The Difference In Parenting the Second Time Round


Sometimes I wonder if, as the firstborn, Immy got the best of me as a mama. I was a full-time, stay-at-home mum who enjoyed the luxury of little to think about beyond the needs of a tiny infant and, as we lived in a low maintenance, one bedroom apartment at the time, an even tinier household. The rhythm of our day flowed around her routine. She fed when she needed to feed and slept when it was her time to sleep. Together we went to mothers group and kindergym each week, on walks or to play at the park every other day. We started each morning with books in bed and I chatted to her constantly with a running commentary of our day. She enjoyed all of the spoils of the undivided attention of a doting, first time parent.

In contrast, AJ is schlepped around from school drop off to school pick up, with nap times squeezed in somewhere between grocery runs and dance class.  We have no mothers group this time, and despite eleven months sliding by, we still don’t seem to have found the time for kindergym. We’ve only made it to playgroup twice and it’s nearly the end of term and we are just not going to get there today either *sigh.*  As for reading together, that happens as it happens, somewhere in the day, but the chatter so important to her language development is much less than it was for her sister, as I constantly mentally re-juggle the to-do list or strive for just a tiny quietening of my mind in the hustle and bustle of each day.

There seems to be so much more competing for my attention this second time around – two kids, husband, household,part-time work, and I am doing it all on a whole lot less sleep.

However, if there is to be a positive, then it must surely be this – the first time around I was so concerned with getting it right – was my baby feeding enough? Sleeping enough? Doing enough??? Was she meeting each milestone? Ready for each next step or stage at the ‘right‘ time?  – that I didn’t take time to just BE.

When I look at it as a finite entity, I feel like I have so much less TIME right now. Less time to dedicate to this little person’s very important and very individual needs. But you know what? The time I do have is so precious to me and I am doing all that I can to be in the moment with her. I appreciate our time together so much.

Maybe it’s because I know in my heart that she will be my last baby but this time it’s been a lot less about what’s next and a lot more about being present in the moment. I love to just sit and watch her. I am constantly in awe of what she can do and what she accomplishes, seemingly by herself, despite my self-diagnosed shortcomings.

I want to look back and know that despite the struggle of the juggle, that I appreciated little moments of each and every day. That something as simple as watching her master the coordination to pick up a small piece of pasta and put it into her mouth was a privilege to behold.

Maybe it is enough to provide love and space to grow? She is is loved (oh, so loved), safe, fit, healthy, fed and rested, even if the timetable is completely different to that her sister enjoyed. She knows the joy and attention of a doting sibling which is something her sister had to wait four years for.

Being a mother, this second time around, is so very different. Maybe one is not better nor worse, it just is what it is?

All I can do is be in this moment. Provide what each of my children needs now with the resources I have available at this time.

All I can do is be the best I can be right now. And today’s best might be less or more than yesterday’s best.

But it WILL be enough.

What things did you struggle with as a mother the second time around?

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  1. This post rang a bell with me. As I went into labour with my second son, I remember clearly looking at my first child and feeling a rush of guilt come over me- “how could I do this to him?”. Parenting was different too and I must admit I struggled initially, due to unrealistic expectations I had for myself but eventually I got it together :). I agree that “it is what it is”- there is no magic “best parenting number”.
    Take care,

  2. I have thought about this a lot over the last year. My first-born is 5, my second-born is 9 months. At times it seems like my second has got the raw deal but then I see him laughing his head off at his big sister and I think, isn’t he lucky to have her around. I haven’t been nearly as attentive to him as I was with his sister, we’re just so busy between school, gymnastics, swimming, play-dates etc but I’m so much more relaxed and I’m not so fussed about him whipping through his milestones, I’m enjoying each stage. The more I think about it, maybe my son has got the better deal because I’m definitely a happier mum second time around and a happy mum counts for a lot.

  3. Thank you for this!! I go back and forth about this a lot.

    I have to say my second is a much better eater and sleeper than my first, which eases a LOT of pressure on me, but I do often feel that I don’t give him as much attention and stimulation.

    That being said, I was home with my older son for 4 months before I opened an in-home preschool and it took me a few months to move beyond two students, two mornings per week. I started back to work in my preschool when my new baby was only 5 weeks, so I have to weigh the stimulation I HAD to give my older son because no one else was there against the stimulation my baby has every day surrounded by older children, other Moms, etc. Yes, I don’t read/sing/play as much with him on an individual level, but he gets those things every day in a group setting – maybe that’s just what second kiddos experience – it’s normal for them to grow up in a group setting.

    I do agree about being more relaxed – I sure am this time around! My older son hit milestones so early, if I compared the two, I’d drive myself crazy!

    As a third child, I can say that I’m glad I grew up with siblings – my best friend was an only child and her experiences were so different from mine – and not in a good way in my opinion. When I had my first son, I new almost right away we’d have more children, I always want them to have each other!

  4. I feel the same way sometimes! But then I think about how much fun the younger ones have trying to be just like their siblings. I love that the younger ones have someone too look up to and someone to protect and teach them and I love that the older ones have the little guys to be good role models for, encourage, teach and protect. Research on birth order has always fascinated me and it is interesting to watch the group dynamic, even at their young ages! Maybe AJ will feel less pressure as I am sure my second will feel. Also, I know my youngers have benefitted from me finding out what doesn’t really work with the older ones. There are benefits to each ‘position’ in the family!

  5. I struggled initially with my second child. She had colic, was a poor sleeper, and a light eater… which meant more work for us. However, I appreciated the vast differences between her and her sister. I struggled striking a balance between the two children but that changed once my babe was about one. My oldest started to get really engaged in everything the littlest was doing, so we did a lot of things together; reading, painting, colouring, building, etc. – it gets better with every day!

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently and something I like to think is true is that all the individual attention and time I was able to give my first baby in comparison to my second is reaping rewards and being passed on from older sister to younger brother. She teaches him so much and I often hear her ‘reading’ to him and using the same inflections and words that I used for her and he has learnt so much from her – recycling the love and teachings! He’s probably getting the same amount of attention from the 3 of us, as she got from the 2 of us.

  7. Sherry Mallory says:

    Wow, I have tears in my eyes. After reading this I feel like I wrote it. It’s exactly how I feel and all the guilt that comes with it. But your right I do appreciate every moment I can with my second one because she is my last. I wonder everyday. Glad to know I am not crazy and others feel the same way I do. Thanks for sharing.

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