My kids are 102 weeks apart—two weeks shy of exactly two years apart. There’s nothing unique or spectacular about that in itself (unless of course you consider that I will have to plan and execute two birthday parties every year in the same two-week window). Recently a co-worker, who is pregnant with #2 and due shortly after her older child’s 2nd birthday, asked me:
“What it’s really like to have 2 kids in 2 years?”
Usually when I’m asked questions from other moms facing a situation I’ve experienced, I try to have very positive responses:
- Being induced: “Those Pitocin contractions aren’t as bad as everyone says.”
- Giving birth: “Really, it’s not that bad…I don’t even remember much other than seeing my sweet baby for the first time.”
- Sleepless nights with a newborn: “Your body totally adjusts.”
- Breastfeeding: “It just comes to you naturally, you’ll know exactly what to do when the time comes.”
Of course, those are all BS PR responses. Pitocin contractions are miserable and I will never forget the tremendous pain of giving birth (neither will all the folks on the L&D floor who heard me screaming). But really, the mom headed to her induction doesn’t want to hear about my 36-hour induced labor. What she wants to hear is that “it’s not that bad.” So I edit my responses and no one gets hurt.
So that said, when I was asked what it’s like to have a newborn and a 2-year-old at home, I should have consulted with my inner PR person. I should have been spitting off answers like “Oh it’s so much fun” or “I’m so glad they’re so close in age—you’ll love it!” I mean, at the very least I should have muttered a half-believable “It’s not that bad.”
Letting it all out
But my inner PR person must have been off that day—and the emotions and memories that flooded me from the question caught me off guard. I’m not 100% sure what my exact words were, but it was some rapid fire combination of phrases like:
- “Oh my God it’s miserable.”
- And “it’s so much harder than I thought it would be.”
- And of course, “that was the toughest year of my life.”
I could almost justify my answers if I would have stopped there—but I kept going. I talked about the guilt of missing my big kid because I was always with the baby. I told the story of the day that I was home alone with both kids and the toddler pooped in her Pull-up at the exact moment the baby latched for a feeding. I talked about how my husband and I were so sleep deprived we were short and unkind to each other more than we should have been. I probably also talked about trying to throw a 2nd birthday party two weeks postpartum and about how difficult it is to get an infant in a car seat and a toddler into and out of the daycare facility.
Like a fire hose, I unleashed a fury of negative and scary tales from that challenging first year after having 2 kids in 2 years.
The power of perspective
That poor mom. This sweet woman was reaching out to someone in the village desperate for an “It’s not that bad.” That’s all she wanted. One working mom to another…just a little affirmation that she was going to be OK and that the new baby on the way would be a perfect addition to her family. But instead of getting the “It’s not that bad” that she came for, this woman got all of the raw and unfiltered emotions I had tucked away from that first year.
So what’s it really like to have 2 kids in 2 years? Well, it’s just like having two kids in three or four years, or having just one kid, or having a baby and a 16-year-old. Regardless of how many kids, or the spacing between the kids, being a parent is hard and messy and tiring. It’s scary and you worry a lot. The laundry is never-ending and there are toys everywhere. Food gets dropped or thrown or spilled constantly and let’s not even talk about what happens if said food is served on the wrong color plate.
There’s guilt and conflicting priorities and no real alone time. There are lots of tantrums and time-outs. Someone always has sticky hands or a snotty nose. You question everything… especially yourself. It’s exhausting because someone always needs you.
This is not a job for the faint of heart. This parenting gig—it’s hard work. But wrapped up inside all of the hard work are these sweet little faces with sticky hands and curious questions. These little ones love us fiercely. They look up to us. They learn from us. They come to us when they’re scared—we are their safe place. And in the most special ways they need us…all the time.
If you ask me, “it’s not that bad” at all.
If you’re a mom who had 2 kids in 2 years, tell us what it was really like for you.