Letting New Parents Off the Hook: Mommas of 2+ Kids Give You Their Best Hacks & Cut You Some Slack!
Being a new mom is an adjustment.
OK, that might be an understatement. Sometimes, being a new mom is hard, and scary, and nerve-wracking, exhausting, confusing. Being a new mom can make you question whether you’re even cut out for this. Whether you’re any good at it. Why everything in the book isn’t working. Or, how you surely must be screwing your kid up from the get-go if you don’t do x-y-z right.
Let me tell you: Every single mom has felt this way at some point. You’re not alone.
And the good news is, more often than not, every mom comes out the other side thinking, I did my best and my kids turned out just fine.
I know this from the one-on-one work I do with moms every day. But for this week’s blog, I wanted to make sure that you know this too. So, I collected feedback from 14 other moms who were so generous with their thoughts and tips in the hopes of helping other moms that I just have to pass it on to you.
[Full Disclosure: None of these moms are clients of mine in any capacity. They are just moms that volunteered to share their experiences for this blog.]
The moms I focused my interviews on are all moms of 2 or more kids from all over the U.S. and the UK. I specifically wanted to talk to moms of multiple children because they all seem to have some things figured out, whether it’s their calm amidst chaos or life hacks for making the day easier. The one thing they have in common is that they’ve all brought home a new baby more than once. They’re like veteran experts at this “new mom” thing.
A prime example is the story one mom told me about when she and her other mom friend had a girls night out and were comparing bags: She--a mother of one--was carrying a large shoulder bag with everything under the sun in it (even though they left their babies home with the husbands) purely out of habit. And her friend--a mother of three--carried a tiny wristlet with just her cash, ID, lipstick and phone. They laughed and teased each other about their differences in bag necessities, and the mom of one asked her how she does it when she’s out with her boys.
The mom of three said: “I take this same purse out when I’m out with the boys. No diaper bag. I roll up one single diaper into a tight roll and shove it into the bottom. I use wet paper towels in the bathroom for baby wipes and I don’t panic about laying something down on the floor or changing station. And when that last diaper gets wet or dirty, that’s my cue to say our goodbyes and head home. That’s it. No snacks, no toys, no pacifier. The boys can entertain themselves with whatever’s around and we’ll buy a snack or drink if we need to, but I like that every outing has an early deadline on it because of the one diaper and at the end of the day, my shoulder isn’t hurting from carrying a massive bag.”
To me, this was a prime example of the difference between first-time moms and moms who have done it before and “ain’t got time for that.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom to be learned from moms of 2 or more and that’s what inspired this post.
So, I asked these moms five questions and, boy, did they have a lot to say! Here’s how it went in their own words:
1. How does your second baby compare to your first? Is she easier or harder? In what ways?
Nearly every mom said that one of their babies was easier than the other(s). In fact, nearly every mom used the phrase “like night and day” to describe their babies needs and personalities.
“My second could not have been (or still currently could be) any easier! She was a cake walk compared to my first. Of course, I was learning how to be a mom with my first, but their personalities were night and day. My first was VERY needy in every way while my second was quick to self sooth and very independent.” - Amy Howell
“Breast feeding was so HARD with [my first baby] because I was so tense. I was so worried about time on each side and amount of urine in her diapers and counting her gulps and timing between feedings and with [my second] I didn't write anything down. I fed her. All the time. Whenever I wanted. The lactation consultant said "let me meet this baby who didn't lose an ounce! How did you do that?" I said, "She eats all the time whenever she wants. That's it." - Emily Stephens
“I was so worried about being the perfect mom the first time around. I read so many books and freaked out if I wasn’t home for a nap or if she wasn’t on a schedule immediately. I knew eventually babies fall into a routine and I enjoyed the baby stage so much more [the second time] because I knew how quickly it would pass. ...With my third I had a college girl come two times a week to play with the other two and help with chores around the house. Best decision I ever made because I could hold my baby...and not have the other two constantly need me.” - Sonja Travanty
“I wouldn't say [my second is] easier but I feel more relaxed in parenting and am not fussing over every fall and bump, or if he's getting dirty.” - Kaitlin Rice
“Second baby was both easier and harder. Easier in that I felt calmer about my abilities, and no longer tried to be this ideal, pinterest perfect, parent. However she was also more difficult in that I couldn't change my schedule for her, and so her sleep was horrible from day one.” - Anonymous
“First time around, you literally have no idea what you are doing. The baby sneezes and you think they’re choking, they not feeding properly and you think they’ll starve, they’re restless and you ready to call the emergency services. Second time around, you know what you are doing – you know how to change a nappy, feed and bathe them so it’s less of a huge learning curve. But every baby is totally different – my two are SO different and it’s just their personalities which you can’t do anything about!” - Lauren Gayfer
The Big Takeaway:
While there’s something to be said for the wisdom that comes from experience, every baby is different, with different needs and different personalities. A “difficult baby” doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong and an “easy baby” doesn’t make you an expert.
