I Cried: Adjusting to Life with Two Children

I Cried: Adjusting to Life with Two Children by Jennifer Andersen OurMuddyBoots.com

It was 7:00 on Friday and both kids were asleep.  I came downstairs, sat down and I cried.  I cried like my high school boyfriend had just dumped me.  I knew that it was going to happen.  As soon as I felt my son drift off to sleep, emotion overtook me.

My husband had been away all week.  He left on Monday to return late Friday night.  Kris travels regularly, so I’m used to it.  But, this was a long week.  The weather was unlikely in July and unheard of in September.

The rain and humidity were intense, and at my request the air conditioners had been taken out the weekend before.  Given that we bed share and nurse, the heat made it too uncomfortable for either of my two children or me to sleep.  The morning after Kris left I got a cold that quickly turned into a sinus infection.

All in all I had done relatively well while being the only parent at home, particularly with these additional challenges.  However, my “relative” is not one that I like to use for comparison.

Just after Sydney was born the adjustment to having two children was difficult for me.  There was a slight return of my postpartum depression, but mostly the hard transition was due to my total lack of ability and unpreparedness to nurture two children.

Adjusting to Life with Two Children

My precious, wonderful, beautiful first born whom I had given everything to before Sydney came, must have been heart broken during these months. I know with certainty that the guilt from how I handled that time will never subside.  My patience had evaporated, and my praise and adoration must have felt like a distant dream for Owen.

For the first time in his life he had been yelled at, ignored, and repeatedly ordered to be quiet.  My precious, innocent, vulnerable, trusting little boy who gave nothing but love, and trusted me fully and completely with his life, emotional health and general well-being.

I was Owen’s world and his world was ruined.

My behavior this week with Kris away reminded me of what my first baby had to go through after his sister was born.  I’ve heard that every child has difficulty adjusting to family expansion.  For my family, my child adjusted just fine, it was me who couldn’t adjust, and it was my beloved first born, who suffered the consequences.

Those who had been through it before me could pseudo counsel me that my son was “just adjusting, he would get better, things would get better.”  He was my innocent, unsuspecting, undeserving scapegoat.  But this is what they had to tell me. What else was there to say?

And so, tonight I cried.  I cried because I couldn’t be the mother my son deserved and because I miss the uninterrupted bond that we used to have.  I cried because I would have life no other way than to have my daughter in it, and because I feel like I am missing so much of Owen’s development, as well as Sydney’s.

I cried because I can already see the love between my son and my daughter and it is the most beautiful thing I could never have imagined.  Mostly though, I cried because these gifts that I have been given, these wondrous lives that have been entrusted to me, deserve so much more than I can give them.  More patience, more nurturing, more explanation, more play time, more knowledge, more of everything wonderful, positive and beautiful in life.

 

After a long time, the crying subsided and I vowed that I would not let this emotion be lost.  I would store it away and draw from it the next time I was faced with the perfect storm of challenging behavior from my son, and my diminished patience.  I would remember that Owen only wanted my attention, my love, for our relationship to be what it was before.

Things could be so easy if we had only had one child.  The bond between Owen and I would be so strong, and I can imagine the person he would be.  Still, I can’t imagine the person he would be without his sister.  And that is what allows me to eventually fall asleep at night.

Eventually, I did stop sobbing.  I thought about the wonderful moments of pure enjoyment Owen and I had shared earlier that day.  That while the babysitter was here I chose to take Owen with me instead of getting some desperately needed alone time and that our time was brilliant while we were together.

Somehow this dimmed the awfulness that my son endured from me over the week.  My tears, as they always do, ran out, and though my eyes remained red, I got myself together. I filed my feelings from the week away, a reserve of fuel during the next storm.

Then I opened the wine.

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32 Replies to “I Cried: Adjusting to Life with Two Children”

  1. Pingback: Why I am Learning to Discipline Gently » Our Muddy Boots

  2. Absolutely, gut-wrenchingly, beautiful. I relate more than you know. And you have encouraged me to open up and share more vulnerably. Much love to you dear mama, xo, leslie

    • Leslie,

      Thank you for that. I remember so well the night that I wrote that. My husband must have thought I was nuts as I sobbed while sitting in front of my computer screen. I suppose he was right.

