It’s hard to admit it, but there are many things moms do with baby #1 that they don’t do with baby #2. Sometimes it may be because the novelty has worn off. Other times it’s just time concerns: Mom is overloaded with work caring for her larger family. Or sometimes it’s just because—after her experience with baby #1—she has realized that some of her go-to tactics didn’t work, and she’s scrapped them in favor of more successful ones.
But whatever the reason, sometimes baby #2 doesn’t get the same treatment as baby #1.
This can be concerning because some experts think that birth order can have an effect on baby’s social skills, temperament, and even personality. Some of them believe there is something intrinsic to birth order affects the baby. But others believe that the birth order in and of itself is not the problem. It’s something more sinister: how Mom treats baby is dependent on the timing of baby’s entrance into her life.
Certainly, most mothers want to avoid giving baby #2 the lifelong impression of ending up with leftovers—not just of clothing, but also of mom’s affection.
This gets even more concerning when you think about the effect of maternal input on children’s development and self-esteem. From the moment that baby meets Mom’s gaze, responds to Mom’s voice, takes her first step in Mom’s direction—a mother’s opinion of her child weighs heavily in that child’s perception of self.
For this reason, it is a good idea for moms to consider what they did with baby #1, but not with baby #2.
15 Go Crazy Guessing The Baby’s Gender
Let’s face it, with our first baby everything was new. We agonized about the color of the baby’s room. Too dark, maybe? We worried if the cat would get along with the baby (or the baby with the cat). We stressed out about whether we’d have a little boy or a little girl. And then baby #1 came along, and we realized none it mattered. Because it didn’t matter if our baby was a girl or a boy—just that the baby was here, finally, and it was a miracle, and we were a family.
So when baby #2 came along, it’s not that we were ignorant of the miracle of having a baby—it was just that our expectations had changed. We realized the most important thing was that our baby was alive, healthy, making cute baby faces, and burbling as if to say, “I’m here; I’m happy to be here!”
14 Capture Every Moment
It’s terrible, but it’s probably true. Many second-born children go through the family albums and wonder to themselves: “Now how the heck did they manage to take pictures of—insert first-born’s name here—his first step, her first baby tooth, his first visit to Santa—and I don’t have any such picture? Did the tooth fairy even visit me?
So you ask your mom, and she gives you an agitated nervous look and mumbles something about a missing photo album somewhere and scurries off to another room.
Now years later, you’re on to your second child—and you find yourself doing the same darn thing!
But before you go prostate yourself before the altar of bad parenting, I would urge you to consider a couple of things.
By the time parents get around to baby #2, they are not as new to the process of parenting, so now they are not as surprised by every twist and turn. But what they are is tired. Hopefully not an exhausted “I can no longer function” kind of tired. But more like a “my life is full and busy” kind of tired.
Which brings me my second point. By the time they had you—baby # 2—it’s not that they loved you and your moments (first step, first baby tooth) any less. It just that by that point, they were more into experiencing those moments with you than fanatically recording them.
See? There. I got you off the hook.
But the missing photo album excuse? Sorry, I can’t help you. We’ve got digital photos now. You gotta think of something else. Fast.
13 Buy New Baby Clothes
Okay, don’t lie. We’re all guilty of this. For baby #1, we hit every specialty baby store and checked the thread count on baby’s sheets. Half of our first-born’s clothes were designer, and now when we look over at baby #2, we’re a bit ashamed. Did we just dress her in a burlap sack?
Ok, I’m exaggerating. It’s just that every experienced parent eventually learned that baby #1 seemed happy whether wearing designer duds or the hand-me-downs the neighbor lent you when baby threw up in the park. In fact, if there was any evidence baby #1 noticed the designer duds, it was only in her expertise in losing them. Those expensive satin shoes with the bows took a dive into the gutter. The cute little designer headband you got her disappeared somewhere between the babysitter and the grocery store.
By the time baby #2 came along, hand-me-downs were looking pretty good.
12 Run To The Doctor For Every Sniffle
It’s not that you don’t worry about the various viruses, the pink eye, stomach-flu, and the strange calcified bump that appeared above baby #2’s lip. It’s just that first, you’re at the pediatrician so much for wellness visits, school forms, blah blah blah, she’s like a third parent. You visit her so much you know all the stickers she gives out for being a brave patient. (Of course, you didn’t think she’d give one to your husband, but he’s so injection-averse, he cried on behalf of baby #2).
And second, there have been so many sicknesses in your household since baby #2 started going to pre-school, it’s not a matter of if someone will get sick, it’s more like when.
