In college, I had two jobs and took over 18 credit hours every semester just to keep busy. I have always thrived under pressure and time constraints. I envisioned that when I had kids, I would be a bit of a super mom, upholding all those unrealistic societal expectations of a working and yet still involved mother. Well, here I am, in my early 30s, a mother of two small kids, and crashing through all of young Olivia’s expectations for herself… thirty, dirty, and surviving.
I’ve found that parenting two boys under three while working full time from home and completing a doctorate doesn’t leave a lot of room for the PTA, midday holiday parties at school, or fun art projects at home. Instead, I am dangling on the edge of the struggle bus by a few untrimmed fingernails and a prayer. Other moms I’ve talked to might say they hit that wall at kiddo number three or four, but the change was distinctly obvious for me when adding number two. If you are Type A like I am, let me prepare you for some of the things that might need expectation adjustments before adding to your family.
Your physical appearance may not be what it used to. Even with an infant, after having my first baby, I would have styled hair and some makeup on for my work Zoom calls. I hit the pavement at 6 weeks postpartum and got my pre-baby body back pretty quickly. I’m four months postpartum the second time around, and I’m lucky to wash my face and have dry shampoo in my hair before 10am. I am now shopping for pants that are both stretchy and somewhat structured, with no buttons, to make work clothes as comfortable as possible. Spit up is a normal part of my outfit these days.
You might not always be on time anymore. This one was a real struggle for me! Type A Olivia could not compute that, even when I did everything right and got everyone ready to go out the door on time, the baby might decide he was hungry and need to nurse for 10 minutes before we actually leave the house. Suddenly, we’re late. Someone might poop or puke or walk slower than a turtle, causing me to change, carry, or comfort them. Suddenly, we’re late. You have to budget way more time to get ready and travel, in case someone is hungry, grouchy, needs a diaper change, needs an outfit change, or falls asleep. You also have to expect the unexpected and accept that you are no longer in control of all the factors.
The mental load will make your brain feel fried at times. Write everything, everything, everything down. I keep my grocery list running on the Kroger app, so I don’t forget. I write down a to-do list every day. I made a home maintenance and operations binder to track weekly, monthly, and other routine needs. I set calendar reminders in my phone for all kinds of things. Mental load typically falls more to the mother in a traditional relationship. I find that to be true in my family. I have had to find ways to balance that and also to hand off things every chance I get to feel a little more in control of all the to-do lists. I also ordered the card deck called “Fair Play” to put in my husband’s stocking and hopefully aid us in a more equitable division of the mental load.
Your romantic relationship will take a lot more intentional effort than before. With little people dictating much of your day and actions, it can be easy to fall into a place of complacency with your relationship. I will be the first to admit that my marriage was not the first thing on my to-worry-about list when the second baby came. However, it is important to continue to fuel that relationship and keep it healthy. Because one day, those kids are going to grow up and move out, and you will still be there with your partner. We have found different questions and prompts to feed conversations and avoid just staring at phones or the TV until bedtime, which is a great tool to keep connection.
Your friendships will look a little different. I don’t have as much time to go grab a drink or go on Saturday outings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love my friends. Group chats, thoughtful and intentional questions about each other’s days, and a lot of promising to make something happen soon are more what my friendships look like right now. But when someone’s parents are sick, we still get soup to each other. When someone has a rough week, we still offer to take something off their plate. I’ve also intentionally tried to make more mom friends with kids in similar phases as mine. This makes it easier to relate to their experiences, and I don’t feel as guilty when I have to reschedule a playdate because Jack came home from school with the latest virus.
Adding additional children to your family is not something to do without consideration. Control freaks like I will probably struggle with the transition at some point. Consider talking to your doctor for support if you are really feeling emotionally overwhelmed or overly sad. Adjustments to my anxiety medicine made a remarkable difference in my daily function. Moving from one to two children has been a bigger challenge than I anticipated. However, watching these two together has been the best thing in life so far. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.