimes we get down and play on the floor for awhile with whatever she wants to play with.

5. Adjusting to the Personalities of 2 Children

It's amazing to me how different my two kids are already! At only 3 months I see very different preferences in Liam than I saw with Ava at this age. I continue to learn things about Liam every day. You never know what you will get! And this can drastically change how your day-to-day life goes. Ava was a laid back baby but she took chronically short naps. Liam is more needy and he could take a 30 minute nap or a 2.5 hour nap - but I never know how long a nap will be! A lot of the things we did with Ava as a baby would not work for Liam and vice versa. So even though I know how to raise a baby, it is still hard this time around because Liam is a different baby, so I still don't always feel so confident in what I'm doing!


6. The Exhaustion

Having a newborn again puts you back at square one - minimal sleep (or on a bad night, maybe that's closer to no sleep!). And this time, you can't "sleep when baby sleeps" because, oh yeah, you have another child running around the house! I can count on one hand the number of times Ava and Liam's naps have aligned and I've managed to sneak a nap in - even if it was only 10 minutes! I'll get a nap on the weekends if I'm really needing it. I'm busy all day long with these two, so it kind of hides the sleepiness (and I take Plexus products too!) until they go to bed and then I just melt into the couch!


7. Tune Out All the Parenting Advice - ALL OF IT

Yeah I was already pretty good at this the first time around, except I was plagued by fear of doing something to make my life harder with a baby. I think my post-partum depression in those early months compounded the issue. Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start and I had read somewhere that things like changing your body wash or wearing perfume can make your baby reject you. Or that keeping baby awake even one minute longer than what their ideal awake time is can make them overtired and impossible to put to sleep. Ava was a tricky napper so I followed nap routines religiously. I was TERRIFIED of "messing up".

This time I know that most of that "research" I came across was complete bologna, but I suppose there can be ultra-sensitive babies who might be thrown off by a new scent on mommy or confused at naptime by minute changes.

And in this day in age, you can't go one day on the internet without somebody saying what you should and shouldn't do while raising a child. OHHHHHH MY GOSH it's getting so old!! Why?? What is the big deal with it all? Child-rearing is not a competition! Consider that there are endless combinations of parenting styles/parenting personalities/child personalities/family lifestyles/family situations/age gaps between kids/coping strategies. No two children are EVER going to be raised the same, not even siblings!

I just don't care! I'll browse things on Pinterest to get some new ideas for a tricky toddler or google a new approach for how to wean from a swaddle, but I'm not going to get all bent out of shape if I see that someone is recommending something I personally would never want to try.

But seriously - you know your child and the situation your family is in. Browse for tips and ideas, but don't worry about the random things strangers say! I had a lady the other day tell me to not let Liam look in one direction all the time because it wasn't good for his eyes (I was wearing him and he was fixated on a ceiling light while we were talking). Just be prepared to smile and nod and walk away and forget it! Especially now when I'm trying to quickly do errands with the two babies - I really don't want to be bothered by strangers and their desire to stand and talk for forever about what they feel I should know. I'm tired. I just want to get in and out before one or both of my kids has a meltdown! I'm rarely in the mood to listen to it!


I've probably made it sound like having a second baby is awful, but that's not how I mean it! In between the hard times are amazingly wonderful times!! The smiles and giggles and snuggles I get from my babies always makes up for the daily struggles! And I love seeing the two of them interact. Ava has become such a helper - she's usually eager to go get Liam from his room after his nap, she wipes drool off his chin with a burp cloth, she brings him toys, and she is genuinely concerned when he's really worked up and crying about something. She likes to kiss him goodnight and cover him with a washcloth in the bath! Liam watches her any chance he gets!

I know these months of struggling won't be forever. I'm just in that phase where just about every minute of my life is dedicated to wiping bottoms, wiping tables, and wiping tears. I am glad Ava and Liam will have each other as playmates as we continue through this life of being an Active Duty Military family. Sometimes it can be very isolating and lonely! And that's a BIG reason why I have this blog!!

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