Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life With Two

I am an only child. Raised alone, with an extended family that also had no other children, in a neighborhood with almost no children. I'm used to being an only-child in every sense of the word.

So, two years ago, when we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting our latest little one (Oops! Oh wait, we meant to do that), I had to wrap my mind around a new paradigm.

What do these large families (i.e. more than one child) do, anyway? And can I survive as a mother of more than one child?

One of the biggest adjustments I found with having our first child was learning to keep track of a moving dot in my mind - that is, my child's location. Pre-kids, I just had to pay attention to what I was doing. Post-birth, I had to keep track of not just myself, but also our baby/todder - (1) where is he?, (2) what is he doing?, and (3) is he doing anything particularly life-threatening?

So, predictably, one adjustment that had to be made upon the birth of a second child was adding another dot to my mental map. It's kind of a sub-conscious background thing - just learning to have a constant low-level of awareness of where each child is, what he/she is doing, and if he/she is in any immediate danger. I guess that's an adjustment that has to be made with each child - adding another moving dot to one's mental map!

In terms of adding another child, I have had a much easier time than many moms. Why?

(1) I had my "hard" one first and my "easy" one second. Much easier than the other way around! One mom I know said that she had an easy-beyond-belief introduction into motherhood when her #1 was a compliant, docile little guy, and then had her world rocked when her strong-willed #2 entered the world. I much prefer the way it happened for me!

(2) Being that our little guy, due to his health issues, is still non-mobile, I am having a much easier time than most moms do when #2 becomes mobile. Right now, if I put #2 down somewhere, he stays there! Lovely! He's starting to roll a bit, so I can't leave him on unguarded beds, but on the whole, he's not going to show up in the bathroom five minutes later, drinking bleach. Thank goodness. I've had enough bleach-drinking for a lifetime.

Also, our #2 is a much calmer, quieter, kind of guy, so I don't think he'll be the up-down-all-around whirlwind that our #1 was, even when he does become mobile.

Also, I have been blessed in that our older son has taken well to his younger brother. He was uber-jealous before the birth, but his jealousy pretty much vanished at birth. (I have to put a plug in here for having siblings present at births.... We had an awesome experience having our 3yo at baby's birth, and it was at that point that the jealousy vanished. I have heard the same story repeated over and over and over from other mums, so we'll definitely keep up the habit if any other little ones join us. Advertisement over.)

However, having a #2 has resulted in many more chores to be done, a much longer to-do list, and much less discretionary time. A lot of my attempts at crunchiness have gone to the wall - hopefully they'll have time to reappear sometime in later years? I don't know. But here's a run-down at things that have had to go the way of all good things since a second child entered our lives:

- Line-drying of clothes - The dryer is my friend. Rough on clothes, but that's okay.

- Ironing - I know a wonderful young woman who says firmly, "I don't iron." I resisted for a long time, but I have now made her mantra my own. It's a wonderful way to live.

- Making my own peanut butter - Not worth the time, though it was fun. Other homemade items have similarly bitten the dust. I still make my own yogurt and my own baby food.

- Complicated recipes - Almost my entire recipe collection has been revamped. Pre-babies, I made homemade pizza, homemade pierogi, homemade bread, the works. Now my world revolves around what is fast and what can go in the crockpot. I still go with all-natural, for the most part, but lengthy time-consuming recipes are a thing of the past.

- Super-thriftiness - I don't price match any more. I should, but I don't. And I don't spend tons of time trying to find deals or looking for recipes that I can make for under $2.00. I just make a meal-plan around the ads at Sprouts and go from there. Part of it is frustration with "thrifty" recipes that are nothing but white flour in a variety of forms, and part of it is just an issue of NO TIME. If I can get to the store, get what we need, and make it on a nightly basis, I'm happy.

- Cloth napkins - I have a lovely collection, but the vast amount of processing time isn't worth the tiny savings right now. Maybe later.

- Getting rid of plastic - Getting plastic out of our house has been a goal of mine.... and it still is.... but I am so stinking tired of cleaning up broken glass. Plastic is in for now.

- Nixing the microwave - I've wanted to stop using the microwave for a long time. But now, with two kids, the microwave is my meal-by-meal companion. Ah, well. Another time.

- Housecleaning - Ah, yes. My arch-nemesis. Housecleaning is something that really, really bugs me. When I was a pre-kids homemaker, I happily spent all day every day cleaning and organizing. Mmm. May I say that I was an uptight housekeeper?

In fact, here's a funny story: When our doula for our first birth met with us, she asked us what we wanted for our birth (candles, music, massage, etc.). I told her that I didn't care what she did for me; the only thing that I cared about was not letting the house get messy during the birth (clutter, etc.) - so would she please just see that the house stayed clean?


Now, knowing a bit about childbirth, I would never say something like that (and I also know what I want and need from a doula!). But that was just a reflection of my "need for clean."

And that's still there - it's just being progressively repressed. Forcefully. But it's not easy to let go of standards - it's kind of like prying open the jaws of an enraged and locked-on pit bull.

However, having a second child has forced me to lessen my housekeeping standards... again. It's painful, but necessary.

However, there have been some positive repercussions. For example, now being a little bit more loosened up, I can kinda-sorta-almost relax with a mildly messy house (or rather, not really, but I can pretend). Also, I've started to do more things with and for my family - like making Saturday breakfasts, or playing with our eldest - that I didn't do too much of before because I was so uptight about the house.

Other notes:

Having a second child has pushed me further in terms of maturity. I think that every child added to a family is a sanctifying influence upon the parents (if they choose to let it be so) because it forces us further away from our selfish desires and pursuits into the service of others. Having an older child is forcing me to develop authority and discipline and a backbone, none of which I have naturally. Having a baby at the same time is teaching me to multi-task, to push myself further, to die to my own desires even further to meet the needs of my family.

It is also more physically demanding, as I am now dealing with sleep disturbances at night and an active family during the day. First-time mothers, please remember to relax and sleep when your baby sleeps, because it is the only time that that luxury exists! When #2 arrives, there is always a #1 demanding attention. I still enforce a daily nap/quiet time with an unfailing energy, because it is my saving grace, but there is no more of having several daily times when baby is sleeping and I am free (too bad!!!).

Having a second child has been a really good thing for me, and I'm so glad God chose to bless our family with our sweet little one. If it weren't for the HG issue, I would definitely jump into it again wholeheartedly (I'm going to post on this subject soon.... remind me if I forget).

Any comments? How has having a child, or a second or third or fourth child, impacted your life?

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