My second-born is turning 1 in about a week (how'd that happen?!). It's undoubtedly been a roller coaster of a year, one that has somehow flown by, yet at many times felt never-ending, a strange state that I'm guessing is familiar to most moms. Looking at my now 27-pound (yes, he's huge) just-barely-a-baby baby, I'm feeling so many conflicted emotions: happiness that the days of extreme sleep deprivation are seemingly a thing of the past, pride in how much he's grown and developed, both sadness and relief that I'll never again have a little one that needs me as intensely as he has this past year, and mostly, joy that the little boy that he's becoming is mine. He's a keeper and not just because of his naturally happy, laid-back, loving disposition. I'm also grateful for the many, life-changing things that he's taught me during the last year. From the need to go with the flow to the unimportance of all that baby stuff, here are the most important motherhood lessons I've learned from the first year of being a mom of two.
- This too shall pass (and I'll forget how bad it was). With my firstborn, every difficult stage (sleepless nights, teething, breastfeeding) seemed eternal and almost impossible, but with my son, I've quickly realized that we'll be on to the next thing before I know it. So when my son decided he hated the car for the first three months of his life, I didn't stress like I would have with my daughter. I knew it was just a stage, and now I barely remember it. Motherhood is great that way.
- I can't do it all of the time, and I don't beat myself up about it. There are times when both my kids need something, and I have to choose who's going to have to wait (and most likely cry while doing so). This does not make me a bad mom, and my kids will continue to thrive.
- Each kid is totally different, so follow his or her lead. My son has never taken a bottle, slept his first five-hour stretch when we were still in the hospital, and is happy to play independently for stretches of time. My almost 4-year-old daughter required bribery to finally give up her bottle at well past 2, still gives us a 3 a.m. wake-up call a few times a week, and would prefer to never be in a room without at least two other people present and ready to entertain her. Those and the million other differences between my two kids have taught me that they come prewired with their own personalities and unique traits, and this fact is both humbling and somehow stress-relieving (i.e. their entire futures and mental states are not totally on my shoulders).
- When I need help, I have to ask for it. My daughter is the first grandchild on both sides, and I had no shortage of offers to help with her. This time around everyone's slightly older and a lot more tired, and I've had to be more vocal and resourceful. I no longer feel guilty hiring the occasional babysitter, dropping my kids off at the gym day care daily, or asking my parents to take the kids for an overnight or three. The time away makes me a better mom.
- You don't need every possible gadget to have a happy baby. Admittedly, when my son was born, I already had almost every imaginable baby item, all of which I registered for and received before his big sister was born. But I barely used the bouncer, the swing, the exersaucer, or the playmat with my son, sometimes because he wasn't that interested and other times because I remembered to pull them out of the basement too late. This is one of the motherhood lessons that taught me that all that stuff wasn't really necessary in the first place.
- Go with the flow or go crazy. I'm a pretty organized, scheduled person, but after my second was born, I realized that my kids' and my best days were often the ones when I had the least planned for us. Sure, I get my daughter to preschool and her swim lessons, I take them both to the gym and on countless errands, and I schedule playdates regularly, but I try not to plan too much for one day, and I also make sure we have days when we're mostly at home hanging out.
- I have to trust my gut, even if not everyone agrees. For my husband and me, two kids is our limit. We knew this even before I got pregnant with my son, and I made it official during his delivery. I've been a bit taken aback by how many people in my life were surprised by this, as if my decision to stay at home with my kids should also mean that I want a litter of them. But as I've learned with this decision and pretty much every other one I've made since having my son, if it works for my family and me, that's all that matters.