Do moms shortchange baby No. 2?

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?

2 comments

  1. Alyssa

    My oldest is three years old and my second is five months. I was expecting to have more difficulty bonding and connecting with my second child because of what I had heard from other moms. However I was surprised to find out how easy it was for me to connect with my second, but we were instantly connected from his birth. And things are different from when I was just home with one baby but I feel like I can give him every bit of love and attention he needs, perhaps even more so than I did with the first. But I think that is partly because we practice attachment parenting so I co-sleep, breastfeed on demand, babywear, and practice elimination communication. All of these practices help facilitate our bond and it doesn’t hurt to have my oldest giving the baby a lot of his attention, too. :)

  2. Momof7

    You are absolutely right that the 2nd child does not receive as much attention from their parents but the amazing thing is that they receive attention from 3 people not just two. My youngest has been showered with attention from 8 people. He knows he is loved. He gets to chose who he wants to play with and it is rarely me. His siblings are a whole lot more fun than I am.

    I actually find it amusing when people talk about how busy I must be with seven children. Sure it is a lot of work. It requires scheduling but siblings help siblings. I’ve had older children help potty train the younger ones. I’ve heard younger siblings ask older siblings for help on homework. My children usually are much more helpful with homework than I am. They just took that class a year or two ago. I took it 25+ years ago. My children love each other. They are best friends.

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