I received an email recently with the subject line, “Do moms shortchange baby No. 2?”
Turns out the message was about how moms spend less money on second children, which is no surprise to any mother who has seen the damage newborns can do to those adorably expensive onesies. That’s why most mom trade in those onesies embroidered with genuine unicorn hair for the three-pack of Gerbers when baby No. 2 comes along.
But the email subject started me thinking about the time and attention I give to my own second child. Like most moms, I wondered if I could truly love my second child as much as my first. After all, that first child is when I first became a mother so there were a lot of emotions wrapped up in her birth.
What I’ve found is that yes, moms love their second (and third and fourth and so on) children just as much. But there is just no way to be the doting, ever-attentive mother to a second child the way you can be to a first.
With the first, there are countless hours to simply sit around and stare at the wonder of your baby. You take a million pictures. You actually scrapbook those pictures. You marvel at every first word, first step and first poop. You build blocks for hours, sing and rock well into the night and try not to judge those other poor mothers whose kids have a flat head from hours spent in car seats while shuttling siblings to school, lessons and boy scouts.
Then, the second child comes. There are no more three-hour morning naps to relish. Your newborn sleeps when he or she can between errands, and you rip her from her slumber to pick up big sister at the bus stop. You take photos of only the most important milestones and try not to notice that your baby is now 2 years old and her last scrapbook page was her birth. You play blocks when you can squeeze it in between school meetings, doctor’s appointments and gymnastics. You cover up the flat spot on her head with a cute hat and call it good.
It’s just different with a second child. But what I’m learning is that maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe all the attention I showered on my first daughter didn’t really do anyone any favors. My first-born has a difficult time playing alone and will routinely come to me complaining of boredom if I have not given her specific instructions on what to do. My second daughter, however, can play alone with whatever she can find. She sets up Squinkie armies and puts her “babies” to bed all around the house.
My second child also understands that the world does not revolve around her. She understands there are other needs in the family that sometimes trump her own. My oldest is still grappling with this idea; although, I can’t blame her after being born into a world where Mom celebrated every giggle, smile and poop.
How did your parenting method change with more children? Do you think the downgrade in attention is a good or bad thing for children?