Let me be clear. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have not asked for my parenting pointers. In fact, you’re probably thinking that the last thing they need is my advice, being that they have a personal nanny and plenty of family support on board. Nevertheless — I think that Kate and William wipe snotty noses and get up for night feedings just like the rest of us. And because I wish someone had given me more information about what it’s like to be a parent of two, I’m sharing a few unsolicited words of warning, available to any and all expectant parents who are preparing for a second birth:
1. You might curse yourself for having two children so close in age, and then pat yourself on the back for the very same thing later. For the next year, it will be a little bit intense around the palace. Instead of double the work, it will feel like triple or quadruple the effort. Lots of crying, plenty of spills, a ton of diapers. Not a lot of sleep. But later on, when your little tikes are best friends, you will be thrilled that you didn’t wait a day longer to introduce a second kid to your tribe. My suggestion: Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a wild ride. It will become more and more enjoyable as the months tick by.
2. There may be moments when you don’t like your eldest child. Notice that I said like, not love. You will always love and cherish your firstborn. He is the one who launched your parenting adventure and the sentimental feelings run high. But when you place a toddler next to a tiny, precious newborn, the toddler often seems like a lumbering, clumsy giant who is determined to make your life challenging for an extended period of time. A toddler who is introduced to a new brother or sister often experiences a strange mixture of excitement and rage. Excitement that they have a new sibling and plaything. Rage that this new little creature needs a ton of mum’s attention. My suggestions: Know that your feelings of frustration with your eldest are normal and make sure to put aside one-on-one time with your little first-born. He will regain his adorable status in your eyes again soon.
3. There WILL be times when both children are screaming at the SAME time, and both want their mom (or mummy as little George probably calls the Duchess). Yes, you have a nanny, and a wonderful husband, and adoring grandparents, but there will be moments when both of those babies want their mother, and no one else will do. If you could cut yourself in half, you would. But since you can’t, here are my suggestions: Take a big breath, hand one of the crying creatures to another loving adult, and tend to one kiddo at a time. The other child will survive the brief absence of your attention and might even benefit from knowing that they have to share mummy’s time.
4. It may seem like you are never going to spend one-on-one time with your partner again, except when you are sleep-walking zombies, passing each other in the middle of the night. As I said in warning #1, things are going to be challenging for a little while and it will be tough to find time to connect with your partner without a little person attached at the hip. My suggestion: Find time with each other when you can. Plop down on the couch and watch an episode of Downton Abbey while holding hands, load the kids up in a double stroller and go for a walk in the garden or cuddle up in bed when your babies give you an hour or two to rest. You’ll be going on international adventures together before you know it, but for the first few months, your couple time is going to be slim.
5. You might feel more relaxed about the care of your second little one, and you might find yourself feeling a little guilty about that. After you have survived a year with an infant, you realize that they are not quite as fragile as they first seemed. It is common to feel more at ease with number two and more accepting of help and assistance. Since you have two kids to look after, you will not be able to give the second one the anxious, unwavering attention that you gave the first. My suggestion: You learned a lot with the baby number one, so don’t feel bad about putting your experience to use and relaxing a little more. Both kids will thrive even if the parenting they receive is slightly different.
6. You will look at your children a few years down the line, when they are attached at the hip and best friends, and be so glad that you opted to have two. There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing a pair of sweet siblings hold each other tight and pose for a photo. Or hearing them chat away in their double pram as you walk them down the path. Or seeing them stand up for each other against a big ol’ bully later on in life. You’ve made an excellent decision to have a second baby and you have a slew of amazing parenting moments ahead of you.
Take a big breath, get through these first few months, and then prepare to enjoy your growing family — you have some jolly good times ahead of you.
Here’s to Strength and Double Prams,