I'm Afraid I Won't Be As Good A Mom To My Second Child
As I go from one child to two, can I live up to my own expectations?
When I found out I was pregnant again, I was initially thrilled. I’d hit the threshold for advanced maternal age, and a few life interruptions had delayed our plans for growing our family. This was great news. But as is typical for me, I didn’t let myself enjoy it for too long. I started to think about how much had changed since the birth of our first child, and I began to worry. As the arrival of this new baby approaches, my anxiety revolves around one question: What if I can’t be as good a mom to my second child?
I was already more than a decade into a teaching career when I got pregnant with my daughter. Her due date coincided with the end of the school year, as well as our planned permanent change of station. My husband’s job with the Army could fully support our family of three. It seemed like the stars had aligned for me to make a much-desired change — to leave education to be a stay-at-home mom for my precious new baby. With my newborn daughter in a bouncy seat, I cleaned out my classroom. Later, I watched as the movers packed up our home and we headed to a new state and my new reality.
I think my daughter benefited greatly from having me as a stay-at-home mom. When we arrived at our new location, I quickly joined a local playgroup. We bonded with three of the “under one” moms, and joined them at the playground or in each other’s homes at least once a week. We were regulars at the library’s baby story time, which was within walking distance of our house. I took baby girl to the zoo, a nearby hiking trail, and the heated indoor pool. We enjoyed family outings to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch and even took a trip to the Grand Canyon. I was grateful not to be working outside the home and for the experiences I was able to give my child.
Eight months later, we found ourselves in the position of having to move yet again. It didn’t take us too long to settle in, though. We quickly found the best parks and play gyms and made new friends. It was around that time that I started to feel ready for another baby. We got pregnant right away, but I suffered a miscarriage at only five weeks. We were unable to conceive again before my husband left for a year-long tour in Afghanistan, when our daughter was 15 months old. With a deployed partner and plans for my family thwarted, I started to feel like I needed something else — something just for me. I soon enrolled my little girl in a Spanish immersion preschool and started to work part-time.
Fast forward a year and a half later, and I’m expecting our second child. I’m so excited to meet my little boy, but I can’t help but dwell on the stark differences in what I’ll be able to offer him as a mom and what my first child experienced. Foremost among them is the fact that I’m now a working mother. I have two part-time positions in addition to freelance work. When my maternity leave is over, I’ll have to look at childcare options for my son as well as my daughter. My daughter didn’t have another primary caregiver until she was 18 months old, and then it was only twice a week for four hours. I’ll be trusting my baby boy with a complete stranger a lot earlier.
Due to my schedule, I simply won’t have as much one-on-one time with baby #2. Not only that, but I’ll be caring for a toddler as well as an infant. When she was a baby, my little girl had my undivided attention for daily tummy time on the activity mat and endless rounds of “This Little Piggy.” As an older child, she got to do two sessions of parent and child swimming lessons and a year of mommy and me dance classes. My fear is that, since I’ll be using the time my older kiddo is at school to work, my baby won’t have as many “just the two of us” opportunities. I’m so closely bonded with my daughter, which I at least partially attribute to all the time we’ve had together. I worry that lack of it will affect my future child’s attachment to me.
As a new mom, I faithfully tracked my little one’s milestones. I obsessively logged her length and weight, wet and dirty diapers, and minutes she spent nursing on an app. I took monthly photos of her, so far-away friends and family could see how much she’d grown. When she cut a tooth, sat up for the first time, and took her first steps, I dutifully recorded each one in her baby book. I’ve worked hard to make her holidays special, especially her birthday. Each year, I’ve selected a new theme, complete with Pinterest decorations and a homemade cake. With two children in my family, how will I possibly have energy to keep that up? In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve set myself up for failure.
I have concerns, too, about our home life, specifically that it might not be quite so… clean. I can’t possibly keep up with my current chore schedule once I’ve added a newborn to the mix. Then there’s the issue of nutrition. I made my daughter’s first foods (organic fruit and vegetable purees) from scratch and seriously limited her intake of sugar her first year. Will the need for convenience trump everything this time around? It’s hard to say. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I’m not even planning to set up a nursery for the new baby. We’ll be moving before he turns a year old, and there’s really no room in our current house. Add to that the fact that he’s inheriting hand-me-down furniture, toys, and clothes, and let’s just say I’m glad “indignant” isn’t an emotion newborns are capable of yet.
Maybe what I need is to spend more energy focusing on all the ways things are actually better now. For one, I have some experience under my belt. I know exactly where I stand when it comes to breast milk vs. formula, bed sharing vs. sleep training, and cloth vs. disposable diapers. I know more or less what to expect in terms of development, as well as red flags to watch for. Surely having a more confident, and therefore less stressed, mama is good for baby. There’s also the fact that in addition to two loving parents, he’ll have a sister. I have no delusions of sibling utopia, but he’ll have a role model and built-in playmate that she didn’t.
Life is different than it was when we welcomed our first child into the world three years ago. How could it not be? But what hasn’t changed is the amount of love and laughter in our home, which can only be compounded by a new addition to our family. I probably won’t stop worrying about being as “good” a mom this time around, but maybe the very fact that I am worried about it, means I am one.