What’s surprising about having two kids

two kids in bath About six months into life with two kids, I felt overwhelmed, and felt overwhelmed about feeling overwhelmed. “Really?!” I berated myself. “It’s just two kids. Why is it so hard?” I’d done my research putting together Baby makes four: Advice for having your second child, but now that I’d survived the first few months, I needed more help in figuring out this life where everything was just more.

So I called a friend was already two years into life with two. “Can you come over and give me advice about having two kids?” My voice broke and I tried to rush past it, but when she showed up, she gave me a sympathetic smile and handed me a frozen pizza and a box of chocolates before we set off on our walk.

I asked her to be honest with me: Would it get easier? She’s a good friend so she didn’t lie. It wouldn’t get easier. At least not soon. But I would get used to it more.

Friends, the concept of two kids is so simple, so easy! yet so deceptively overwhelming. Billions of people do it all the time, but there are still so many surprises.

Hoping that it wasn’t just me, I reached out to my friends and asked them to share what had surprised them about having two kids. And as usual, my amazing friends overwhelmed me, this time with thoughtful, hilarious, and dead honest answers that articulated truths that I wasn’t even aware of but definitely felt.

Here are some of their answers:

surprises about two kids

With the arrival of baby #2 I spend a little less time smoothing out my own edges. I’m a little blunter, a little quicker, and I prioritize my concerns in a different way. My patience is directed towards my children, and apparently I have a finite amount, because I have less patience for dumb s#$!! than I used to. (I would have never even typed that sentence before.)

I will admit that some of the epic, monumental awe of having a first baby wears off. I expected that, and honestly, thank God — I couldn’t keep up that pace. I also don’t have the same in-the-moment-anxiety about everything that I did with my first child. But while the awe has lessened somewhat, the surprise and delight at every milestone has not lessened. And while the anxiety has lessened on a day-to-day basis, there is a creeping worry about the bigger-picture things now. But that might be because my oldest is in pre-K and last week I watched two other little girls being mean to each other at pick-up and it sent me to a dark, dark place.

Morbid, but with more than one kid, my firstborn is no longer the sole beneficiary when/if something happens to me and my husband. Now the kids have to split whatever we leave them. This makes me feel like we need to work twice as hard (if that’s even possible) in order to leave both our kids with anything substantial.

two girls at birthday

With one we traveled all over the place… to the Bahamas on a sailboat, canoeing in the Boundary Waters, camping in Yosemite National Park, and at least seven flights to different areas of the country. With two, that became much less enjoyable and too costly. With one it is easy to enjoy your kid and the scenery. With two, it seems like they keep you so busy, you miss the scenery. As my husband put it recently, “Well we could either finance an international trip to another part of the world that the kids won’t remember or we could redo our kitchen and improve every single day of crazy we live through.”

two kids on vacation

We recently spent a whole weekend at a water park up north with two other families. I never would have wanted to do this before I had kids and with one kid, I still wouldn’t have wanted to do it. I have seen our plans shift from being what would be most exciting for us, to be what will be fun and easy with the kids. I certainly don’t want to have this be the case for the rest of the time our kids are growing up, but for now it is a welcome relief to just enjoy the company of others and make fun memories with the kids.

You can get away with bringing one kid to a fancy restaurant, or a concert, or otherwise adult venue. It’s charming. With the two-against-one ratio you can ensure your kid will be decently appropriate. With two if you walk in the door you start getting dirty looks, and it’s like, “It’s not family hour, people.”

two kids in snow

With one you can always manage the scenario. It is easy to leave the house on time, it is still two against one. You can set the schedule, the tone, the expectations. With two– you can have the best laid plan and then the two of them together can be so unpredictable and can manage to completely trash the “plan” in the blink of an eye. At that point lately John and I have either laughed and/or cried ‘uncle” and completely changed what we were going to do!

two kids sharing a bedroom

Almost anyone will watch one kid whereas two kids is like the great divide (which I do understand) but it makes getting out of town on our own almost impossible. Even though both of our parents had at least two kids of their own they seem really hesitant to take BOTH kids at the same time.

After my first baby I was smug; I’d popped back into shape immediately and with nearly zero defect. With the second I’m just astounded. The scale says the right number, so why does my body look so different?

I also was smug after one, like, hey, I got this! After two it was, hey, I got this hernia!

Over time, my body has returned fairly naturally to its normal size and weight. I will probably never wear a bikini (stretching scars have never gone away) in public again and my body is in no way the same as it was. But I have come to see my postpartum body as a positive reminder of the power I found in it during pregnancy and childbirth.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people don’t really want to buy anything for our youngest. I am guilty of this as well. I don’t want to buy any new toys or books because we already have tons of things he can use.

two kids

I have a clear memory of sitting at a friend’s dining room table with a group of women (all parents of 2+ children) about a week before my son was born and starting to cry when talking about having baby #2 because I didn’t know if I’d be a good mom to two kids, and if I’d miss spending so much time with my daughter after the baby was born. They all let me be, of course. What a sweet, inane moment! Parenting two is like parenting one – it’s seems hard and crazy at first, but then it is fine because of course it is, and because it’s so wildly fun and funny. (And hard, and exhausting, and blah blah, but come on — I am lucky to have healthy happy kids. This is fun.)

The change from one kid to two is like all big changes in life; it is huge and consuming, and then becomes completely normal. I’m not even making this up — I’ve had a moment when thinking about this blog post, and having some idea that felt so significant to me that I started to tear up. I remember where I was standing (in my kitchen, in front of the pantry cupboard) during that moment – but I have NO IDEA what the thought was. No clue! Ah well, I’m sure it was beautiful.

two kids

Thanks so much friends! And in case anyone is contemplating a third, here are

 A few words about 3:

three kids reading

Having a third kid join our family was easier in some ways. Sarah and Sophie had been together for three years and both were old enough to really be able to play fairly independently/together without a lot of help from me. When Sam came, if I was feeding him or whatever, they could go off and play somewhere and be just fine. They had each other. They entertained each other. That helped so much. When I had Sophie, Sarah was just barely two, and was a lot more needy of me as the firstborn and also as a two-year old. It seemed more stressful. She had to wait so long to be able to play with Sophie, but when Sam was born, the girls could play together.

Having a five-year gap between Sarah and Sam was awesome because Sarah could actually help!! She could get herself and Sophie a snack and bring me one while I was nursing, she could turn the light on for Sophie to use the bathroom, be my gopher, etc.

baby in bowtie

Obviously having a third kid meant having to get a minivan, whether we could afford it or not.

We also had a strong preference for more space but couldn’t move, so we finished our attic which had been completely unfinished since we moved in seven years ago. We had all five of us in two bedrooms until we moved upstairs in November.

One issue with having more kids is that the younger ones have to get dragged around to everything Sarah does. Every single day, we all take Sarah to school and pick her up, and sometimes we also bring Sophie to preschool. So Sam is used to a lot of trips in the car.

three kids

Thank you so much friends! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and going through this journey with me.

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