My sister had her second baby last weekend, and between her, friends, and my fellow mama community, it feels like everyone is suddenly stepping in to this 2-kid club. I am now 9 months into this craziness, and while I’m hardly seasoned, watching my sister come home with her new itty bitty, facing a new reality as a family of four, it suddenly feels like a lifetime ago for me and mine. And yet I’m taken right back to that very raw and very real time. The unknown mixed with the familiar, the exhaustion that is exhausting because you know this time will NOT be like the first, the overwhelming happiness met with the “what-the-f*ck-did-we-get-ourselves-into” emotions. (The last of which hasn’t completely worn off yet).
I have also recently received a number of new 2-kid parents ask me “when does it get easier” with that deer-in-headlights fear in their eyes. The funny thing is, I never thought I would be on this side of that question. And really, I shouldn’t be. But they are looking at me, 9 months ahead of where they are now, thinking it must get easier… while I am looking at parents with 5 and 7 year olds thinking the exact same thing. So here I am, in this world of relativity, pondering this moment, and the growth I have seen in myself and my family over the last 9 months, searching for a glimmer of hope to quell the panic of those just starting this journey.
It’s an easy question to answer with expected banter about the things you know to be the hardest in early parenthood: the sleeping, the fragility, the fatigue, the hormones, the sheer survival. But in reality, I can’t say when the having the 2 kids part actually gets easier, because I’m still very much looking for the answer. But this is what I know: all parents know that once you have kids, your barometers and standards shift. You can suddenly do superhuman things on 2 hours of sleep, you can shrug off the more frequent bickering with your partner because BABIES, and as long as the clothes are clean, it doesn’t matter if you fetch them from the dryer for a week before they actually make it back to their proper drawers. These are all true things, but these are all things you learn when adjusting to life with one. So, naturally, having two brings on new layers of everything you have seen before, and then some – it’s what’s to be expected. And each time a new kid comes into the picture, those “shifted barometers” become a new baseline (at least for a while). But while I can’t pinpoint exactly if or when a specific thing or time is easier, I have learned 3 things about life with 2 kids… regardless of the “easy” or “hard” of it. Because let’s be honest, it’s always gonna be hard.
It doesn’t get easier, but it gets better
And with the “better” comes the rhythms, the comforts, and the trust that this too shall pass, because you learn that each phase can come and go like the flip of a switch. This “better” is about the big picture, because we all have our bad days, but this “better” means going to bed with blood shot exhausted eyes, and not dreading the next day. I feel like we can finally see a light – I don’t know what the light is, what it’s coming from or leading to, but I know that as each day, week and month passes, things settle and begin to feel a bit more natural. And from what I’ve seen and heard from those with older kids, the “better” just keeps growing. There is something I will always love and miss about these early years with 1, 2, or however many more kids we have. As hard as it is, I do enjoy this time… but I look forward to the “better,” and will take any moment or glimpse of it I can get. 9 months in with 2 is already “better” than it felt 9 months ago.
It doesn’t get easier, but it gets different
(as in, some things get easier, some things get harder)
• Yes, it gets easier when everyone sleeps: but I have a 9 month old and a 2.5 year old, and sleep is still unpredictable. A few good nights a week is enough to call a win, but we’ve just accepted that we’ll never quite sleep like we used to. Yes, today’s sleep is easier than the newborn sleep days, but on the flip side, we are so far out from those days, that we’re expected to function like normal humans. So at this point we’re just dealing with the buildup of fatigue from day to day, which also makes it harder.
• It gets easier when they can play with each other: It makes it fun, yes. it makes it easier
because I know they can enjoy each other’s company. It makes it easier because it gives me time to brew a pot of coffee while they chase each other in the hall. It makes it easier because watching an emotional bond bloom between them is the reminder that it’s all worth it. But “playing together” can also end in injury and tears, which also makes it harder.
• It gets easier when the baby is more self sufficient: It means I can put her down in a pack n’ play to cook dinner or give my toddler a bath. It means I can bathe them together because she can sit unassisted. It means she can entertain herself while I attend to a chore, enjoy a meal, or give the toddler 5 minutes of undivided mommy attention (and 5 minutes goes a really long way). But it also means she is no longer content sleeping for hours of the day or staying curled in the carrier. She wants to get out, crawl around, and explore everything, which also makes the juggle of 2 just a little bit harder.
It doesn’t get easier, but it gets less scary
I will never forget the utter terror I felt when faced with being alone with both kids for the first time – and that was something I didn’t experience with my first. There is something about the second kid that makes you realize how easy babies really are, but how being outnumbered can feel absolutely paralyzing. But with time comes adjustment, and healing, and strength. Once again, you adjust to your new barometers. And one day you realize, “I can do this because I am doing it.” It’s not always pretty, it’s not always, perfect, and there will be many, many cries (from everyone). But with time grows confidence, reassurance, and the maternal knowledge of yourself and your kids. Now that my daughter is 9 months old, I know her in a way I didn’t when she was 3 months. Now that my son is talking, I can communicate with him in a way I couldn’t before. Knowing them has allowed me to better know myself as a mother, my boundaries and limits, and how to manage our home and our family life. Some days are complete trial and error, and some days produce the most beautiful moments and stories to remember for always. The best days have a mix of both. But what gets easier is reframing those expectations, learning how to pick your battles, and knowing that picking them is ok. What gets easier is gaining the confidence that your mothering is what’s best for your kids, and taking comfort in knowing that we’re humans raising humans, so being human is part of the deal.
It doesn’t make it easier, but it is less scary.