Aside from the obvious ‘more tired, more busy, more messy’, what are the differences between parenting your first and second kids?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already well aware that life changes forever once you have kids. You may even be madly preparing your first child for the arrival of baby number two. Surely it’s just a case of ‘rinse and repeat’ with the second child? We’ve been there, and to put it bluntly – the second kid is a whole different ball game. You’re different, they’re different, and there’s the small matter of a tiny terrorist already ruling the roost at home. In our experience, the first child vs the second child – from the moment the blue line appears on the pregnancy test and you decide that this time around you will not be mum shamed – pans out a little like this…
First kid: Thanks to ultra-sensitive pregnancy tests, you know you’re pregnant two days before your period is due. You immediately devour What to Expect When You’re Expecting and sign up to no fewer than 10 pregnancy apps with daily updates. Knowing your foetus is now the size of an avocado takes on critical importance. You proudly tell passersby your exact stage of pregnancy (to the week and day). You switch to a dairy-, caffeine-, alcohol- and gluten-free superfood diet and attend thrice-weekly prenatal yoga and HypnoBirthing classes. You take Husband to every doctor’s appointment and arrive armed with a page of typed questions.
Next kid: When at the doctor for an unrelated issue, you’re shocked to find out you’re six weeks pregnant. Apparently breastfeeding is not a contraceptive. Your reading list is limited to Mr Men titles and First Kid never lets you use your phone. When asked how far along you are, you vaguely say, “Six months – no, wait, seven months. I think.” Morning sickness with First Kid hanging off you is hell on earth so you eat whatever carbs you can get your hands on (which is usually a leftover peanut butter sandwich). But first – coffee. First Kid is your companion at the doctor, and your only comment is, “I’ll be needing an epidural.”
Birth and the aftermath
First kid: You race to the hospital at the first twinge of a contraction armed with a 15-page birth plan, fit ball, motivational mantra cards, peppermint oil and a flask of raspberry leaf tea. Husband suffers post-traumatic shock after going down the business end, and you’re rather cross at your female relatives for not divulging the full truth about the horrors of childbirth. First Kid’s arrival is celebrated with a steady stream of visitors, flowers and gifts. You can’t wait to take your little poppet home, and when you do, you feast for months on homemade pasta bakes left at your doorstep.
Next kid: Wiser and battle-worn, you drop First Kid with the grandparents and arrive at the hospital when contractions are four minutes apart carrying nothing but a packet of sweets. An epidural is administered within seconds and you and Husband have a lovely snooze. Next Kid’s visitors and gift haul are down 80% compared to First Kid. You send Husband home with First Kid and try to bribe an extra night of rest in the hospital. First night at home, you cook dinner with First Kid hugging your leg as Next Kid breastfeeds.
First kid: A fifty-page tome is filled with photographs and sweet anecdotes written from the baby’s perspective, such as “I am 52cm tall, have blue eyes and love cuddles with Mummy!” A lock of hair, first footprint and bellybutton fluff are framed in the carefully decorated nursery. Personalised thank you cards are printed and distributed within two weeks of birth following an intense whittling down of professional photographs. The first birthday is marked with a thoroughly decorated party for 50 of your closest friends, a three-tiered homemade cake and Champagne.
Next kid: You had good intentions of buying a baby book but never got around to it. You send out a generic group message thanking people for “being there” for you and your family. Next Kid sleeps in a portacot in your room for six months before moving into First Kid’s old nursery. You buy a cupcake from your local coffee joint en route to the park and sing Happy Birthday to Next Kid while First Kid scoffs the whole thing.
First kid: After a sniffle-free first year, you fly into a panic when First Kid’s face looks slightly pained and rush to emergency with a temperature of 38 degrees. You surround yourself with equally neurotic mothers and refute allegations of hypochondria. You check your family first-aid kit is fully stocked at least once a week.
Next kid: Thanks to First Kid attending the germ fest that is preschool, Next Kid has a runny nose at week one. And you feel so guilty about the time Next Kid walked around with a broken arm for two days before you realised.
Routine and classes
First kid: You are a routine queen, following Gina Ford to the letter. In between periods of sleep in the cot you go to daily ‘mummy and me’ enrichment classes timetabled for optimal cognitive and social development. First Kid sleeps from 7pm to 7am, wakes you with the dulcet tones of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and waits patiently in bed for further orders.
Next kid: A distinct lack of routine is punctuated by First Kid’s busy pick-up and drop-off schedule. All naps are in the car and usually end when a noisy game of Ring a Ring o’ Roses starts. Classes? Who needs classes? Next Kid is overstimulated by First Kid. At night, priority numero uno is to keep a quiet house, so you’re trapped in an endless cycle of feeding Next Kid to sleep only to wake them by stepping on a creaky floorboard when sneaking out of the room.
Clothing and baby stuff
First kid: All attire is brand new, made of ethically sourced organic cotton and handcrafted by either local artisans or high-end stores with low carbon footprints. An entire outfit is changed the moment a drop of drool hits a lapel. You’d rather die than mute your child with a silicon dummy. And following careful research, you own every piece of baby paraphernalia known to man.
Next kid: A handful of
ripped and stained cherished hand-me-downs are on constant rotation. Baby wipes remove spit-up, food and dirt, and are your go-to when you have no time to shower. You dismiss the suggestion that having a dummy at age three could cause dental issues. And you’ve long since sold your baby stuff online.
First kid: You exclusively breastfeed three, and then four-hourly until Project Wean begins at six months old to the day. Food groups are introduced according to the Annabel Karmel food exposure plan using organic puree made fresh daily. No sugar, nuts or eggs are introduced until one year.
Next kid: You combine breastfeeding with bottle-feeding to free you up to either crash early or go to the hairdresser (after all, #fedisbest). Baby-led weaning starts at four months old in a desperate attempt to make them sleep through.
Behaviour and discipline
First kid: Your genius child plays serenely with wooden toys on their activity mat as Baby Einstein classical music plays softly in the background. You very calmly explain why it’s ill-advised to stick scissors into a power socket, and that while you empathise with their feelings of territoriality during play-dates, sharing is caring.
Next kid: You yell at full volume, “NO! Stop now! Naughty!” No explanation is proffered beyond saying, “Because I’m an adult and I said so.” The kids are inseparable besties one minute and mortal enemies the next, fighting over a $2 Hello Kitty figurine. You try every distraction and disciplinary technique in the book from the quiet game to timeout, and throwing favourite toys in the bin. In the end, the golden bullet is the threat of going to bed 10 minutes early, for which you mentally thank your child psychiatrist daily.
The silver lining
All jokes aside, one thing that doesn’t change from First Kid to Next Kid is the crazy, all-consuming love you feel for them. You simply cannot stop kissing their darling little faces and toes. Your unshakable love resonates deep in their bones making them feel safe and confident to meet all of life’s challenges. What Next Kid loses in one-on-one time with you and Husband is made up twice over by First Kid’s unwavering loyalty, kid-only secrets, whole-day fort-building sessions and midnight feasts by torchlight.
Good luck, dear second-time mum. You’ve got this. After all, you’ve done it all before.