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And Family Makes Four: Surviving the First Year With Your Second Child

"It’s crazy, it’s beautiful. It’s your new life."

Published on: July 07, 2017

Family circus

A close friend of mine, with two young children, has a fun, whimsical sign hanging in the entryway to her house that reads: “Welcome to the Shit Show.” 

Every time I see it, I giggle. I can’t think of a more fitting sign for a new family of four.

When Baby No. 2 makes his or her arrival, it’s a wonderful time. A new baby! A little brother or sister! It’s also an overwhelming time of great transition as you learn to navigate life with two. How do you balance it all? How does this even work, you ask?

A second-time mom with everything to learn, I took my cue from the many “growth mindset” articles in my newsfeed. Armed with new ideas, tried and true wisdom and plain old wingin' it, these 5 mindshifts saw me through that first year with a second child, allowing me become a more intentional, present parent. 

Not everyone is going to get their needs met 100 percent of the time. This is my No. 1. If you’re a “fixer” like me, one of the four of you will not have their needs met. Period. This means: someone will be crying or whining, someone might be hungry (hangry if you live in my house), someone (adults) might not get to meet up with a friend or exercise or make their morning smoothie. Trying to be in the moment and thinking about priorities (who needs what when), will help you along.

Realize things don't get done exactly when you want them to, but eventually. This is a mindshift, for sure. You were rocking work-life balance and then bam! Baby No. 2 happens. Now you’re back to square one. Laundry unfolded, dishes in the sink. And add toys on the floor from your oldest. Asking for help, hopefully, is much easier the second time around, as we (OK, I) could pretty much care less about having it all together. This goes along nicely with...

Surrender and relinquish control. Nobody can be perfect nor is it a worthwhile endeavor to try to be. When talking to veteran mothers of two, “surrender” seems to be the word. Give up control. Your type A-ness might be lost, but you have much to gain. Whatever word you want to call it, it’s really just about being kind to yourself. Allow yourself plenty of space to be human, to be imperfect. You will nail it one day and #momfail the next. It’s a wave. Ride it.

Whatever it takes. Some days you will divide and conquer; other days the four of you will be laughing merrily on a beach blanket. And (yes, I’m going to say it): TV is not quite the enemy you thought it was. Limited, controlled screen time can really come through in a pinch.

All to say: You will figure out your new parenting rhythm and how to spend time with each other. After birth, Mom and baby will spend a majority of their time together, but there’s always room on the family couch during feeding. Eventually, the pendulum does swing back. Whatever it takes. And take time to spend quality time with your oldest. It goes a long way to fill up his or her emotional bank account. 

Relax and enjoy. The second child is a completely different experience (different interests, sleep schedule, etc). You must realize it — all of it — is just a stage and a temporary one at that. With Baby No. 1 it felt like we'd be rocking and shushing for the rest of our lives. Thankfully, we didn’t. Perspective is everything. This is our last child, and knowing this, it's been a much more pleasant experience. You’re different; they’re different; it’s all around different. Try not to compare. Do try and enjoy. 

Being a family of four is like a traveling circus: After a few months together, you figure out the routine. It’s crazy, it’s beautiful. It’s your new life. 

Here’s to every success as you take your show on the road. 

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