How My Wife and I Reduced Our Stress After Baby #2

written by JAY WILES
reduce stress after second baby"
reduce stress after second baby
Source: Canva
Source: Canva

As any parent with multiple children knows, going from one to two kids brings more joy but also more challenges. Before our second son was born, my wife and I worried about the same things we did three years prior when we were expecting our first baby. Then, we realized all this stress and worry—about new routines, daily challenges, or maintaining a clean home after a second baby—wasn’t worth it.

We decided to change our approach in anticipation of baby #2. Instead of just accepting the upcoming stress, we focused on how we could eliminate some of those worries and enjoy our growing family more. Here’s what we did to reduce our stress after our second baby and create a more relaxed, joyful environment for our family.

Encouraged Sibling Bonding

My wife and I were understandably ecstatic about welcoming our second child into the world. But our nearly 3-year-old son wasn’t so sure. As the due date drew closer, we started to talk to him about what life would be like with two kids in the house.

To ease the transition, we bought a gift “from” our infant “to” his older brother—a plastic t-ball set that’s still getting lots of use one year later. I was skeptical if this approach would work at first, but it brought more joy to our oldest than just about anything else.

We Didn’t “Blame” the Baby

We also wanted to do what we could to keep our oldest from feeling jealous of the time the new baby got with us—particularly with mommy. So, we made a point to never “blame” the baby. My wife spent a lot of time nursing the baby or rocking him to sleep. So, I intentionally never said things like, “Mommy has to go feed the baby,” or “Mommy’s busy with the baby. She might come play later.” Instead, I would redirect him to focus on what would come after mommy was free, saying, “I bet mommy would love to see what you built,” so he would think about how to maximize the next time he gets to spend with mommy.

Planned Intentional One-on-One Time

After baby #2 was born, my wife intentionally set aside 10 minutes every day after we came home to focus on our older child—no phones, no distractions, just the two of them. And our oldest set the agenda; Mommy would do or play whatever he asked. I also loved this because I had some uninterrupted time to bond with our newborn and enjoy his cuddles and coos.

Embraced Flexibility

This was a tough one for me. After our oldest was born, I was sure we could schedule every part of our baby’s day—give or take about 15 minutes—and that was moderately successful. Bedtime was generally around 7 p.m. We’d follow the same process to get everybody in the car and follow a meal plan. After #2 was born, I mistakenly thought it would be just as easy to follow these routines.

Boy, was I wrong. Bedtime may be 7:30 p.m. some nights, and it might be 9 p.m. on others. It often depends on the varied nap schedules both boys have. Additionally, we have to make sure our oldest is emotionally regulated. If he needs a change in scenery—whether that’s a short bike ride or time outside sliding or swinging—we try to accommodate that need.

Our oldest also tries to exert independence, wanting to carry bags—or even the car seat with his brother—to the car. We try to slow down and allow him the flexibility to help wherever he can. He has also started being more vocal about what he wants to eat. We usually stick to the meal plan so he gets a balanced meal with protein, vegetables, and some starches. But sometimes peanut butter and jelly is all a kid needs to be happy (and if you throw it on a tortilla instead of bread, the “peanut butter and jelly quesadilla” becomes a new emergency delicacy).

dad reducing stress after second baby
Source: @karissfarris

Let Go of Perfection

After we had our first baby, my wife and I would spend time cleaning all the toys that were out so each day would bring a fresh start. After our second baby, we sometimes pick up the toys. Weekly cleaning routines—from vacuuming to cleaning the bathrooms—tend only to be partially complete. And that’s OK when you’re trying to reduce your stress after a second baby.

Stopped Tracking Baby’s Every Change

With our first baby, we—like most parents—closely tracked every diaper change, every nap, every dose of medicine in an app before talking about these same things with each other. With baby #2, my wife records how much he eats and most diapers. I don’t really mark diapers. We typically put medicine into the app if there’s any chance the other parent won’t be around when additional doses may be needed.

And since we’ve relaxed our recording, I’ve noticed doctor appointments are unchanged. We still know if he’s developing normally with feedings, diapers, etc., without needing to document every detail.

Made Meal Routines Easy

I never considered myself a good cook until I got married. My culinary “skills” were limited to things I could put in the oven or microwave and eat immediately after cooling. But in the years my wife and I have been together, I have greatly expanded my kitchen literacy. I love spending an hour making a creamy chicken dish with Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and more.

But after a long day at work and daycare, when our kids need to connect with us most, we don’t do anything complicated. Finding simple recipes involving the proteins we like to eat—salmon, chicken, and turkey—has been important. They may not be as decadent, but they work.

Accepted That We Will Make Mistakes

After our oldest turned 3, he became more vocal about his opinions and began to argue with us; he’s a toddler, this is normal. But with the simultaneous stress of having two children instead of one, standing my ground as a parent has meant raising my voice—and sometimes I admittedly take it too far.

That typically leads to my toddler running away in tears after I denied whatever request he had. I instantly begin to think he’s never going to like me again. So I stop what I’m doing, comfort him, and always make a point to apologize—whether I was wrong or not. Sometimes, it’s, “I’m sorry, buddy. Dad felt really frustrated and was not kind when you asked to watch another video,” and other times, it’s, “I’m sorry I made you upset. I understand you want to watch a video, and I wish we could, but dinner is almost ready.”

One recent night, he and I had a frustrating moment like I mentioned above. He never really cheered up after that. But at bedtime, about an hour later, I apologized again and reminded him that I love him. He responded, “I love you, daddy!” That confirmed that none of these frustrating moments will ruin him forever.

Know That We Need Breaks, Too

While these are things my wife and I try to do, no matter the number of kids, sometimes we all need a break. Our oldest has a tablet with dozens of videos he likes loaded onto it. We’ll also turn on his favorite YouTube videos while our youngest naps on the weekends.

At the end of every day, remember perfect parenting does not exist. We are human. We are surviving—and hopefully, thriving—in some of the most unscripted days of our lives. And setting realistic expectations will make it easier.

jay wiles contributor

Jay Wiles, Contributing Writer

Jay is a communications and industry relations professional at an aerospace tech company. With a background as a journalist and a government agency spokesperson, he is thrilled to now work in a field that offers a better work-life balance. He loves spending quality time with his wife, Anna, and their two young boys, Titus and Ezra.