1 + 1 ≠ 2
“Zero to one was tough, and two to three was challenging, but going from one child to two wasn’t that bad,” several friends told us with the benefit of hindsight, and perhaps a dose of selective amnesia. Intuitively, this makes sense. First-time parenthood is tough because there is so much to learn. And going from two to three is hard because sometimes you find that you have more little humans who need attention than arms at your disposal. Still, adding a new baby into the mix is bound to make life more complicated, and we’ve found that having two small children frequently feels much more than twice as difficult as just having one.
In some ways, things are easier the second time around, of course – not only because we’ve gone through the breastfeeding and sleeplessness routine once already, but also because we are still in the early childhood phase with Munchkin. At three-and-a-half, he is almost but not quite self-sufficient. He has learned to pull up his pants and undies, for example, but he still cannot get himself fully dressed. And he has started playing by himself, but only for short intervals; most of the time he still needs somebody to entertain him. In that sense, at least, Junebug’s arrival has not had as seismic an impact on our lives as the upheaval to our comfortable, childless life we experienced after Munchkin was born. We simply have to fit Junebug into our existing mix of diapers, sleep training, and childcare.
What is difficult is learning how to juggle two little humans who operate at completely different speeds. The newborn stage is intense, no matter how many kids one has. Junebug is adorable and still in her snuggly phase, but she needs constant hands-on attention, and Munchkin is not old enough to grasp that. Sometimes S feels that all she accomplishes in a day is quenching the kids’ thirst and hunger – an accomplishment that feels all the more ephemeral because it always feels like at least one child is always awake and hungry.
While she was still pregnant, S had imagined herself wearing Junebug while chasing after Munchkin on the playground, but this has yet to happen in real life. Baby-wearing may free up the hands, but it does not lend itself to running or playing hard. There are days that S feels she only sees Munchkin at bedtime for stories. She misses being able to go on adventures and do all the physical things that Munchkin enjoys. She mourns the special relationship they used to have, especially since he makes it challenging to pop in and spend just a few minutes, demanding to be with whomever he’s been spending time.
These days, this usually means not only that Munchkin mostly wants to be with his nana, but also that he chooses the most inopportune moments to all of a sudden demand S’s attention – usually just when Junebug needs to be nursed. S has lost track of the number of times she’s had a screaming newborn in her arms only to be faced with a toddler meltdown because Munchkin demands that mama – and only mama – put him to bed.
At the end of the day, when S is completely exhausted, there is one thought that helps sustain her. It’s the knowledge, learned from hard experience, that in parenthood everything is a phase. As time passes, new challenges pop up, but the old ones become easier to handle or dissipate entirely. Nearly two months in, we are confident that things will get easier.