      The vulnerable thing is tough- but I have to get corny for a minute here and tell you that it really has been a gift.

      If any of you have not checked out Leslie’s site you need to. It is a special place <3

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  4. I resonate with this post completely. I have a 4 year old and a one year old and still mourn the loss of my oldest as an only child and the fact that my second born will never be an only child. Yet, my greatest joy is watching them play and laugh together. They love each other completely and have added so much to each other’s lives.

    • Katie,

      Owen and Sydney are now nearly 5 and 3. Things are so much different… easier. We are all enjoying each other more. Still, the days that I described in this post are on my mind.

      Thank you for visiting. I am glad that you are here.

  5. Thank you for this post. My husband and I have spoken a few times about possibly having a second child, our first is almost 9 months now. I want so much for her to have a brother or sister but fear exactly what you’ve described here. I know the transition is inevitable but I wish so much that I’ll have the strength to find more patience because my bond with her will change; our quiet snuggles, naps, time to just be together, her feeling that I am all hers… it’ll all change. Anyway… Thank you for sharing this, it helps to know others go though similar challenges. 🙂

    • Natasha,

      The thing that I have found most helpful in increasing my patience is learning as much as I have time for: about appropriate expectations, what I can expect at each age, and about how my actions impact my child. This is a game-changer for me.

      Best of luck to your family- no matter when it increases by one <3

  6. My son turned one last month, and my husband and I have talked about TTC for #2. While I want another baby, I also want to wait, for I fear that what you have written here will happen to us. I absolutely love every second I spend with Braydon, and I am not looking forward to day when he is not my only child anymore. I hope and pray that transition will be as easy as possible for us, and I hope the same for you! You’re an incredible writer. Keep up the good work, and I don’t mean on this blog! 🙂

  7. Wow. You took the words right out of my head. Thank you for reaffirming that I am not alone and that things can change for the better.

    • Thank you so much Maryanne! I appreciate those words 🙂 The traveling thing is so darn tough. We are all alone for really the first time in history. So glad that you are here.

  8. I know this only too well, having brought a very needy 2nd child into my “perfect” first child’s life as well . . .(and then I did it again 18 months later with my third!). . .But, now that I’m over a decade into this, I can say that the bond the three have with each other—the rich life they have together that is so separate from the life I share with them—is amazing and lovely. I read somewhere that they will have so many memories of themselves together that I will never know. And though, yes, they fight like all siblings do (and one of them will say “I wish I was an only child!”), it is a fleeting thing.

    Don’t worry—your son’s “new normal”, though different, will be okay for him. Be gentle to yourself.

  9. Wow…thank you for posting your story. I had a very similar experience. It is comforting to know I wasn’t alone with all that I was feeling.

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  11. This post particularily resonates with me. I feel that guilt myself sonce not only did I have 3 kids in 4 yrs, but I also completed my last 3 years of College education while the first 2 were little. My son is an angel and the funniest kid, but there was a time when I felt like our bond had begun to suffer (much I credit to following a different parenting philosophy then I do now) but as I have grown and learned I know better and I try every day to better. My daughter in her simple, beautiful 3 yr old voice will ask me when I allow my frustration to get the better of me and holler “Be quiet, please!” says to me “Why do we have to be quiet, mama?” or “why do we have to shush? don’t you like our voices mama?” and when she does that it can’t help but pull me up short and make me realize what I am doing wrong, and cause me to get down look her (and my other 2 ) in the eyes and say “I’m sorry, I was wrong!” which are in my opinion (aside from I love you) some of the most powerful words you can say to your child.

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  13. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate more than I care to think about. First when baby #2 came, then again when baby 3 came. Sometimes I still think of how #1 and I had been the best of playmates and “what if” it was still us. But, I adore 2 and 3, and maybe more importantly, so does he. And he is so kind and responsible and giving and patient for it all. I hope these gifts are more than anything I could have given him alone.