2. How has your parenting style changed (now that you have more than one kiddo)? How has it stayed the same?
“My parenting style is definitely more laid back with the second one. I know this is super cliche but I don't stress about the little things as much as I did with my first. With my son, I wanted to protect him from the world. Now with my daughter, she just has to adapt and learn to roll with the punches.” - Kylie Crawford
“I would definitely say that my parenting style has become much more relaxed! I am not constantly worrying or hovering. I feel after my first I allowed my second and third to actually “fall” and get up so they could learn that that is part of life.” - Amy Howell
“I think any baby wearing mechanism is a MUST. Something we haven't used as much with this one is a wipe warmer.“ - Kylie Crawford
“I like to say that as I've become a "worse mom", I've become a better mom. So, with my first I was all about spending every second with her, googling everything, setting alarms for feedings, making my own baby food and wipes and everything else "they" say to do. With our second and third, I still do a lot of things I enjoy like cloth diapering, breastfeeding and making baby food BUT I trust myself much more.” - Kendra Rasmusson
“I'm definitely a lot more relaxed now than with my first. All my ideals of parenthood are out of the window and right now it's all about staying sane and keeping them both alive until the end of the day.” - Nicola Salmon
“I am what many people like to call a helicopter mom. I've loosen my reigns A LOT since my second was born only because I realized that I can't protect my kid from every single little thing. At some point I have to let them make mistakes and learn, even if that means them getting some scrapes and cuts along the way. I also used to be that mom that wanted to only give my kid all natural and organic foods. It became harder as she got older since not a single person who watched her respected my wishes to only give her natural organic stuff. My methods have stayed the same with teaching my kids everything from good morals, being kind hearted and compassionate.” - Annie Ngo
"[My first] was born in November and we didn't leave the house until February because I was so scared of germs (aside from regular pediatric visits). [My second] literally came with me everywhere. Another winter baby, but I wasn't scared of the world. I wanted her to see it and know it.” - Emily Stephens
“Having your first child is a lot at once. Not only do you now have a kid, but your lifestyle changes, your relationship with your partner changes. I noticed I was grieving my old life while trying to be the perfect mother - exhausting. With your second you have already made the big changes, now you just have less time because there are now two so you have to throw out some of the perfections and embrace motherhood no matter how messy it gets. ...With every kid there is change (especially because each child has different needs). I feel open communication with your partner is key and as long as you are on the same page that is all that matters.” - Sonja Travanty
“I'm much more laid back and easy going with my 2nd. I can tell I am a lot calmer and don't feel the need to ‘hover’.” - Kaitlin Rice
“My parenting style has changed in that I am much more relaxed about screen time, food choices, and how I chose my battles.” - Anonymous
“Your first child gets exposed to some things a lot later than your second because you are much more precious first time around. My son never had chocolate or sweets/candy until quite late, but as once he had them, it was a lot harder to keep them away from my daughter because her brother was having them! I think was stricter with my son, but as they both get older it evens itself out as they both need slightly different styles of parenting anyway. But the basics remain the same – be polite, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, be kind to each other.” - Lauren Gayfer
The Big Takeaway:
With every new baby comes big changes and it’s OK to make things easier for yourself even if it seems to go against your idea of good parenting. The values that are most important to you will stay constant in spite of what you choose to feed your baby or how you handle childcare. Keep perspective on what really matters.
Want more support along with a group of other mommas that are struggling with the same things as you?
Join us for my next round of "Just Between Moms"!
3. What baby gear has been a lifesaver for you? What baby gear did you think you had to have that you now realize is unnecessary?
It’s unanimous: Not one mom will tell you you need to have a baby wipe warmer. Even the moms I spoke with that had one agreed that it was unnecessary. But, many moms will tell you some kind of baby carrier or stroller is absolutely vital.