Your voice is hoarse from saying “Wash your hands sweetie,” or is it that you’re coming down with a cold yourself? In any case, you’ve got three thermometers, grandma is on speed-dial, and—oh yeah—you have an appointment with the pediatrician tomorrow anyway.
11 Go Organic
You wash all your veggies, avoid pesticides, use natural skin care products, and buy organic when you can. But you also remember the day you found out “baby carrots” weren’t really babies. (They’re cut that way from slim larger-size carrots.)
You would take on a pack of carnivorous zombie hyenas to protect your child. But the list of circumstances you are supposed to protect your child from seems to grow daily—spanning everything from tooth decay to predatory strangers.
To stop yourself from going crazy, you ground yourself with the realization that there is a difference between imminent danger (baby reaching for the hot stove right now) and possible danger (those French fries in the cafeteria).
You do your best to strike a balance. You fight to keep your kids safe even if you can’t afford them every luxury. You educate them about stranger danger, and you replace those French fries with carrots—even if they aren’t always organic.
You figure you are somewhere in the realm of normal parenting.
But you’re keeping your eye on stories about alien abduction. Just in case.
You have two kids now: you don’t have time to try out fads.
Take the origami rice paper diaper fad. You remember when it first became the rage. You and the other moms twisted yourselves (and the diapers) into pretzels trying to get the idea to work. All natural material! No safety pins needed! Cheaper than other disposable diapers without all the mess of washing, like cloth diapers.
Maybe you were all bad at origami. But it never quite seemed to work out.
Baby #1 seemed to delight in wriggling out of the origami diapers. A regular Houdini. The whole plan came to a screeching halt when you put Baby #1 in the high chair for a few seconds, turned around to grab your cell phone, and when you turned back he was wearing the diaper—on his head.
Nope. No more experiments. No more fads. No more origami diapers.
9 Watch Baby Like A Hawk
Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where letting your guard down isn’t the answer.
My mom likes to recount the tale of saving my younger sister from a shard of glass.
Mom was visiting a friend, and I guess that friend wasn’t too into vacuuming. All I know is that my mom says she looked up, and she saw my baby sister with glass shard in her mouth—about to bite down on it like it was a transparent cookie.
Rather than panic (although, let’s face it, my mom was panicking inside), she approached my baby sister cooing. “Ooh, what’s that? Let Mommy see!” Little by little she coaxed my sister into giving up her newfound snack.
Here’s a small sample of other trouble your baby could get into in under a minute. Approaching a hot stove. Wandering into the street. Choking on a found object.
So, it just isn’t worth it. You have to keep your eye on baby. And when you can’t watch her every second, create a safe space with a playpen or a baby gate. And even then….
8 Try To Stop Grandma
Guess what? Did you think that going through all that family planning, morning sickness, and nine months of pregnancy entitled you to a baby of your very own? Well you were wrong. Once Grandma laid eyes on your baby, it was like you were a surrogate.
Shoving you to the side, she proceeded to share her opinions on baby feeding times, nap time, snacks, baby room color, and formula. You only wrested control back by dint of the fact that she couldn’t be around every moment of every day. (And she tried. Lord knows she tried!)
But as annoying as Grandma can be, there are benefits to her influence. Besides the babysitting help, research has shown that grandchildren who interact with grandparents seem to develop better social skills and may even show more engagement in school. So while you may bristle at Grandma’s interference, remember she still has many good things to offer.
7 Throw A Big Baby Shower
For your first baby, everyone wanted in on the baby shower action. Grandma made a beautiful cake, you had so much fun picking out all those baby shower decorations, and your friends were happy to celebrate with you. You were thrilled by the well-wishes and excited at all the gifts.
But—dare we admit it—by baby #2, you mostly had all the baby gear you needed. New baby clothes and toys were always welcome of course. As were diapers (of the non-rice paper kind). But baby showers are in and of themselves work. Cleaning the house, choosing the appetizers, filling the helium balloons, selecting all the party favors, sending out the invitations: it’s work! Even with Grandma’s help, it seemed like the baby shower would be more effort than birth itself.
Frankly—this time around—you’d just be as happy if your friends would send you a Groupon for housecleaning services!
6 Try To Create A “Perfect Child”
The days of playing classical music to your ‘baby bump’ to increase your baby’s intelligence are mysteriously over. Not only did baby #1 seem to kick you more when you played it, it also made you drowsy. As little energy as you could muster on the brutal schedule of a new mom, anything that subtracted from your energy bank had to go.
It turned out that baby #1 liked disco—which is pretty good music to vacuum by—so you were pretty happy about that.
You didn’t give up completely though. By the time baby #1 was born you had moved on to educational mobiles—which baby didn’t seem to mind. Then it was baby books with textures and shapes. Then you moved on to colorful blocks.
