What Is It Like Going From 1 kid to 2 kids? Unexpected Challenges!

What Is It Like Going From 1 Kid To 2 Kids?

There was so much nobody told me about what having a baby is like. Being a first time parent was quite overwhelming in the beginning!

Naturally I started to wonder what it’s like going from 1 kid to 2 kids. To get some firsthand insights, I surveyed a bunch of moms with 2 or more kids to get their honest opinions.

Here is some great feedback on what is it like going from 1 kid to 2 kids and the unexpected challenges that can come with a bigger family. Names have been changed for privacy.

What Unexpected Challenges Did You Have Going From 1 Kid to 2 Kids?

There was so much nobody told me about what having a baby is like. Being a first time parent was quite overwhelming in the beginning! Naturally I started to wonder what it's like going from 1 kid to 2 kids.

To get some firsthand insights, I surveyed a bunch of moms with 2 or more kids to get their honest opinions. Here is some great feedback on what is it like going from 1 kid to 2 kids and the unexpected challenges that can come with a bigger family. Names have been changed for privacy.

Abby: My second was sooooooo much easier than my first. The hardest thing has been my oldest’s jealousy, but honestly having a second was WAY easier than the adjustment to one baby. My youngest is 13 months now and time just flew with her.

I think she is easier partly because she had to go with the flow and nap on the go/skip naps depending on the day. I found it so much more freeing than with my first who I scheduled everything for: naps, feedings, etc. 

Beth: Surviving every day. Not realizing how to handle my 1st's jealousy of the new baby, take care of an infant, and get through every day and night.

Cathryn: Many people say that they are better prepared the second time around because they know what to expect. Although I felt like that was true, it didn't change the physical exhaustion, the sleep deprivation etc and it was harder than I ever imagined.

Diane: I second a lot of what Cathryn says! I’m just rounding the corner out of the 4th trimester with number two, and my first is 2.5. So we’re IN it right now.

My first has adjusted relatively well, but I feel like I have not. I’m having a lot of emotions and hormonal swings that I didn’t with my first. I felt much better with number one, so feeling overwhelmed and emotional this time around, caught me off-guard.

Now I’m just trying not to judge myself for it, and just survive each day (or hour!) So, as you can tell, there seem to be two camps: the moms who felt first was harder, and the moms who felt the second was the biggest adjustment. I fall into the latter!

I just don’t feel like I can give both kiddos the same attention I have to number one, so I have to go easy on myself. A good friend told me something that didn’t ring true until my second was here: “just keep them alive.” I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but when I tell myself that, I am able to take some of the pressure off myself and we end up having a much easier, happier day! 

Holly: For me the slog of having a newborn was much harder without the countervailing emotions of “oh my god I made a person this is so amazing can you believe this thing exists that i made!” 

Also (and this may only be my experience) but it felt like with the odlest real life stopped for those first six weeks or so and you got to watch so much Bravo and sit on your couch nursing your firstborn and eating granola… real life doesn't stop when you already have one, just baby bjorn that kid and get going to soccer. 

But it's great! and we're having a third so you know I mean it ;)

Lila: The most unexpected thing for me: before baby no two, I couldn’t imagine loving another child like I did my first. I distinctly thinking, this poor baby, he won’t be as loved, but I’ll do my best. 

Reality after baby came: omg, now THIS is love. Can someone get that annoying child away from me already?! 

Janine: Totally agree with Lila!

Kate: That's interesting what Lila says, because for me it was opposite. It took me a while to warm to the new baby. I got there eventually, of course :) Just wanted to mention that, because both are common responses.

Minnie: I'm with Kate. It took too long, I was really worried. But I got there too :)

Nina: The early days feel like a marathon- you just rotate between feeding one, feeding the other, napping one, napping the other, bathing one, bathing the other, etc. no economies of scale yet, and your personal time goes away. 

UNTIL you get baby on a schedule and sleep trained, then the clouds part and it’s awesome. Tiring but awesome. 

Sarah: I love, love, love having two kids.  But a few things I wish I knew:

– Forget about “me time” it was so much easier to get this with just one, by taking turns with your partner, right?  But somehow leaving your partner with TWO kids is just so much harder.

– LOGISTICS!  Drop off, pick up, childcare, preschool, naps, doctors, dentists….oh my.  So. Many. Damn. Logistics.

