Having a second kid hit me pretty hard. With the first, I was ready and excited, I knew how to be with babies, I knew what I was in for. I went back to work part time, found a great daycare situation, took pretty good care of myself, and gave Peanut 100% of my attention when we were together. I can't say that life with one child was always all rosy, but it was pretty darn close.
I'm sure people tell you how hard the transition to two will be, but I am not sure they are clear enough or that I was willing to listen to them. I had no idea the level of guilt having a second child would cause. Am I giving each one what they need? (no) Am I giving myself what I need? (no) Am I giving my marriage what it needs? (no). I understood that I would and could spread my love and attentions around, but I don't think I realized that there are useful ways to do that and really detrimental ways as well. I know I had no idea about the depths of sleep deprivation and the resulting complete lack of patience, empathy, or caring about the attention getting antics of a 2-3 year old.
I'm feeling like I am out of the very dark woods now, and have learned some lessons to share. I've spoken with some moms lately about the birth of their second child and how they have been evolving, and I've thought a lot about the things I would have done differently.
- Keep daycare. I would have continued once a week with our daycare provider for several reasons. It would have kept Peanut with a familiar adult who doted on her and would provide her with some of the one on one attention she was not getting from me. I think Peanut feels sometimes like she lost something big when Pumpkin was born since she stopped going to daycare. It would have also forced me to focus solely on the baby for a while and not feel guilty about it.
- Have someone care for the kids with me, rather than taking one or the other for a while. I feel like something I needed was someone to remind me how great my kids are when I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I would have loved to have someone show me or comment on them in order to help me focus on the positives instead of the negatives. I'm sure people did that, but I feel like it needed to be less subtle.
- Scheduled time to be with my older child every week. I feel like when i did have someone help, it was always to take care of Peanut so I could deal with Pumpkin. I think having someone take the baby so i could spend time with the toddler should have happened earlier than it did. As it was, I think we were trying to repair bridges by the time I had "mommy daughter days".
- Nap. I have never been a napper, but I think i should have made a conscious effort to nap when I could. Now, I don't know how realistic that would have been as naps for both kids were spotty and uncoordinated, but I do think I could have tried family naps or some other way to get some more rest and become less insane.
- Continued to seek help. I had a therapists for a bit last year, but when she sounded like a broken record saying I just needed more sleep I kind of gave up since that wasn't happening any time soon. I wish I had continued on and found someone else to work with and work through some issues.
- Got more exercise. I really needed to start taking care of myself better a long time ago. It's still not happening consistently and Pumpkin is almost a year and half. I have fallen way down my own list, and that is bad for lots of reasons. I'm way more patient when I eat well and get a workout in. I sleep better, yell less, lament my wrinkles less, enjoy my children more, and do much better at rolling with the punches if I've exercised.
- Listen to more music. This could be a whole post in and of itself, but the technological change in how music is listened to has not been easy for me. Finding and making sure the Zune is charged, finding the speakers, flipping through to find the album I want...it's more than popping a CD in the stereo. Music makes me feel - good, bad, sad, happy - and it helps me release lots of emotions. I feel like I haven't nearly done enough listening and singing to get my feelings out and off my chest.
I know there's more that I'd have done in a different way if I could, but I'm here now and it's been done, so the best I can do is pass my advice along. As hard as this road has been, I wouldn't change it for the world. Those two babies sleeping upstairs are everything to me. When I think of the things I have said and done because of my exhaustion, impatience, or whatever, I just want to cry. They, like all children, should always feel and know love. If you are a mom of two (or more) and finding it hard to be loving, know that it happens to all of us. You are not alone - it's just hard to talk about so you feel like you are the only one. Your kids are great and they are what matters. Everything else is just stuff and it will all be there when you are done listening to, talking with, holding, loving your child.