I’m writing this post just a few weeks shy of Shep’s first birthday, and I’m sure my answers are different than they would have been had I answered them after six months, or six weeks. The neat (and challenging) part, of course, is that life with two kids will continue to evolve! Here are a few more answers to your questions about our transition from a family of three to a family of four thus far…
What are your ideas for one-on-one time with an older child? Did you deal with jealousy from June right away?
Since John and I both work but were home on leave after Shep’s arrival (me for 12 weeks, John for six), June actually got MORE time with us than she usually does, so I can’t remember dealing with any jealousy at all. In general, our focus was and continues to be on fun family time all together, whether that meant all snuggling on the bed while I fed Shep or bringing Shep along to get ice cream as a family. I think that helped June immediately see Shep as part of the family and start to bond with him!
In the first month (August – hottttt), June and John did go on a couple of solo outings to the splash pad, which I think was extra fun because it was so unusual. Even before Shep arrived, we very rarely did activities with just June and one parent, instead prioritizing time all together. (She and I spend time together in the afternoon before John gets home, but that’s not by choice.) We do plan to add in more one-on-one experiences as she gets older, starting this summer with a movie date with each of us! She’s never been and I think she will find it SO fun :)
What have been some challenges and blessings of the new sibling dynamic?
The blessings are sweet, obvious, and abundant! June is by FAR Shep’s favorite person aside from his source of food (me). He adores her and thinks everything she does is hilarious, and from the beginning would get so excited whenever she would pay the littlest bit of attention to him! That is still true today. In turn, she is astonishingly kind to him (loves to give him toys, feed him snacks, and make him laugh!).
Thankfully, the challenges have been few and far between at almost 1 and 3.5. Because Shep ALWAYS wants to participate in whatever June is doing, she can get frustrated when he inevitably knocks over her tower, scatters her picnic set-up, runs into her with his push toy (don’t blame her for that one, clearly!), or slobbers on her stuffed animal. She has always been receptive to our lead, and so I think we’ve been able to help her laugh off these blunders with a mock-exasperated “Oh, Sheppie!” She’ll turn to me and say, “He’s just a baby, right Mama?” :) When I’m able to be in the fray, I try to block or distract him from his most bull-in-the-china-shop moments, which I think helps June feel I’m looking out for her, too, and helps her be more magnanimous.
What does bedtime look like? How do you do it solo when John travels?
This has shifted and changed throughout this first year with two. For his first few months, Shep had a feeding around 8 or 8:30 (the thick of June’s going-to-bed routine), so we pretty much divided and conquered, with John taking June and me taking Shep.
Around 8 months, when he stopped taking as many naps during the day at school, he was generally DONE by 7. This put a major wrinkle in our evening flow, since he was too cranky for me to get dinner started before John got home, and by the time John got home, June was hangry.
Then, we implemented this schedule:
4:45pm: June, Shep, and I arrive home, have a snack, and enjoy each other’s company :)
6-6:30pm: John gets home, feeds Shep dinner, and gives him a bath while I start making dinner
6:30-7pm: We switch: I nurse Shep and put him to bed while John finishes making dinner.
7pm: June, John, and I have dinner, then proceed with June’s normal bedtime routine
We’re basically still following this pattern now, except that about half the time Shep will be able to keep it together enough for me to make dinner before John gets home, so we can all eat together!
Regardless, Shep’s bedtime is at least a half hour earlier than June’s, which, again to the question about one-on-one time above, I think provides a really nice window where she has one or both of our undivided attention (and is refreshing for us, too!).
Thankfully John travels very rarely, but when I was on my own in those early months when June was a little less independent and they both wanted to go down at essentially the same time (and Shep was sleeping in our room, where June also needed to bathe, so she had to be done with her routine before I could put him down…), my biggest trick was putting Shep in our laundry basket with a towel thrown over it while I quickly gave June her bath and just needed to have both hands free for two minutes. HA! Is that weird?! It’s like the really un-fancy version of a Dock-a-Tot :) Do what you need to do, people!
How big of an impact (if any so far) has a second child had on your finances?
You know I love this question :) I wrote a post about how much our first year with a child cost us, and that’s a great place to start for some context. Far and away the biggest impact was adding another daycare tuition, but we were able to soften the blow in a few ways:
A few months before Shep arrived, we moved June to an extended-day preschool from a traditional daycare. Her new school is lower in cost, since we’re only paying for the hours we need (instead of 7am-6pm).
