Parenthood: When 1+1 equals a lot more than 2

two little girls jumping on sofa

This morning on the way to drop my kids off at daycare, a morning radio show I listen to regularly talked about a poll of stressful events in modern life. #8 on that list was having a child for the first time. Surprising to me was that having a child for the second time was not even higher on the list. Because wow.

When my wife and I had our first child 4 years ago, it was a very stressful experience to be sure. We had no idea what we were doing (and still don’t, really). But we shared that learning curve together. We figured things out together, everything was new and exciting, and we bonded over each new discovery.

We were warned that having two kids is actually three times the work, but I don’t think we understood. It became clear that this might be accurate during the pregnancy. Already having a child around added an extra scheduling conflict when going to prenatal appointments and ultrasounds. We couldn’t go to most of them together, since someone had to bring our oldest to daycare, take off longer from work than the first time, or bring her to the appointment and risk bad behavior. We brought her to the gender reveal appointment, and she was relatively well behaved, but it was definitely an eye-opener.

Then the baby came, and the real test began. While she is already a great big sister and loves to help with her little brother, she’s always in the middle of everything. And she’s at the age where she constantly asks questions about everything. So we’re not just raising two kids, we’re also explaining every detail of it to one of them while struggling with the actual act itself.

My wife and I probably spend about half as much time together as we used to. We’re often each caring for one of the kids, whether feeding or bathing or putting them to bed. Neither child quite sleeps through the night yet, whether it’s the baby waking up to eat, or his sister waking up missing her mom or needing a toy, so we can’t sleep in the same room for now. Until the baby can sleep through the night, he sleeps in his co-sleeper next to our bed, and my wife sleeps in the guest room with our daughter on her Toy Story fold-out couch on the floor. Otherwise she’d wake up in the middle of the night, come in our bedroom crying for something, and wake up the baby. Eventually…soon…hopefully…they’ll both be in their bedroom with the crib and bunk-bed, but for now we live in the 1950s.

Having a baby is a bonding experience shared between two spouses. Having a second baby is a farcical juggling act between two spouses and a very small tornado. But we’re making it work. We get frustrated with each other and the kids a lot more, but we talk about it and work through it. We definitely don’t regret it, we just wish someone had stopped us when they said it’s a lot more work, and we said we know. “No. You really have no idea. Good luck!”

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