Why Motherhood Was Easier the Second Time Around
“1 is like 1. 2 is like 20.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that mantra after having my first child. As if I wasn’t ambivalent enough about adding to my brood, this sentiment scared off any idea of a second. 20? No thanks. I’m good.
Here I was, having the hardest time already with one, easy baby. My daughter, Lilly, slept through the night at eight weeks and barely fussed. Except for a two-week stretch where the witching hour—which, like “morning” sickness, is a total misnomer, since that “hour” extended upwards of three every night—was a very real thing, she was a dream. She ate like a champ, was super-calm and started crawling late, which meant she just sat there quietly playing with her toys. And still, I was struggling.
For me, it was an internal struggle. The independent, carefree days and responsibility-free time were over the second she arrived. My world was suddenly unrecognizable, full of breast pump parts, pads and nipple shields. I had reluctantly left my high-powered, all-encompassing career to move from California back east for my husband’s job at approximately the same time my daughter was due. (Pro tip: Moving, unpacking and finally nesting at 35 weeks is not recommended.) Not only was I dealing with first-time motherhood, but I was mourning the loss of my professional identity as well.
For a while there, I stumbled about in my new mom stupor. Wake, feed, change, play, sleep, repeat. In between baby gym and bath time, I tried to summon the energy to simply cleanse myself, consume a proper meal and call a friend back.
At about six months, when I was finally coming out of my postpartum fog, I decided to start a blog. I didn’t want to go back full-time to my ridiculously demanding job, but I knew I needed something else. As a writer, I wanted a place to archive my articles, so I signed up for tumblr and, along with housing my personal essays, it began to foster my creativity.
Soon, I was developing branded sections like Nat & Zach, which chronicled funny conversations between my husband and me, and What Lilly Wore, where I showcased my little fashionista’s expanding wardrobe that I’d spent too much money and time on. I also started cooking consistently for the first time in my life and captured all of my adventures in the kitchen. It didn’t matter to me, at the time, that the photos were poor quality or my readership consisted of my mother and mother-in-law; it was a life raft when I was treading the murky waters of motherhood.
But I was so desperate to make it something, to make me something, that I sacrificed time with my little girl. Without any consistent childcare, I was there, of course, but often I wasn’t fully present. I couldn’t allow myself to just enjoy the moment, relax and fully bond with my baby. I constantly pushed myself to do one more pitch, another post, a final edit. It became all-consuming. I’d stay up late and wake early, decline invites from friends, miss play dates and field trips and the chance to get outside with my daughter on a delightful day. Instead I’d stay inside, hunched over a computer while she played at my feet.
There were exceptions, of course. For a while there, we were taking two-hour walks each day with friends—but instead of joining them afterward for lunch or an afternoon outing, I’d have to repent for my recreation and spend the rest of the time working. All of that hard work and discipline did pay off, in the end: My writing career, blog and brand are thriving, and there’s no way that would’ve happened without the hustle. But looking back, I wish I’d been a little easier on myself and patient with my timeline. Motherhood is hard enough without the self-imposed pressure.
Four years later, my son, Oliver, was born, and despite everyone’s horror stories about having two, I found it far easier. Granted, my kids are a good distance apart in age, and many who moaned had two under two. Don’t get me wrong—the logistics of having two kids are decidedly more complex. I mean, that’s just math: You multiply something and it’s going to be more. We get out the door far slower and sloppier, there’s often one crying while the other waits and we’re just entering the oh-so-fun stage of sibling rivalry and sharing squabbles.
But for me, who was so hard on myself as a first-time mom, it is so much more pleasant this time around. Like Elsa, I’ve learned to let it freaking go. I’m fortunate to be in the position where work can wait. Maybe I don’t land every sponsorship or have a post up every day (or week!), and yes, my book proposal is taking a hell of a lot longer, but I’m aware of how fleeting this time is. I want to savor the snuggles, allow myself to be still—both in body and mind—and enjoy the ride. Yes, I’m more tired and a little more scatterbrained these days (if that was even possible), but I’m much more at peace. Two is certainly sweeter than one.
Published July 2018
Natalie Thomas is a lifestyle blogger at Nat’s Next Adventure and creator of the new moms platform @momecdotes. She’s also an Emmy-nominated TV producer, contributor to Huffington Post, Today Show, Mother Mag, Hey Mama and Well Rounded, and former editor and spokesperson of Us Weekly. She’s addicted to Instagram and seltzer water, lives in New York with her tolerant husband, Zach, 4-(going on 14!)-year-old daughter Lilly and newborn son, Oliver. She’s always in search of her sanity and, more importantly, the next adventure.