Second Child Syndrome

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I had a very rare hour and a half free today between finishing a grocery shop and heading off to pick up Monkey from nursery.  This also coincided with Missy waking up from her nap.  She’d spent all of yesterday at home and had been making it very clear to anyone who would listen that she was desperate to go out – picking up her shoes from the shoes box and heading to the door saying bye bye while waving her cute little wave. So I decided to take her for a quick play in a play area in a nearby mall.

It was only once we were on our way that the shocking realisation hit me – in her whole 14 and a bit months, I think this may have been the first time I was taking her out for some one-on-one time just me and Missy.  Surely that can’t be right?! I was racking my brain trying to think of another time the two of us had gone out to do something for her enjoyment, something that wasn’t grocery shopping, going to the doctors or running errands, something that was just the two of us, and I was really struggling to think of anything.  Of course I’ve taken her out and of course we’ve spent quality time together- we’ve been to parks; we’ve been to malls; we’ve been out for breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas and dinners; we’ve ridden trains and petted animals, we’ve been to baby sensory classes, swimming classes, stage shows, soft play areas, play dates and I’m sure a hundred other places besides. But on each of those outings there was someone else there, whether it was a whole family day out or just Monkey and our nanny or one of my friends and their baby; more often than not there was someone else to share my attention with or to share Missy with. This sudden realisation made me feel quite sad and very guilty, especially when I think back to all the lovely mummy and baby times me and Monkey had when he was little, when we spent so much time out and about just the two of us together.  We have such a strong bond and I’m sure it’s in part due to all that time we’ve had just the two of us. The fun time Missy and I spend alone together is usually a snatched session at home in our playroom between my errands and nursery runs or when she wakes up from her nap a little earlier than Monkey or our delicious nighttime cuddles and early morning giggles before the rest of the house wakes up and joins us. But we hardly ever get to go out and do something fun, just the two of us out in the world.

That’s the thing about the second child though isn’t it.  When our first child arrived he changed our whole world and my whole world shifted to revolve around him. He didn’t have to share me with anyone and I could plan everything around his needs. It’s just not possible to do the same for the second child. Instead the second child slots into the family and finds a space for herself amongst the chaos while mummy tries to figure out how to manage the needs of the new baby while also protecting the eldest from all the changes in his life as he moves from being an only child to having to share everything.  The second child is never an only child though so from the get go their early experience has to be different to the first child’s early experience, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing is it? It certainly doesn’t mean I love her any less or cherish the times we have together any less.

So to try to avoid that deep dark pit of mummy guilt I could see opening up in front of me as I thought of what she might have missed out on, I tried instead to think of things she has gained, some ways in which Missy’s early years experience is better for being a second child.

These are the top three things I came up with that Missy has gained:

1. A much more relaxed, experienced and competent mummy. This time around I am less neurotic, less controlling and generally less afraid to give her the space she needs to explore the world around her with some independence. This has definitely made her more independent and adventurous and helped her develop skills faster. Sure, she’s probably had a few more bumps and bruises along the way as I’m not constantly hovering over her ready to catch her, but she gets back up and gets back on with it and I am always there with a cuddle if she needs it. I’ve also been brave enough to try baby led weaning with her, something that I was terrified of with my first child. As a result she is a much happier eater, feeding herself far earlier than my eldest was. My experience gives me greater confidence in my judgements and I’ve been through most of the stuff before so know what to do the second time round. This in turn helps her have more confidence in herself. The first time round we felt like we were in our paediatrician’s office every other day as my new mum paranoia went into overdrive. The second time round I can better judge what does and doesn’t warrant a trip to the doctor’s office (although he  would probably happily have us back there every other day again since he loves her so much!). Less time in doctors offices or with mummy hovering over you means more time for fun and exploration!

2. A constant companion. One of the best things about being a second child is always having someone around to play with and to learn from. Of course there are times (many times!) when they are not so much playing and more all out warring, particularly given Missy’s propensity to assert her dominance over the whole house through a show of her physical strength, but when they look for each other in the morning and when they give each other the sweetest kisses and cuddles; when they are giggling together under a blanket fort or building lego structures together; when their faces light up at the sight of each other, my heart melts and there is no greater joy in this world.  Missy may not have had many fun outings all on her own but she’s had plenty with her brother and isn’t everything better when you have someone you love there to share it with? Having a brother or sister means you will never be alone in the world and I am so glad we have given them each other.

3. SO MANY TOYS!! Missy may not get many new toys but she has inherited a ridiculously large collection of toys of all descriptions from Monkey. Fun toys, educational toys, musical toys, soft toys, interactive toys, role playing toys, musical instruments, dress up accessories, outdoor toys, you name it and we’ve probably got it!  Initially we only had a little Ikea toy box with a few age appropriate toys in but then the collection built up slowly over the years as Monkey was gifted toys at birthdays, Christmasses and other special occassions. Now it is pretty much out of control and I have given up all hopes of reclaiming my living room any time in the next 6 years.  I need to remember that while I may not always be able to take Missy out for us to have some one-on-one time, playing in our play area at home can be just as good, if not better, than some of the play areas around town!

Even though it upset me at the time, I am glad that I had this sudden realisation.  From now on I will make a conscious effort to make time to take Missy on outings just the two of us rather than always waiting for Monkey to be home from nursery so he can come too.  However, if for some reason it doesn’t work out to go on a special outing one particular week then I will try not to feel too guilty about it either – she is and always will be my baby so we have a special bond that is just as strong as my bond with my first born; in the grand scheme of things Missy may have missed out on an outing that week but she is still very lucky to have a mummy who knows what she is doing, a big brother who will always be there for her and SO SO many toys!

Have you ever suffered from mummy guilt about baby no.2? In what ways do you think your second child is better off? Leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you!

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