  14. Pingback: Carrying Guilt | waitingfordiamonds

  15. Thank you for this post. I’m wondering if you could write another about your best advice having gone through this and survived, for those of us with similar fears and close to having our second baby?

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  17. My oldest son feels they same way sometimes when having siblings is overwhelming and he is upset. If I ask him what is wrong he will say their names and say he never wanted siblings he liked being an only child. He was an only child for 3.5 years. And after reading this I can understand where he is coming from. Now I wonder how much closer we would be if our family hadn’t grown to big. 🙂

  18. I can totally relate to this. I had my daughter a little over a month after my now 4 year-old’s second birthday. I remember a couple of weeks after she was born, I was totally sleep deprived and trying to sneak in a nap while the baby shower, but my son refused to map, wanting some mommy time. He was being incredibly loud and hyper, and in my selfishness, I screamed at him to go to sleep. I still feel awful about it, sometimes still cry about it. My choice to do that, sleeplessness induced as is was, irretrievably broke my relationship with my son. They are 2 and 4 now, and even though I’ve tried to get my relationship back, it will never be the same. He’s 4 and he told me he hates me because I wouldn’t allow him to have something he wanted, like candy or time on my Kindle, or something along those lines. He’s 4. He hates me. And it’s all my fault.

    • Amy – I hear how much pain and regret you’re feeling. I promise you, children are resilient and forgiving, and no one mistake could have broken your relationship. Think of all the stories of families who transitioned to gentle parenting after months or years of spanking, time-outs, crying it out, or whatever the case might have been, and now have wonderful relationships with each other. There are few, if any, hurts that can never heal or relationships that can never be mended.

      I work with preschoolers; I hear a lot of “You’re not my friend anymore!”, “I don’t like you anymore!”, “I’ll never play with him/her again!”, etc. What that actually means is “I’m really hurt and angry, and this is the best way I can think of to express it.” While I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure that children saying things like “I hate you” is developmentally normal.

      I am not trying to diminish children’s feelings. They are important. I am also not trying to diminish the fact that such words hurt. Of course they do, and I’m so sorry that you’re hurting.

      And yes, it’s also possible that your son might be carrying around anger, hurt, grief, or other painful emotions related to things that have happened in the past. It might help you to research Hand In Hand Parenting’s (link below) “staylistening” and “playlistening” techniques, or to read a post by Genevieve Simperingham that I’ve also linked to at the end of my comment.

      You are a wonderful woman trying to treat your children with the compassion and respect they deserve – thank you for that. It’s never too late. All will be well. Be kind to yourself. <3

      http://www.handinhandparenting.org/
      http://genevievesimperingham.com/helping-children-resolve-fears-through-emotional-release/

  19. Thank you for your honesty. This is one of my biggest fears when thinking about having a second child. It’s good to know that I’m not alone and that even though my fear might have basis in reality there’s also that amazing sibling bond to look forward to.

  20. I know this post was written long ago, and you are in a different space in your mothering, but I feel inclined to respond. I had three pregnancies, the third resulting in twins. The mistakes I made with my first born son, my second child…the baby when the twins arrived…oh my, the mistakes I made in my exhaustion, my overwhelm, my fear, these mistakes will haunt me forever. I long for the little boy my son was before that first year with the twins. I had no patience, and no experience with a two-yr old boy. And add to this twins, and a total of four children under the age of five. Deep sigh. My oldest son is such a gift, and I will take to my grave the over-arching feelings of failing him during those early years. Ah. I may have to write this one out…. Thanks for showing up with honesty! It was inspirational this morning.

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  22. I never realized having a baby is such a serious thing. When I first had my son.I was all like yea I can do this…then I began a journey of emotinal stuff and lots of ups and downs. I still get told that my breastmilk is not good enough for my now six month old. I also get told that if I don’t spank I will be made fun of. I want to break down and cry now I can’t even imgine another baby!