Baby #2 isn’t missing out on all the fun though. But she’s turned out to be picky about her music.
We’ll have to find out what happens to babies who listen to Nirvana.
Before we had baby #1, we did a ton of research. We read about pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. (Some say he elevated the child from “not seen, not heard” to a participating family member. But others argue he encouraged permissiveness.) We then checked out Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” (Some said too strict and scarred children’s egos. Others claimed raised expectations to create successful offspring.) We researched kindergartens, and compared diapers. We asked our own mom which solid food she started first (she said “rice”), then we went behind her back and decided our baby’s first food would be a vegetable.
But by the time baby #2 came along we were much more laid-back. Grandma had snuck behind our back and made our baby #1’s first food rice after all. We figured out a happy medium on parenting: we set standards for our child, but we allowed a bit a of silliness—that’s what makes childhood fun! We conceded both we and our children would make mistakes.
And kindergarten? Well, baby #2 is going to the same kindergarten as baby #1. Just not with Ms. Willis. That lady is seriously weird.
4 Ooh And Ah-ing
Did the novelty wear off? Are baby shoes still not just the cutest things ever—along with puppies and tassels on girl’s bikes? But is baby #2 getting the same experience as #1? Was the squeal of excitement at baby #2’s first word quite as loud as for baby #1? Did we forget the wonder?
The truth is—every baby is different. Baby #2 is going to surprise us—somehow. It might be that little lisp she does: “I want to go to thool.” It’s seriously endearing, but it bought her a trip to the speech pathologist. (Secretly we hope she’ll never outgrow the lisp because it is just too cute.)
But what may have happened is that—let’s face it—some things became routine. We already figured out that the best appointment for the pediatrician was first thing in the morning before the doc got bogged down by every sniffling kid in the neighborhood. We already realized that it doesn’t work to take the highway to afterschool: if you go the back way, you save five minutes.
We’re more efficient, we’re faster, and we’re more decisive. But it doesn’t mean that we stopped our “Ooh and ah-ing.” It’s just that it’s less geared to the standard goal posts, such as the first day of pre-school, and more geared toward the quirks of the particular child in front of us.
Baby #2 will surprise you.
3 Act Like Super Mom
Gone are the days when you scheduled a tire change before work, worked a full day, drove across town to drop off baby at Grandma, and then raced back to the office for an after-hours meeting. You’ve learned the magic word “No!” and you use it strategically, vociferously, and often—kind of like your three-year-old when she doesn’t want to take a bath.
But, seriously, you long ago realized you are in this for the long haul. You’ve got 18 plus years of motherhood ahead of you, and you want to survive it, so you can be the loudest silliest mom cheering at graduation. So you’re pacing yourself.
You tried it the other way. You’ve been there—tired. You’ve been there—distracted. You’ve been there—resentful. And you don’t want to be that kind of mother. Or the kind of mother who falls asleep at the wheel on the way to soccer practice.
So no. You don’t have to be on every after-school committee.
2 Keeping Yourself Or Your House Clean
With baby #1, you discovered that infants are uncoordinated and tend to lean to the sloppy side—especially around mealtime. And when they’re not accidentally dropping bits of banana, they’re purposefully causing a mess with the old “splash my spoon into the soup” trick. And as cute as that “Uh oh” look is when baby drops her sippy cup and her orange juice explodes all over the kitchen, it’s a bit demoralizing to realize you are doomed to be one step behind the disorder.
From an orphaned fork stuck in gooey mess under the couch to the stray crumbs you keep finding in baby’s stroller—Is Grandma feeding the baby cookies on the sly again? —you realize that messiness has become the new normal. And we haven’t even gotten to the food stains on all your clothes.
By baby #2, a burp cloth is the back of your sleeve.
1 Stress Out
Speaking of stressing out, we did plenty of that before our first baby. We wondered if we would be good parents, and maybe—sheepishly—gave our own parents a bit more credit for the monumental task of parenthood that they had taken on when they had us. We worried about the nutrition of our baby, her future education, if the world would be safe place for him, or if she would ever be bullied in school. Did we childproof the baby room enough? Had we checked for lead paint?
And what about delivery? Would it be smooth? Would our baby be healthy? Would she be a calm baby or a tearful nervous baby? Would he keep us up at night? Be allergic to peanuts? Have separation anxiety?
And we found out that we didn’t stop being worried with baby #1. The baby shower and the birth came and went, we counted toes and fingers, we suffered through his first childhood illness, and the baby cried at her first immunization. And it wasn’t that we had all the answers. It was just that we loved this new being who had come into our lives so much—so much—we realized that whatever came we’d deal with it.