Advice on going from one to two kids?

October 18, 2006 | 8 comments

My son just had his second birthday and my baby is now 14 weeks old. This is supposed to be hard, right?

I feel like the pressure of going from one to two kids is just now hitting me. It was easier when the baby was a newborn, but now that she’s a bit older and isn’t a sleepy little infant anymore I really have my hands full. About once a day I find myself *extremely* stressed, frustrated, at my wit’s end, topped off with a lot of guilt that I feel that way. I am so blessed it’s absurd. I have the best husband in the world, I live with my mother who is very helpful when she can spare the time, I even have a freaking babysitter who comes sometimes to help with my son. On top of that there’s the fact that I have two healthy children and live in the kind of luxury that 99% of people who have ever lived cannot imagine (i.e. I live a typical middle-class American life).

Here’s an example of the sort of thing that makes me so upset most days: I was trying to put the baby down for a nap but my son wanted to read a book. I told him I’d be happy to as soon as I put the baby down. He got really loud and rowdy, startled the baby, and she started screaming. She was crying so hard that it was hard to tell if she was just overtired or in pain. I determined that she was in pain (in retrospect I think she was just tired) so I walked up and down the hall with her to get her to settle down. Meanwhile, my poor son started crying and clinging to my leg because he wanted my attention, thus upsetting the baby even more. The noise level was so loud it physically hurt my ears, my two children whom I love so much, both screaming and screaming and screaming.

Does this happen to everyone else or am I doing something wrong here?

I feel like I am sucking at my vocation. It’s partially for the reasons mentioned in this post (although I have more help than most people). Another big issue (maybe *the* issue) is that I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep in the past two years. My son didn’t sleep through the night until a few weeks before the baby was born, and the pain of the DVT kept me up at night during that time. I fully understand now why sleep deprivation is a form of torture outlawed in the Geneva Convention. It’s brutal.

So anyway. You brilliant commentors have given me such wonderful advice for pretty much every issue of faith I’ve ever thrown out, so I’ll put this one out there as well: anyone have any advice? For those of you who have multiple children, was this a tough period for you as well? It’s hard to tell if I’m in a phase of life that’s tough for everyone or if maybe there’s something I’m totally screwing up here that makes it harder for me than for other people.


  1. Bekah

    I have five children. Going from one to two was definitely the hardest transition. Do not be so hard on yourself! You are a loving, caring mother, and we all have our limits. I can commiserate with the lack of sleep. It certainly does make a huge impact on our endurance.

    One important thing to make note of as parents, is the difference between patience and tolerance. Patience, is allowing children to be children, but tolerance averts one’s eyes from naughtiness, pretending that it is just childishness.

    In the instance you have described, I would not tolerate that sort of behavior from my 2 year old. While the situation likely wouldn’t have been prevented, as soon as the child started screaming, I would isolate him either in a “naughty place” or in his room, whichever is more appropriate. I have very low tolerance for screaming. In fact, we have a rule chart posted on the wall, two of which are, “no yelling” and “no crying when told no”. The four year old can recite these rules even though he cannot read.

    Back to the screaming child…a child of two should be reminded of the rule violation and isolated for 2 minutes. Upon the end, he is required to repent for his actions, make amends as best he can, and request forgiveness, in other words, exactly what is required of us whenever we sin.

    Results should appear with consistency. It is a lot of work, but I can only attest that it gets worse if you do not nip it in the bud. Oh how I wish we could skip from about 16 mo to 4 years. 😉

  2. 4andcounting

    I have four kids, the oldest is five and the youngest just turned one. In fact, they all had birthdays in the last month. I can definitely relate to how you are feeling. Being a stay-at-home parent is very difficult and very demanding. Of course, it is really rewarding too, but it is hard to think of that when going through the situation you describe.

    First, give yourself a break. You do not have to love what you are doing all the time, no one does I don’t think. I think women are extremely self-critical and that only intensifies when we become mothers. Also, try to avoid comparing yourself to other moms. I know that I have to constantly remind myself that my situation is my own and is challenging to me. Other women are challenged by other things–God gives us what we need to come to Him, whatever that may be. If you need a nap when it is time to pay the bills, then take a nap and ask your husband to help you with the bills later. I tried to manage the money for a long time while at home, but it became such a stressor that my husband took it over and things are much better.

    I have so much more to say but am having a hard time gathering my thoughts. So, for now, know that you are not alone in your feelings and experiences. Things will get better, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. I will try to come back with more later because I really feel like I know exactly what you are talking about.

  3. Julie

    Let’s try that again without the typos!!

