A dear friend expecting her second child recently confided that she had lost sleep wondering if she would be able to love her second as much as she loves her first. My first impulse was to laugh and tell her she was being silly.
Until I remembered that I had worried about the exact same thing when I was expecting my second. In fact, I had struck a deal with my husband, saying he would need to love the second since I would clearly not be able to match my feelings for our firstborn.
Needless to say, I was wrong.
In that spirit, here are seven myths about having a second child. Full disclosure: I fell for all these misconceptions myself.
Myth 1. You will not be able to love the second child as much as the first.
It may not happen all at once, but trust me, it happens. For many parents, the intensity of feeling for our firstborn can be startling. I had never experienced that depth of emotion before, so I couldn’t imagine that it could happen twice. It can be shocking to realize your capacity for love.
Myth 2. It will only be twice as much work to add another child.
No, the workload will increase by a greater multiple than two. Having to constantly meet the needs of two children, especially if they are close in age, can feel overwhelming, especially in the beginning. Unlike with the first baby, there’s always another little human who needs your attention, so it’s not as easy to catch naps when you are sleep-deprived. It’s also normal to worry about neglecting the older child, who all of a sudden seems so much older. But a little independence and responsibility, even for a toddler, is a good thing. There will be days that pass in a blur, but it does get easier.
Myth 3. What worked with the first will work with the second.
Yes, you are more experienced and, hopefully, more relaxed about parenting the second time around. But just because the first was a great napper doesn’t mean the next one will be. Just because the first loved veggies, don’t expect another adventurous eater. Intellectually, we know each child is different, but it still feels like a rude shock when you realize that your firstborn’s excellent sleep habits likely had little to do with your superior parenting skills, since those same skills aren’t doing squat this time.
On the upside, the challenges you faced with the first may never arise with the second.
Each child will reach milestones at different points. One will sit up, walk, talk or read sooner than the other. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Remember that there is a wide range of normal, and if he or she falls within that scope, relax.
Myth 4. You will be just as diligent with the second as you were with the first.
The truth is there will be fewer baby pictures (forget the baby book right now), fewer early childhood activities and less one-on-one time. The reason is rather simple: There’s more to do but no additional time to do it. Plus, in the wisdom you’ve accrued from child number one, you realize that making flashcards for a baby is a largely worthless endeavor. But while the second child may get less of your undivided attention, he or she gets a better, more experienced parent.
Myth 5. You’ll lose the pregnancy weight as quickly as you did with the first.
Perhaps if you’ve got a team of support staff, including a trainer, housekeeper and cook, you can expect to get that pre-baby body back quickly. For the rest of us, it takes longer. Even if the extra pounds melt away relatively quickly because of nursing and lacking the time to eat proper meals, things will not look quite the same. Um, ever.
Myth 6. You won’t have a favorite.
Oh, yes, you will. It will change depending on which child is making your life slightly easier that day, week or month. Don’t feel guilty about this. You should (and will) love them equally, but there will certainly be times when you like one more than the other.
Myth 7. My child will finally have a playmate.
They may seem more like mortal enemies than best buddies, at least for a while. Get used to squabbles, whining and accusations: one child claiming the other always gets away with everything, is loved more and never gets caught being bad. There will also be, however, moments of great friendship and hilarious overheard conversations between the two. Those make up for all the “He’s so annoying!” and “She’s touching my stuff!”
I still believe the greatest gift you can ever give a child is a sibling. Underneath the bickering and fighting is a very deep bond of a shared childhood and family experiences -- things only a brother or sister can understand.