Ah, going from one kid to two, Debbie. I remember those days well. I remember looking at the new baby and thinking, “Who the hell are you, oh breast-sucking thing that takes me away from my other son?” I remember my older child, at all of 18 months old, very symbolically taking out his agita at the new brother-situation by cracking an egg in every room of the house while I nursed the baby. I remember the baby nurse, when she left, telling me that I should divorce my husband. Yes, this was overstepping the bounds of the usual “how to bathe the baby” provenance of the baby nurse. Since she ended up being right, though, we’ll forgive her the undiplomatic directness.
Most of all, I remember dropping the baby nurse off at the train station after that first week and driving home with the two kids in the back of the car. It was almost amazing how quickly things went from “train station” to “train wreck.” The rear-facing newborn started to wail and to make sounds that sounded like a veritable avalanche of feces. The older one, after trying, “No cry, baby! No cry!” decided he would weep hysterically as well. As I drove down the highway back to my suburban house to be in time to feed both kids, what could I do? If you can’t beat them, join them. And so, the three of us cried all the way home.
I really believe that any increase in the number of children–whether from zero to one, from one to two, from two to three, or from three to four–involves a huge, tectonic-plate-like shift of life. Trust me: I’ve lived through it multiple times. Now on my fourth kid, I’ve lived through having two under 2 (my two older boys are 18 months apart) and now am doing it all over again (my two younger girls are 15 months apart). I am clearly insane.
I say this not to lay claim to some sort of parenting expertise. In fact, it’s just the opposite: If anyone knows just how much those first few months are a total sucktastic crapfest with a new kid, it’s me. Of course, you love the new kid, you love the old kids, you’re lucky to be a mom and to have such a great family. Yes, all that is true. But you’re also dealing with a whole new can of worms, and like a car that has a recalibration system, you suddenly need to figure out how the hell you are going to balance the new load. How are you going to find time to shower? Did the toddler actually put your hairbrush in the baby’s open diaper? How can you breastfeed a baby when your other kid/kids/partner needs you? How can you pick up the kids from school, change a dirty diaper, and feed a baby at the same time? How are you supposed to figure all this out on four hours of sleep? Is there some sort of toddler boarding school? (The answer to this last question, I believe, is “no.”)
Carla and Tamara‘s tips for how to live life as a parent of multiple children are fantastic and basically say it all. I only have one thing to add: you will only survive this with a sense of humor. Try not to get mad, and to laugh instead.
Because trust me: without the sense of humor, you’re going to be sitting down to eat crap at the Restaurant of Parenthood, and your reservation will be under “Bitter: Party of One.” I have eaten at that restaurant before. And I would prefer not to go back.
Yes, it’s easy to be angry/frustrated/annoyed/furious on a daily basis at all the crap that will be going on in your house. In fact, for some of us, it may be the reflexive reaction. “Hmm, your blood pressure seems a little high,” the nurse told me at my postpartum checkup. Um, NO SHIT, SHERLOCK, was my first thought. YOU try checking math homework, breastfeeding a baby, making an egg for a toddler, and packing two school lunches and snacks at the same time and see how you feel, lady.
I’m suggesting that when confronted with the shitshow of multiple parenting life, just take a deep breath and see it for what it is: really, really funny.
Sure, you could be annoyed as hell when you sit down to nurse and your toddler decides it is a great time to go through all the drawers in her room and empty out each item of clothing one by one. Instead, just look at the way she is carefully tucking her once-neatly-folded pajamas into the Diaper Champ and shake your head and laugh. Don’t sob when you see you have gone to school pickup with your shirt still unbuttoned and your breastfeeding gazongas basically hanging out–just laugh at yourself in a status message and let your friends comfort/laugh at you. Sure, you could cry when your son offers to help bring you refrigerated breastmilk and then trips and spills it all over the kitchen floor–but then, you would ACTUALLY be crying over spilt milk. And you have to admit, that’s kind of funny.
Yes, motherhood is all those great moments like birthdays, vacations and unsolicited hugs and kisses. But it is also tantrums, vomit, mysteriously missing homework, hysterical tears and hair pulling (sometimes all at once). Having more than one kid is like turning up the volume on all those things, good and bad. So sit back and enjoy the music/cacophony. Maybe even turn on the radio as an accompaniment: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”