Life with Two Children

Last year, Julie and I had our second child. Although everything is always changing in the life of a young child, we had mostly developed routines and rhythms to life. That consistency was a secondary sign that we were ready to have everything change again.

Life with two children is different from life with one child, but zero to one was much more dramatic. What follows are my observations, which are likely both a combination of common patterns among families and some oddities unique to our family.

Way more relaxed

It’s tough not knowing what to expect or what is normal or problematic. With our first child, I wasn’t anxious, but we were constantly surprised and needed to figure things out. How bad is that runny nose? What’s that red spot? How do you get peanut butter-yogurt stains out of clothes?

With our second child, so many things just seem fine. He won’t tear down the house because I need to run to the bathroom. That toy won’t break when he handles it like that. He will be fine without this enriching activity that he won’t remember anyways.

Our different parenting choices will have some differing effects on each child, but I suspect the big trends remain the same about birth order between families.

You notice the differences

When I spoke to parents before we had two children, they always harped on how different their children are. This one is more cautious. That one likes meat more. This one started walking really early. That one likes going on the slide.

I presume that within a family, children are more similar than different due to shared genetics and upbringings. However, I now see why parents focus on the differences: it’s really the only thing you notice.

Similarities are easy to miss in everyday life: that’s just what a normal child is, even if that’s different than every other family. The differences, however, need work because that’s where parenting choices from one child yield different results.

Divide and conquer

The basic strategy for caring for children changes based on the child-to-caregiver ratio. Our first child got a lot of attention because both Julie and I could always swap off to be there for her. With our second, each child gets one parent.

For us, that typically means that I’m with our older child while Julie is with our younger child. We got into the routine while Julie was pregnant: since she rested more at home, I went out with our older child more. That pattern continued since Julie is naturally more able to care for our younger child for now.

I suspect there are going to be long-term effects on how attached our children will be to the respective parents. However, it works for us now. We will see what changes after the first year when nap and feeding schedules are easier to manage.

No breaks

I used to think that days were packed. Now, every day feels like a continuous production. We wake up ideally no earlier than we have to. The morning is a rush to get out the door efficiently. After work, daycare pickup turns into watching children while preparing dinner. Then it’s bath time and bedtime, and then finally, the children are asleep, and we can relax.

That could have described life before, but now it’s just that little bit more packed that makes a big difference.

Before, we could hand off our older child to squeeze in chores along the way. Maybe Julie would play while I would cook. I could do bath while Julie did dishes. One of us could take a break just to go to the bathroom.

Now, a lot of that gets backloaded. I fell off my blogging habit because as soon as the children are in bed, we have to take care of the pile of dishes and clean. By the time we’re done with that, it feels like it’s already time to get ready for bed.

But hey, at least I’m blogging now. I spoke to a friend a few weeks ago, and he said that he couldn’t believe that he had even less time after his third child.

Final thoughts

We have figured out a few things with managing two children, but we’re still early on in the process. I’m sure we have plenty more to learn about upcoming stages in life.

Particularly, I’m dreading competing preferences. Now, only one child can ask for music in the car. Now, we’re only thinking about one set of food preferences in meal planning. Soon, I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. Sounds like a lot of conflict I could do without.

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