– Career stuff gets a lot more complicated.  You kind of need to have a chat with your partner over how to make it all work.  Someone may need to take a backseat for a bit.

Some positives:

– You get to do everything over and do it better.  So I breastfed for a lot longer with #2 and actually got him eating all kinds of foods way better than with my first.

– You discover a whole new bottomless pit of love that you thought was finite.  Turns out…its NOT!  You can just love and love and love.  Its so fun.

– You get a whole new human, a whole new personality, so many fun discoveries. 

– If you have another one of the same gender you get to rediscover all those amazing outfits!

I found a great “Second Time Moms Group” that met weekly during my 2nd maternity leave.  This was such a great experience.  Its run through Erly Childhood Matters and I highly recommend!  We read a lot of great articles, played with our babies, bonded and grabbed lunch together.  Such a fun time.

Trish: For me, the second time was a million times easier than the first. I felt so much more confident and relaxed! Everything was easier, from the logistics to the emotions.

Vivian: I truly agree with Trish EXCEPT for the logistics of after school activities, playdates, sports, and homework when they get a little older. Ugh, my weekends are spent on various soccer fields/baseball diamonds! and I am not a huge team sports fan, but they like it.  And don't get me started on homework w 2 kids!

Zoe: I’m an only child so I didn’t realize they would fight so much at first. Ee’re  At 3.5 and 2 and they’re getting along so well but that “I’m learning to move and navigate space” time was hard. 

Overall I’m loving it!!!

Anne: Hmm… I'm closing in on a year with two and it has been really f-ing hard. I'm not even sure I can explain what was hard in ways we weren't expecting. Some of it is pretty straightforward: 2nd baby was colicky, had silent reflux we didn't medicate for a few months until our pediatrician was like “you guys are struggling please give him some zantac”.

I had bad PPD. My husband was pretty freaked out by how poorly I was managing and didn't ask for what he needed to feel like a functional human (which I probably wouldn't have been able to provide anyway). All in all, a super super hard year on my sense of self and on my marriage and on my relationship with my older kid and on my relationship with my baby.

At some point I realized that I had been expecting a second kid to slot nicely into our family – I mean we already adjusted our marriage to account for a kid, how different could it be, right? – and that isn't how it worked for us. It felt more like our whole family structure got exploded and reformed as a four-member unit instead.

I do feel way more confident about a lot of the parenting stuff, and also way less certain about opinions I developed with my first. Turns out having a sample size greater than 1 gives you some perspective about how kids are not all the same and how parenting styles aren't universal! 

After coming through the shittiest part of the year, I will echo that getting “me time” (we call it IHAT: Independent Human Adult Time) is harder and we still haven't nailed that piece of the logistics. Also – childcare costs go up! Way up!! (Duh)

Celia: I'm a STM (second time mom) with an almost four year old and a three month old (so my kids are 3.5 years apart). 

It's been hard, not gonna lie. I can't give my older one all the attention he wants, which is probably a good thing, and it breaks my heart. At the same time, I feel like the second one gets the short end of the stick a lot of the time (naps on the go, not as much energy from me).

I guess I wasn't expecting the mom/wife guilt to be extra bad with a second! It's definitely not twice as hard. It's exponential for me! I'm so glad that more experienced mommas have said that it gets easier and that the love grows in bounds. I'm really looking forward to that and to seeing my kids play together. 

Eliza: I actually cut off breastfeeding of #2 around 17 weeks when I went back to work vs 6 months with #1. I didn’t have time to sit there attached to a pump or worry about my boobs exploding dealing with 2 kids. 

But costs go up for childcare, and basically no free time for yourself…

Georgia: I found shopping harder because suddenly my older one was out of the cart and running around. The freedom he suddenly had. It's been 2.5 years now and I'd say now, with him 5, he actually stays with me pretty easily, but man was that difficult for awhile with a newborn.  

Hanna: Mine were close in age and my older was a runner.  I always wondered why more stores don't have those carts where you can put two kids in the seat. 

My younger one was too big to carry after awhile but my older one was only two, he would just run all over the store.  I worked part time for awhile after my second was born but could never run errands or grocery shop because of this issue. I could only go places where I could take my double stroller so I had a place to put both of them when necessary. 

