Obviously you’ve heard it before. It’s the refrain of parents of more than one child, and it’s so cliched at this point that you and your big, pregnant belly cringe every time you encounter it:
“Once you have that second kid, you’ll never have any free time ever again.”*
“Free time?” you scoff. “Please. Like I have any free time now!”
But oh, yes, you do. You don’t realize it, pre-second-kid-parent. You don’t recognize it. And you definitely don’t fully appreciate it. But once that little bundle of second baby cute arrives, you will so, so miss it.
Because soon, you’ll have not one butt to wipe, but two. Not one picky mouth to feed, but two. Not one child who needs trains set up in a meticulously specific manner on his track before he will deign to go to preschool in the morning, BUT TWO.
It’s busy, guys. Reeeeeeal busy. And I know this is not something you have ANY control over (because newsflash, you have no control over anything anymore. Sorry), but I’ll say it anyway: have a first kid who really, really likes baby dolls. A first child who can “help” Mommy do everything with the baby. In fact, do this: have a girl who is exactly 4-and-a-half years older than Kid #2. Also make sure she is good at applying diaper cream.
For the record, I did NOT do this. I have a three-year-old boy who adorably asks if the baby’s pacifier is “clean” before shoving it into his own mouth. Cute? Very. Helpful? Not.
And yet. Honestly? Having a second kid (so far) has not been the world-shaking, tear-inducing development I thought it would be. I mean sure, I am sleep deprived and slightly insane now, and wearing pants is an actual accomplishment I brag about. But, on the other hand, I really didn’t have that much “free time” with a 3yo on my hands. And the thing is, 1 kid or 2 kids or 3 kids or 7: they’re kind of like a liquid. They fill up all the available space, meaning that they take up whatever time you have, and then there isn’t any more time. Which is actually why I think all those articles telling us that moms of four-plus kiddos are the happiest of all the moms with multiple kids are onto something. Because those parents are actually raising small armies / boy bands, and the kids can entertain themselves for hours choreographing hip hop dances while the moms and dads get pedicures or make kombucha smoothies.
Don’t get me wrong. Having more than one kid does make you very, very insane. And sometimes both cry from the backseat and there’s nothing you can do except turn up ‘Blank Space’ really, really loud or — a good alternative to muting your brain via Taylor Swift — pretend that the children are not yours. And sometimes you are nursing the baby while helping your toddler wipe his nether region in a public bathroom and he’s threatening to “touch everything,” and you think about the degree you got from that university and you wonder if you actually ever got it because you just feel like a feeding, wiping, Purell-dispensing machine. Of course, there are ridiculously sweet moments, too. Like when your toddler declares that “That’s MY baby!” and “pets” the poor lad like he’s a kitty. (As long as no limbs or eyes are lost, I’m cool with it. Pet away.)
Of course, when it really comes down to it, I actually know negative zero about raising two kids, because my littlest one is not even 3 months old, which means he’s too teeny to even be a person yet. We haven’t even begun to reach the stage where the two of them fight over toys or give each other puncture wounds. But we also haven’t gotten to that sweet spot where they can play together, you know, the one I have hazy half-dreams about, where I wake up bathed in a dewy, enchanted stardust. (I have dreams of this stage, of the wine I will drink and the magazines I will read. In another room. If this is utter fantasy, please don’t tell me. I just want to believe.)
Here are some things that will change for you once you have a second kid: You won’t bother with the breastfeeding cover thingie. All you can think when you’re at Whole Foods or the preschool and your baby is crying to eat, and your other kid is climbing the cereal aisle or whacking another kid, is that you MUST FEED BABY NOW. If people stare at your boobs, YOU DON’T EVEN NOTICE. And if you do notice, you think “Good for them.”
You will momentarily freak when you toddler licks his hand and then touches your infant’s perfect little lips, but then you will move on to NOT HAVING TIME.
You will momentarily notice your post-baby belly, but then YOU WON’T HAVE TIME.
You will pay somebody some more money to help you with things, and you WON’T EVEN FEEL BAD.
You will say to your first, precious child something you’ve maybe never uttered before: I can’t help you with that. Sorry, buddy.
You will lower your bar for all things.
You will buy more expensive eye cream.
You will Google the word “minivan.”
You will seriously question how you got THIS OLD.
You will pile everyone on the bed and for forty-three seconds (before your toddler hurtles himself off the edge), you’ll think “This is the (sort of) dream.”
*Person says this while wiping snot from one nose, yelling at a second child, attempting to put shoes on a third and simultaneously downing a box of wine.