Last year, John also got a promotion. That helped!
Even with both those changes, our 2019 budget is tiiiiiiighter than ever. Here’s the thing, though: in a way, our budget is only artificially tight, because for years and years we have conditioned ourselves to live on much less than we make and put the rest toward savings goals (our mortgage, our 401k, our HSA). This made adding in the significant expense of first one and now two tuitions much easier to accommodate, because we were not used to a higher standard of consumption that we had to cut back.
This is an unexpected bonus to saving – though you never want to cut back on the amount you’re socking away, it’s always easier to shift around money you’re paying to yourself versus money you owe to someone else!
How do you respond when random people ask if you are having more kids?
I don’t mind this question at all! In fact, I love the topic. I have never had anyone ask me in what I perceived to be a rude way, and I think receiving the question with grace, curiosity, and honesty has made for some interesting conversations :)
How has it been to have a boy after raising a girl? What has been different? How do you feel about having a boy now? Will I love my baby boy as much as my first baby girl?
Planning to answer this with a post around Shep’s first birthday – stay tuned :)
What has been the most unexpected thing or biggest change going from 1 to 2 kids?
As a family with two working parents (and no close family nearby), one thing that I did not anticipate was the added complication and weight that having not one but two children who can call home sick from school could wreak. We had a six-week period this winter where at least one child was home sick from school at least one day every week. This overlapped with a season at work for me where I was already fighting to keep my head above water, and a new client-facing role for John where it was much harder for him to take off unexpectedly.
We are incredibly lucky to have gracious employers and a good amount of flexibility in our jobs, and for the most part the pressure and frustration came from beating ourselves up over not meeting our own expectations at work as we necessarily prioritized caring for sick children. However, in sometimes working after hours to compensate for being off during the day, a cascade of getting behind in “life” stuff (grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry) would be set off that could make us feel like we were flailing on every front (which then often cascaded into shorter tempers and less time for fun to recover from them!).
A few things that greatly helped: June is old enough to be interested in TV, and I have ZERO problem whatsoever cozying her up on the sofa with a show while I get work done and she’s home sick.
The second is almost too jealousy-inducing to mention for my fellow working parents, but here goes: John’s employer has an amazing dependent care benefit through which you can hire last-minute (like, the night before) pre-screened and vetted nannies who come to your home to watch your child (i.e. when they have a fever and can’t go to school). And the rate is subsidized by the employer. On days where we both just HAD to be physically at work or get something done, we accessed this benefit – because fortunately or unfortunately, a 6-, 9-, or 12-month-old is neither capable of entertaining himself or being entertained by the TV :) We are incredibly thankful for this benefit!
What has been different the second time around?
1. Everything requires more forethought. Even a simple trip to the park requires thinking through the supplies needed for both kiddos, and working out the logistics of how our plans will intersect with two nap and feeding schedules. Especially when Shep was younger, this felt MUCH more complicated than it had with just June.
2. I have more patience with unpredictable naps. With June, I could get really bent out of shape if she took a much shorter nap than I was expecting. It was as if I felt “me time” that had been promised to me was stolen from me, and I’d be grumpy about it. I generally haven’t felt that way this time (expectations for the win yet again!).
3. Especially in the beginning, I missed June. I didn’t feel guilty, I just missed her. When I was feeding Shep and she and John were playing in the other room, or they went to the splash pad or out for a walk together, I wanted to be with them because spending time with her is pretty much the best thing ever.
4. I have written much about slow parenting, and it is still very much my mindset, but I will say this: it is much easier to be a slow parent when you don’t have an infant, or when you only have an infant. Babies aren’t known for their patience, and there have been many more times this past year when I’ve had to hurry June along to accommodate Shep. Excited for that to ease up as he gets older.
5. The milestones have seemed to come faster this time around, and I can be a bit more impatient for them. I remember feeling on June’s first birthday that it felt like exactly the right amount of time had passed for her to be one – no more, no less. This time, Shep’s birthday and the milestones of the past year have seemed to come a little faster than I expected, but at the same time, I’ve found myself more impatient for them than I was with June – I think because I knew better what was coming (and was excited for it!) and because milestones generally mean more ease as a parent (and ease is more helpful when juggling two!).
I hope these thoughts have been helpful, friends! As your big sister, I’m grateful to go before you in this huge transition :) Sending you hugs as you navigate a sweet new addition, whether it’s your first, second, third, fourth, or more!