It seems to be everywhere that going to the third child is the hardest and that mum of three children are the most stressed however four or more children they are the most relaxed. However after having four children of my own I whole heartily disagree with this. For me personally going from one to two was by far the hardest number and here is why;
With your first you have TIME. Lots of TIME. Even if you have a baby that doesn’t sleep, has colic and is quite challenging you have time be able to help soothe your baby. You have time to sleep from 5am when bubs has been up all night and you have time to be able to fit into the babies routine. When you have two this time is halved. Literally halved and immediately. There is no phasing in period. There is no period to help the eldest child to adjust and there is no time for you to plan. This therefore plays into mum guilt peaking at baby number two.
You also feel as if you should know more as a second time parent because you have done it all before. It makes it feel worse if you can’t settle your baby or they are different from the first because you have already been through it. It also makes it harder to ask for help because you feel as though you should know. Trust me all babies are different. I regularly ask friends advice on things for my kids. You will forever be learning. Embrace it.
With your second you want everything to be quicker because the next stage is ‘easier’ or you want them to feed quicker so you can tend to you other child. You want them to sleep through so you have the energy for your other child. This is also why sometimes the second child can seem either easier or less demanding because of how you perceive your time being used. If your toddler is being demanding for breakfast but the baby is sleeping all of a sudden the toddler is challenging whereas prior to the baby this was a non-issue. Again this then reinforces mum guilt because of how you priortise your time and energy.
Again with your second you feel immense guilt as soon as you see those two lines. This starts during pregnancy because you are concerned how the baby will fit into your world. I personally never thought about how I could love another child as much as my first but this seems to be the biggest concern for my friends (they all realise once bub arrives that this is no longer a concern). However you feel bad about leaving them to give birth and the list doesn’t end there.
Once baby number two arrives you also feel like you are constantly telling the older child “later” “hold on” “the baby is sleeping” and again the list goes on. Or you feel you are constantly reprimanding the older sibling because they are too rough, or simply being a child however once you are tired everything is harder. This I can tell you from first hand experience. This doesn’t make you a bad parent. This makes you human.
Lastly I personally found that having two of the same gender in a row made me over compensate. I am not sure why but I felt bad that suddenly everyone was saying he didn’t need clothes or toys because he had my eldest child’s clothes and toys. I actually went straight to the shops and bought ridiculously expensive clothes because I wanted him to have his own. Mum guilt knows no boundaries that is for sure.
However please have hope that once they get bigger it all becomes easier. Routines are formed and life falls back into place. The guilt that comes with being a parent second time round diminishes and then lulls you into wanting more (potentially).
I personally found going to 3 and 4 easier because the elder 2 and 3 already had someone to play with and were older which made them more independent. When I had my third and fourth I still had toddlers that were crawling. That certainly made it more challenging but atleast they were mobile, which reduced their frustrations. Also your family routine is so engrained by that number of children that the new babies literally just slot in. I am not saying this is what everyone has experienced and I know my challenging years are ahead of me (my eldest starts school next year) I just wanted to say to the mums that feel like they are sinking there is light at the end of the tunnel.
You may be stressed that the newborn is being fed sultanas, poked in the eyes, roughly patted and you aren’t sleeping but this will all pass. The beauty of time and hindsight is that you can learn so much from someone who has been through what out are going through. I constantly preach about asking for help and this is a perfect time. Ask how routines were established and what worked and what didn’t. Generally most people want to help and you can always take what they say with a grain of salt however once it make actually help. Furthermore please don’t feel guilty. Your children know you are doing the best you can and that is more than enough.