“When I first stepped into a baby store to start making a list of what we would “need” I about had a panic attack! I had never been more overwhelmed in my life! I truly thought we NEEDED all those things and I was trying to figure out which organs I was going to sell to be able to afford it! Since we didn’t have the money for all of that I was actually relieved when I realized that we were just fine without it! I don’t believe at any point during my parenting carrier did I ever say ‘I really wish I would’ve bought that wipes warmer a long time ago. That would have helped tremendously!’” - Amy Howell
“Baby carriers - the moby for when really little and the ergo when larger, a good stroller or bike buggy if you prefer to bike. Definitely no to wipe warmers and baby food makers (just use a blender) and baby bathtubs...all are unnecessary. We love the space saver high chair seat...instead of a big high chair and buy second hand....save your money for something more fun that your kids won't ruin...cuz they'll do it. They'll ruin everything you own.” - Kendra Rasmusson
“My best buy is definitely a sling which I've used for both and meant I occasionally had a free pair of hands. All the big baby toys like walkers were a big waste of space. My second was infinitely happier lying on his back and playing with a wooden block. He also developed so much faster without a walker holding him back.” - Nicola Salmon
“[My first] had the biggest stroller known to man. One of those travel systems. [My second] had a moby wrap and was attached to me at all times. [My first] had a saucer seat and [my second] had a blanket in the yard with the dogs and the dirt and grass. I didn't know the first time around she could get dirty and [get] scraped knees.” - Emily Stephens
“For both of my kids, a really good lovie or blanket has been my saving grace. A few of the things that I found to be pointless in having is a wipe warmer, a changing pad/table and a baby food steamer/purée machine.” - Annie Ngo
“Lifesaver – Carseat, Baby carrier,...a rock n’play, stroller, swing (all three of my babies were motion junkies and loved to nap in the swing, other kids hate them), baby bjorn bouncy chair, dock a tot for co-sleeping, and a breast pump. That is all I needed.
Unnecessary - baby food maker, books about raising super humans (I was too tired to read), diaper bag (I used a fashionable tote), anything that warms anything, wipes, bottles etc., activity centers (seriously put them on a blanket and give them a toy).” - Sonja Travanty
“A baby carrier and a good, durable sippy cup have been life savers. I never had a carrier with my first and felt so frustrated when I couldn't put her down to get some things done. I also loved having a Bullet blender to make our own baby food. Wipe warmers, excess baby blankets, spoons that squeeze out the food...all unnecessary.” - Kaitlin Rice
“Baby gear must haves are both a wrap and soft structured carrier, a good stroller, and rocking recliner in baby's room. I never had a wipe warmer or diaper genie type thing, and never felt the need to have them.” - Anonymous
“This is hard because my kids aren’t babies anymore – they’re 9 and 6 so all the baby gear was a long time ago. But I do remember buying ALL the kit. Having a baby was like another excuse to go shopping. It was like baby gear replaced shoes!! I bought several baby carriers, but only needed one, I had this baby food steamer and blender in one which was totally unnecessary… A very expensive double buggy, which we only really used for a year and was such a pain to get in and out of the car! But at the time, it’s essential stuff!!” - Lauren Gayfer
The Big Takeaway:
You can do just fine with a lot less than you think. Figure out what your essentials are and borrow or buy second-hand when you can. Don’t fall for all the marketing hype. You’re still a good parent with or without all the stuff.
