One evening during bedtime cuddles, my son Ryan opened up with concerns about the upcoming arrival of our second child. “I don’t know how to be a big brother,” he said. “What do I do when the baby cries? I don’t know how to take care of a baby! Also, you know how I’m reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume? Well, the little brother in the story is always being really annoying. What if the baby is going to be annoying just like in the book?”
Ryan had been wishing for a sibling for over five years…but now that his longtime wish was soon to become a reality, he was filled with mixed emotions and fears. I was impressed with how in-touch he was with his feelings and his ability to express them and realized that I had not yet done the same.
My Mixed Emotions About the Baby on the Way
As he often does, Ryan provided a mirror for my own reflection. His openness, and perhaps the fact that I am now so close to our due date, prompted some personal introspection. Like Ryan, I am very close to something that I have wanted for such a long time and though I am excited and appreciative, I am also a bit apprehensive.
I’m filled with my own questions: How will I be able to juggle the needs of two children? Will the considerable demands of a newborn allow me to still give Ryan the attention he deserves? Will there be any time left to take care of myself and my husband? How will I feel about this new child? Will I be capable of the same depth of love for this child as I have for Ryan? Ryan is so independent now (and a fantastic sleeper!)…how will it feel to return to a reality of sleep-deprivation and tending to a child who needs us to do absolutely everything for him?
Learning from Other
I noticed some of Ryan’s anxiety eased after he spoke with his friend who had recently welcomed a baby brother. Ryan was able to hear from someone whom he related to that it’s hard to have a new sibling, but it’s also a lot of fun. I decided I would ask some of my trusted friends and family members what words of wisdom they had for me to address my many fears. Here is some of what they shared with me…
- At first, you feel tremendous guilt about not giving your first child as much attention. Or you feel guilt about not giving your second child what your first had received. After a while, you realize that it is a gift to teach your children that they can’t always have your full attention exactly when they want it, and that the gift of having a sibling far outweighs any frustration over sharing parental attention.
- The task of managing another whole person in your family is exponential. This can feel overwhelming, but it is also completely normal. There will be times when it feels like too much and you just need a break. Give yourself a chance to catch your breath, remember these are natural feelings, you are on a learning curve, and that the hardest moments will pass.
- Be proactive about anticipating the needs of your first child as he/she adjusts. Find a special activity that he/she can only do as a treat in the moments when you have to prioritize the baby’s needs. Plan play dates with friends and family so your first child is engaged. Also, prioritize some one-on-one time by designating one day a week where the two of you do something special together without the baby. Realize that like your firstborn, you will also be yearning for this special time together as you deal with the shift taking place in your relationship.
- Take comfort in knowing that you are already an experienced parent and although there are new challenges, there is already so much that you know. There will be a new ease with which you approach parenting a second child.
- Know that the heart has tremendous capacity to love. You will be surprised by the depth of love you’ll have for your second child. You’ll love them as much as the first, but you’ll love them differently as you experience parental love again in unique ways. You’ll learn that aspects of your children resonate with you in different ways at different times. As one parent put it, sometimes you feel like vanilla, and sometimes you feel like chocolate, but you always feel like ice cream…and the swirl is usually the best!
Each piece of advice I received resonated with me and helped me to realize that I also have my own reserve of wisdom to tap into throughout the adventure ahead. If I were to add my own advice to the mix, it would be to appreciate every part of the experience, and remember that even the difficult moments will make the good times sweeter in the long run. I commit to cherish every stage of what is ahead, knowing that it will all go by so quickly!
Since reaching out to my friends and family, I feel more in touch with my emotions and better prepared for the life-changing event ahead. I’ve been reminded how important it is for us to be honest about the real challenges of parenting, to stay connected, and to seek out the support and wisdom of others.
I know many of you have already been through the process of welcoming a second child into your family, and some of you are preparing to do so soon. I’d love to learn from you as well…
- What questions come up for you as you prepare for (or even think about) having a second child?
- What lessons have you learned from your own experience or from others that can be helpful during this transition?
As always, I welcome your reactions, thoughts and comments on the blog.