What I've only known since I became a mother of two
After three years as a mother, I was an expert. Or so I thought. Then the second baby came and I realised: one is not one. And two is like three.
When my first child was born, my world was upside down. Everything was new, everything was exciting, everything was magical. But at the same time incredibly exhausting and intense.
At some point, a halfway decent day and night rhythm was back and the time calculations became rarer. I knew all the tricks, from the soothing sound of the steam vent to the federal folder under the mattress for a stuffy nose. I could change nappies in the dark and was able to stow an entire week's shopping in the pram. And I had got used to the fact that me-time had become a luxury good. In short: I had arrived in my new life as a mother.
Then came the second child. Been there, done that - right?
I have to laugh out loud myself. Especially as the friends had warned us in advance. "One is not one," they predicted. "You'll see," not that my husband and I didn't take them seriously. We had a lot of respect. But now we know the drill, we thought. In reality, the second child almost four years ago turned everything upside down again. We had massively underestimated it. I share ten of my surprising insights below. The rule is: everything is subjective, my experience doesn't have to be yours.
1. Every child is different
This sounds trite, but it is. All the tricks and grips after three years of parenting experience were now as useless as baby shoes on infant feet. The second daughter seemed to have made it a regular point to disdain her big sister's preferences and idiosyncrasies. Pram? Stupid. Nuggi? Even sillier. Sleep? Totally stupid and at most an hour at a time. Speaking of sleeping ...
2. You can always be a bit more tired
. The daughters were nonetheless at odds when it came to getting a good night's sleep. One had trouble falling asleep, the other had trouble staying asleep. And at some point I hardly slept at all. The exhaustion had reached a new level. From then on, I had only one answer to all questions from "How are you?" to "Do you have any plans for the weekend?": "Sleeping would be cool again!" .
3. I need five hands
During the first baby break, I lived according to the step-by-step principle. I breastfed, then put him to sleep, I had time to shower, quickly cleaned out the dishwasher before he woke up again, put him in the pram, went shopping, breastfed again, put him to sleep, and maybe found a few more minutes for a nap. Nicely one after the other.
With the second, it became more complex. Let's call it the multitasking zigzag principle: I breastfed while I cooked (yes, with sling it works) and told big sister a story, cleaned out the dishwasher on the side and set the table. I did the shopping while dragging the three-year-old around the shop with one hand and rocking the pram with the other to get the tired baby to sleep. I could only dream of my own nap in between. Shortly before child two was born, child one decided that from now on he no longer needed a nap.
4. Work increases exponentially
The second child just runs along? A liar (yep, masculine) who says so! Work has not even doubled, it has increased exponentially. Instead of once, I now tidy the living room five times a day. The hand-held vacuum cleaner is my new BF, never leaving my side. And I spend about as much time in the laundry room as I do in the living room.
Even as I spin these thoughts, the next pile of dirty laundry is already piling up there ... The laundry mountain of a family of four is so big that it deserves its own section below.
5. The laundry mountain grows and grows
Thanks to the laundry, I feel like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the mountain, only to see it tumble right back down into the valley. I now climb the laundry mountain almost daily. And even as I pepper the dirty bits into the washing machine, another three seem to land in the laundry-basket. With one child, the laundry was a lot, but manageable. Then came a double increase. Second child plus first child with bigger clothes - results: a lot more full washing machines.
6. From now on, no more time for anything
. While care work at home seemed to have increased tenfold, time seemed to have been squandered. "Could you just quickly ..." triggered hot flashes in me in the early days after the second birth. No, I don't have time for a quick phone call or a quick email. I'm happy when I can get to the toilet without children at my heels (more under point 8).
Here's an anecdote: "I've got Mummy's Day today and won't get round to reading your email until tomorrow," I once texted an interviewee who had asked for a quick reply. "Okay, enjoy your day off," she replied. "I don't have the day off. I'm taking care of the children," I replied. Recently, the woman contacted me unexpectedly. She has become a mother and remembered our conversation at that time. "I now know exactly what you meant," she let me know .
7. The couple is now an organising team
The moments when I could hand my daughter to my husband for some me-time are over. The division of labour started immediately after the second birth: I took care of the baby for breastfeeding reasons, he took care of the bigger one. That continues to this day. He prepares dinner, I bathe the children. He puts child one to bed, I put child two to bed. Or vice versa. Afterwards, the kitchen, snack boxes, laundry and scheduling still await the tired parents. Where we used to be able to relieve each other, now we are both challenged. And permanently. The lovers form an organisational team and try to remain lovers. A feat of strength that sometimes works better, sometimes worse.
8. The quiet room is the last sacred place
You know you are a mother or father when you can no longer do your business alone. That sounded absurd even to my childless former self. Today I confirm: it's the truth. With the first child, I laughed at the fact that he or she refused to leave the bathroom. With the second, I haven't laughed at all. The good news is that it's getting better. Because the kids grow up and leave you alone once in a while. But also because at some point you no longer have any qualms about turning the door key. After all, three minutes alone on the potty means three minutes of precious me-time.
9. One always comes up short
The former only child was suddenly big sister and from then on had to share and wait. As a result, she struggled non-stop for attention. This in turn drove the little sister to fight for attention - with hands, feet and voice. To this day, one thing always comes up short. And at some point they rub your nose in it. Everything is unfair, everything is mean. You explain, arbitrate, distribute, run. And you realise that you always fail to do justice to someone anyway. The children, but also your partner, the household or yourself.
10. I am more relaxed
The demands decrease with the second child, the serenity grows. While I still conscientiously checked the bath temperature with the thermometer with the first born, with the second I just put my hand in the water. Not too hot, not too cold, so perfect and in you go. While I googled all the untypical baby sounds and aches and pains with the first one, I took a pragmatic approach with the second. If it's still like this tomorrow, I'll go to the paediatrician. I wanted to do everything perfectly with the first child, but now I know it won't work anyway. And that's perfectly OK.
Yes, the friends were right. One is not one. And two children are sometimes as stressful as three. Still, one child is no child's play. Because one isn't one until you have two. The calculation with love is much less complicated: it actually doubles. I don't regret having a second child for a second. One child is the greatest. Two is the greatest.Bilder: Shutterstock
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