4. What life hacks have you figured out that have really saved your sanity?
“The only hack for sanity would be the knowledge that you are doing it right, FOR YOU. You are their mom. You are doing it the right way for YOUR kids.” - Amy Howell
“Give your kids popsicles in the bathtub...they'll like bathtime more and you won't have to clean up messes from popsicles...then when your kids are in the tub, clean your bathroom...just get it done, while they're contained and you're in there anyway.” - Kendra Rasmusson
“Play dates are a godsend…. Local mum friends are worth their weight in gold.” - Nicola Salmon
“My top tips are: ask for help if you need it - people are so generous and always give it willingly; you and your other half need to be a team as it's too much for one person!; keep a sense of humour at all times!” - Catherine Davies
“I have found that having a carrier in my car has been awesome for the days that dad forgets to bring a stroller. Also having extra toys, snacks, diapers, wipes and clothes in the car is great for when accidents happen on the road or you just need some new entertainment. Since my daughter is also at the age where she needs creativity and more tailored entertainment.” - Annie Ngo
“Take time for yourself, seriously your baby will be okay without you for a couple of hours here and there. Ask for help - join groups, FB groups, whatever but it takes a village and the more your reach out and discover all your frustrations are normal the happier everyone in your family will be.” - Sonja Travanty
“One thing that works well so far is empowering [our oldest] to be someone who takes care of her sister and helps out. With the day to day stuff, getting into a routine has been helpful - we have a system for everyone’s evening bath/bed times that works pretty well.” - Laura Keller
“Essential oils! Baby carrying, bringing a brand new toy or snack he hasn't seen before on long car rides! Also, not caring what other people think of my mothering skills has saved a big part of my sanity!” - Kaitlin Rice
“Best life hack has been reduce your expectations for yourself. You don't have to make every meal with organic and sugar free whole foods. And if you want more sleep after kiddos wake up, grab your pillow and sleep on the couch while they watch sesame street and eat cereal for breakfast. You don't have to be the perfect parent at all hours of the day, to be the perfect parent for your child.” - Anonymous
“Having a great group of mum friends who get where you are in life, and won’t judge you when you turn up to their house covered in baby sick. Making time for yourself away from the kids is an essential part of being a parent. Especially time away with your husband/partner if you are lucky to be able to leave the kids with a close friend or grandparent for a night. Time to remember who YOU are and the things YOU enjoy doing as opposed to being JUST a mum!“ - Lauren Gayfer
The Big Takeaway:
Here’s one area where your unique momma superpower will really shine. Every mom comes up with their own genius life hacks. Above all, your intuition will always be your best hack.
5. Any big lessons or takeaways now that you have more than one kid?
“Really savor just having one kid....there's no maternity leave like a leave with just one baby...after that, you've got a big kid to chase too...so nap often, order take out...rest and soak up that baby. Take less pictures....just observe more and commit to memory...and in that same vane, put your phone away...just be there.” - Kendra Rasmusson
“They are amazing in spite of my failures and because of my successes. If I could tell 22 year old me any piece of advice it would be to TRUST MYSELF. Listen to my heart. Don't be afraid to question and ask and educate and go against the grain…. I wish I had known to worry less and enjoy more. Because even with all the worry and stress came copious amounts of love. And I see [my oldest] sharing that same love with [my youngest] and I know I did something right.” - Emily Stephens
“My biggest lesson that I learned with two kids is sometimes just letting go of that idea that my way is the right way. It's hard thinking that there are other ways and even being a very nurturing person as heart, there's still so much that I'm learning with my second kid that I realize I could've done or even should have done differently with my first. I also learned that not all kids are the same and they shouldn't be treated the same. The biggest thing I learned though is sometimes as a mom, hell as a parent, your job is simply, feed your kid, love them, teach them to be a good person and then trust that you did the best you could. Some days are harder than other and sometimes you have to put them in front of a TV in order to get through the day. But at the end of the day, the mistakes that you think you're making will not ruin them.” - Annie Ngo
“Embrace the unknown. Every day is different what worked one day will not work the next and be okay with it, you have done nothing wrong. Someone told me before I had kids that once you think you have it figured out they throw you another curve ball. This could not be more true. ...I honestly feel you cannot spoil a baby so if you want to hold them one day for a nap or co-sleep go for it. Try and work out. I forced myself to go once a week with my first and it made me feel so much stronger….Lastly, I can stress enough how important it is to be on the same page with your partner. Having kids is really stressful for a couple so frequent check ins and telling each other what you need can really make parenthood more enjoyable.” - Sonja Travanty
“Sometimes I feel like ‘Yeah, I've got this’ and other times I feel completely overwhelmed and tired. I love it though.” - Laura Keller
“Taking time for self care has been a big one for me this time around. I was so wrapped up in being the "perfect mom" with my first that I neglected myself for years. Now I realize that my kids will still love me just as much even if I spend an extra 15 minutes in the bath or at Target.” - Kaitlin Rice
“Life lesson I am still trying to figure out is life balance. Even being a sahm mom require balance, just as being a parent that works outside of the home requires balance. And it is hard!” - Anonymous
“Every child is different in their own special and unique way, and what works for one, might not work for the other and that’s got nothing to do with your parenting. It is hard, and all-consuming, and doesn’t get easier, it just get different. Every phase is just a phase!“ - Lauren Gayfer
The Big Takeaway:
Let yourself off the hook and try to just enjoy your own unique baby as much as you can. No one has it all figured out. Trust yourself. You’ve got this, momma.