    Oh Jen, totally, totally normal. You’re not doing anything wrong — it just goes with the territory. I always say that if I could do anything over re: getting ready for the new baby, it would be working on DD being QUIET when asked. It was so monumentally frustrating to calm the baby and have her lose it over something, then everyone was wailing, myself included.

    Two is no cakewalk, but it will get easier. Eventually. 😉

  4. Barb, sfo

    Yes….this is the roughest transition. It WILL get better. Your little guy is still a very little guy. And I’m with Julie. It will take a little time, but if he can learn to be very very quiet when you ask him to–then he can get his story time and his Mommy time. He needs that too. I know that I hurt my older son’s feelings when he was being a normal 4-year-old and woke the almost-sleeping baby in his enthusiasm to play with me–and I blew up at him.
    Sleep deprivation is a killer. But take it easy on yourself. Don’t feel guilty that you have help–revel in it. I was not so lucky when mine were small. Let your helpers help you, and dote on your little guy when you can.
    With prayers for you!

  5. Anonymous

    Father of 5 here. Children and spouses are given to us to help us in our conversion (not conversion from 1 religion to another, conversion from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh!)

    God is teaching you patience. God is letting you know the limits of your love. Thanks be to God. He loves you! Once you know the limits of your love, you begin to understand what His love is and why you need it (this may take a while, trust a fellow former agnostic/atheist)

    Our first was easy, she slept through the night after 2 months. We call her our ‘trick baby’ as in God played a trick on us to introduce us to the beauty of parenthood.

    Number 2 was VERY difficult. Number 3 was hard. Number 4 was easier (after all, #1 could help a little) and #5 is a dream (maybe God’s tricking us again…?). It gets better. God loves you!

    As a priest reminded me recently, the only things I get to take to heaven with me are my children and my wife. Thanks be to God that he has given so much to someone who deserves only scorn and death. I hope that I can do my little part to help them get there!

  6. Anonymous

    Just in case it sounded like it, that last comment wasn’t intended to be a ‘if you aren’t good, your kids won’t go to heaven’ sort of tone.

    Quite the opposite, it was meant to remind you that those little screamers are the treasures that God has given you. In your reading of the Gospel, you’ll find out about earthly treasure and its uselessness in the afterlife.

    Btw…I’m also undergoing some patience expansion at this very moment 🙂

  7. Catholic Mom

    My first three children came in a span of 3 1/2 years. Only 17 months between the first two. We did have to wait 4 years before we were blessed with number 4. The transition from 1 to 2 children was definitely the most dramatic.

    I know you are exhausted. Do your best and turn the rest over to God. Blessed Mother is also a great source of strength and consolation. Those first few years are a blur to me, but I do remember them as a steady stream of Hail Marys.

    Bekah is right when she says that it is time to discipline the screaming 2-year-old. Consistant discipline is probably the hardest think we do as parents. We love our children. We want to see them smiling and happy. And we want them to love us.We don’t feel very loveable when we are laying down the law. Yet to deny them the discipline they need in the short term is to deny them the self-control they need for the long term.

    I am guessing that it was about age two when I started insisting on proper manners, especially when speaking to parents and other adults. All four of our children have been raised to respond with a “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” and of course “please” and “thank you”. This initially required constant correction but was soon a natural part of their vocabulary.This insistence on good manners and respect for others makes children far less self-centered.

    My oldest is twenty and my youngest is now twelve. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told what good manners they have and what a pleasure they are to be around. I will also tell you that their respectful manners have opened many doors for them.

    You will catch up on sleep. However, staying up with a fussy baby will be replaced with waiting up for a teenager before you know it.Just keep praying. You are not alone in this. You are partnered with He who gave you these beautiful gifts of new life.

  8. Tanya

    Jen, I read you a lot and never am able to offer much help, but on this I’m glad to weigh in!

    This is the hardest time. My oldest was 22 months when #2 came. She was a terror. Doing exactly what you described. I reacted the same way you did. We knew she needed a book read and lots of patience and love, her world was upside down. She grew more and more difficult over the year until a friend suggested that we take a strong stand against her behavior. She got her first spanking around 3, and it was the only one she needed. Maybe you won’t need to spank (and this isn’t an attempt to discuss that topic). But for us it was necessary to assert ourselves as the authority and not let her have that power.

    She’s now a completely lovely 6 1/2 year old. A delight!

    Also know, this too will pass. And it was a great consolation to me when I became a Catholic (and as the dad above wrote) and I realized that it’s not supposed to be easy. We grow through our difficulties. Hang in there! Be strong, pray, and try to go back to a positive attitude whenever you can (because it’s almost impossible to maintain one!).

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