Personal Story

How Having a Second Kid Made Me a Better Mom to My First

mom pregnant with second child"
mom pregnant with second child
Source: @parentpueblo
Source: @parentpueblo

By the time I gave birth to my first daughter, I had been working with children in one way or another for over a decade. I’d been a babysitter, nanny, kids yoga teacher, preschool teacher, and worked in admissions at a private school in New York City. I had a master’s degree in Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention, and another in Early Childhood Education. To say I went into parenthood confidently would be an understatement.

My husband and I also benefited from a robust postpartum support network of family, friends, and my own colleagues. We had a lot going for us. And our baby was an easy baby. She was generally calm, sent clear signals when she needed something, and smiled in her sleep. The hardest part of having a newborn was the diaper blowouts, but we quickly devised a system for dealing with those, too.


Feeling in control feels oh so good

Maybe because of all my experience or possibly in spite of it, I quickly fell into believing that my husband and I were in full control of how our baby would turn out. To be fair, this idea did not originate with me. There were a lot of voices sending me this message. 

All throughout my pregnancy, advice seemed to focus on controlling for the outcome–a perfect, healthy baby. Even the toy, formula, and baby gear ads that targeted me starting in my first trimester suggested they could impact my baby’s development. It is no wonder I left pregnancy feeling like my choices were make-or-break.

When the newborn days went well, it was reassuring to believe that this was all because of me. Clearly my knowledge was serving us well. Our baby was an amazing unicorn because I was an amazing mom! For someone with an A-student mentality, this felt empowering.



How being in control became a source of stress

Soon enough, though, taking responsibility for everything about my baby became a source of stress. She hit four months on a trip to London and her sleep… changed. Regression or progression–whatever the experts want to call it–we parents know what it really means. Suddenly our sweet bedtime routine became an absurd two-hour procedure that included nursing, bouncing, singing, and baby-wearing while humming and patting her tush in a specific rhythm. One sleep cycle later and she would cry out again.

My husband and I were sure we had broken our baby. If we were in full control, then this change was our fault, too. And it was our job to fix it. We tried everything as we grew progressively tired and spiraled down internet rabbit holes that promised solutions.

If you’re reading this as a new parent, don’t worry, she grew out of it. When she did, we took credit for that, too.

This continued to be a theme. When she ate escargots and pesto as a baby we patted ourselves on the back. When she inevitably became a pickier toddler, we dove into problem solving. And on and on. I was still enjoying parenthood, but partially because I love a good project. It was during an easy phase around the time she turned 2 that we decided to grow our family and have a second child.


My second baby was totally different from my first

When my second child was born in June of 2020 with a totally different temperament, it was like a light bulb flicked on. Of course, I knew that babies bring a lot to the table in terms of who they are; that nature and nurture are in conversation. But it took having a second child with different needs, preferences, and ways of being for me to internalize this as a mother.

It turns out some babies really do transfer from the car to the bed and stay asleep–even with a toddler running around! Some babies don’t signal loudly when they are hungry, and can go longer stretches without asking to be fed. And it isn’t because I’m any better at mothering!

Add to this the déjà vu of certain phases (hello, sleep regressions!) and my perspective has completely changed.



Taking things lightly this time around

Recognizing that my kids are who they are has freed up so much emotional space for me. Parenting is easier when I don’t feel personally responsible for every hiccup. And my first child is benefiting. Her mother is not analyzing her every move and trying to orchestrate who she becomes. Instead I’m just enjoying her. And when I’m not enjoying her, because, of course, there are phases and moments that are hard to enjoy, I can play around with my response while knowing that these phases shall pass.


Parenting is easier when I don’t feel personally responsible for every hiccup. And my first child is benefiting.


It’s not that I feel like I have no impact on my kids. I know I do. And I still feel like I’m an amazing parent (so are you!). I just don’t see their behavior in any given moment as a reflection of how well I’m doing, or as something to be fixed. Changes in sleep and eating are less stressful because I know that they will pass whether we have a targeted strategy or not. And I can appreciate their unique personalities instead of wondering whether shyness or tantrums are my fault.

My second child has given me the gift of taking parenting lightly. We are all better off for it.

7 Lessons I’ve Learned Transitioning From 1 to 2 Kids
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