When you're a first-time parent, you're perpetually stressed and clueless. Then you have a second kid and realize you actually didn't know what you were doing, and you're left wondering how you survived first-time mom life. Being a parent is something you have to experience to truly understand, and being a mom didn't come naturally to me at all. You live, you learn, and then, eventually, you finally know what you're doing. There are so many differences between raising your first kid vs raising your second kid, and now that I know those differences I just have to laugh, because, wow, I was clueless.
The second time around I was a different mom, no question about it. I was more chill and relaxed about being a mom. I spent way less time obsessing and worrying about my baby meeting milestones, or the bumps, rashes, and bruises they managed to get seemingly every day. And I no longer felt like I had to do do "super mom" things, like creating handmade scrapbooks documenting every moment of their lives, which was good because I totally didn't have time for that once I had two kids to chase around.
Now, I'm not saying that adding a second kid to our family wasn't difficult, because it totally was. Having two kids was hard work — so much harder than having one — at least in the beginning. But, thankfully, once you've "been there and done that" with your first, you gain experience and perspective. If you are lucky, you also realize what's really important and what's totally not worth your worry or effort with baby number two. And, in the end, you find ways to laugh at just how ridiculous you were as a first-time mom.
Leaving Your Kid With A Sitter
We didn't leave our oldest child with a babysitter, other than her nationally-accredited child care center, until she was almost 2 years old. I was way too scared.
Then I had my second kid and I was like, "Would anyone like to watch these children, so I can have a moment? Anyone? I'll pay."
Of course, I only fed my oldest child organic produce, homemade baby food, and nutritious versions of "muffins," "pudding," and "cookies" that were actually really damn gross.
My second? Yeah, he ate what we ate or sometimes ate cereal off the floor. I actually think one of his first foods was peanut butter toast, fed to him by his older sister.
Going Back To Work
When I had to go back to work after maternity leave the first time, I was devastated. I arranged to telecommute, and worked a grueling four 10-hour-a-day shift so I could be home with her three days a week.
When my second baby was born, work became a magical daily vacation where I could talk to other adults, eat lunch sitting down, and pee by myself. I couldn't wait to go back.
For years bedtime with my first child was a several-hours-long ordeal, with books, songs, snuggling, bottles, drinks of water, and every stalling technique known to tiny humankind.
Bedtime with my second-born is more like, "Mommy will stay here for five minutes, but then you're on your own. Sorry, kid, mommy's tired."
With my first kid, I spent so much time analyzing growth charts, reading baby development websites, and commenting on threads in mommy groups on social media. It was so hard not to compare my kid to others. Despite her doctor's re-assurance that she was right on track, I was sure I was doing something wrong and worried she would fall behind.
Then my second kid was born, and I honestly can't remember how old he was when he rolled over or crawled for the first time (unless I look it up on Facebook, that is).
Buying Baby Gear
With my first, I registered for or bought every piece of baby gear I came across. I spent way too much money, and my house was full of pastel and primary-colored gear that my baby ended up hating.
I didn't buy anything the second time except a car seat, some pajamas, and some diapers. And when my son was born, I mostly purchased used stuff, because baby gear is expensive.
My first-born daughter was cloth-diapered in adorable patterns from birth through potty training. I was committed to saving the planet, and buying the best poop-catchers money could buy.
I cloth-diapered my second child, too, for a while. When he was about 1-year-old, though, I didn't have the time or energy to continue. The convenience of disposables and not having to scrape or plop poop off of diapers was worth the added expense and mom-guilt of single-handedly ruining the planet.
For a while I saved every single scrap of paper my firstborn touched lightly with a crayon. Then I ended up moving a giant box of artwork to new homes a couple of times and, well, enough was enough.
When my second child was born I started photographing my favorites, then throwing them away outside in the dark of night so my kids don't catch me in the act and throw a fit.
Updating Their Baby Book
With my first baby I took pictures and updated her baby book to document every smile, word, tooth, and trip to the doctor. I saved a lock of hair from her first haircut, and even the first tooth she lost.
With my second, however, I made an album online and called it good. I don't have time, and besides, what's the point? My third baby just turned 1, and I still haven't started a baby book for him.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.