Jackie: Mine are 5.5 years apart. I was so happy that my oldest was so receptive to having his brother in the family. I was surprised by the lack of fighting and jealousy. I fell in love with their relationship and how well my older one adjusted. 

I would say I was also surprised by how protective I became of my younger one when my older one would try to play with him though. I never thought I would feel like my older one would do something to harm him but those thoughts crossed my mind at first, they faded pretty quickly. 

Lara: I forgot how physical having a newborn/infant is and it’s so much harder with a toddler. The little baby is always attached to you whether nursing or napping or playing wide awake or inconsolably crying.

My toddler and I had a great rhythm of walking and playing at the park but now I have the added weight of the baby and it makes it harder. Even when both my partner and I are present, we still feel outnumbered because of the sheer physical needs.

Michelle: I agree the change wasn’t 2x as hard but rather exponential as someone else said. Although the day to day stress of every little detail is less with the second baby since many things are familiar now. 

One thing I want to add that I didn’t see written yet is the physical recovery aspect. With the 2nd pregnancy everything expanded a bit more and getting back into “shape” after can be more difficult. Including pelvic floor health. And getting back into a healthy routine for yourself after baby with two is a lot more difficult. I couldn’t just take long walks or go to a workout class with childcare as we had to time things around preschool drop off and pickup for my older kiddo.

Nicole: When I was pregnant with my 2nd, my son was really jealous about the baby gear he saw me setting up in preparation for the birth. He would knock over the bassinet and throw the infant tub. So I was really nervous about jealousy issues once the baby came.

I told a friend about it, and she gave me great advice that she got from another mom – to always tend to the older kid first, even if the baby is crying…because the baby is so young and will be ok and won't know the difference, but my toddler son would absolutely know the difference and could potentially become resentful of the baby.

So I did just that – when both kids were crankly I would soothe my older child first. He would always be fed first, cuddled first, whatever he needed was first and the baby could wait.

Fast forward and my kids are now 5 and 2 and my son LOVES his little sister more than anything and has NEVER had any jealousy towards her. If fact, I know it's ok now to tend to my daughter first now if I want, but out of habit I still hand my son his meals/snacks before her.

Sometimes he tells me to let her be first which is so thoughful. He always looks out for her, never wants her to be left out. He is super protective of her and he NEVER gets mad at her when she accidently breaks his toys or rips his books.

I feel so lucky that there is no jealousy as it seems like would be really stressful to deal with that. And by no means is my daughter passive because of how I handled things when she was born, she has a very strong personality and knows how to communicate for herself. I know that some might judge my parenting so that's why I'm staying anonymous here. It worked for me.

Common Themes Going From 1 Kid To 2 Kids

Every kid is different and thus every family and its needs are different. There's a lot of common themes that stand out though with going from 1 kid to 2 kids:

  • Prepare for your first child to feel jealous.
  • Time will be more crunched than ever.
  • You'll have a lot more appointments and events to attend and coordinate.
  • Costs will go up, but you can utilize a lot of what you already have.
  • You'll love your second just as much if not more, however it may take time to bond.
  • Personality differences can be surprising.
  • You will be stretched harder than you can imagine, but you will also love so much more too.
  • Some days will be very hard, but the fun days are incredibly worth it.

Recommendation To Build Wealth

Given Financial Samurai is a personal finance site, I'd be remiss to mention the importance of getting your finances in order, ESPECIALLY if you have or are planning to have a second child.

We all know that kids are expensive, especially if you live in an expensive coastal city like San Francisco where we are. With childcare, preschool, babysitting, nannies, diapers, and car seats, costs add up quick!

You don't want to compound your parental stress with financial stress. This is why I recommend everyone sign up for for Personal Capital, the web’s #1 free wealth management tool to get a better handle on your finances.

Signing up for Personal Capital was a huge relief for us. It was like going to the grocery store with a nice checklist instead of having to remember everything. We could track our net worth and know where our money was going every day.

After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning calculator that pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible.

There's no rewind button in life. Once you've got your finances down, everything gets a little bit easier and less stressful. Good luck to all the parents out there!

Personal Capital Retirement Planning Calculation For Estate Tax Planning
Personal Capital's Free Retirement Planner

Further Reading:

Family Finances Topics

Reflecting On Being A Stay At Home Dad For 2 Years

Three Things Our Estate Planning Lawyer Taught Us Everyone Should Do

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