“If I ever knew you would be so upset, I would never have asked for a baby brother.” Hearing these words made me pause and reflect on what exactly I was doing wrong as a soon-to-be mama of two. Your first child has had your love, attention, focus, and time for so long. Having a second child can be an awesome yet overwhelming experience. If you feel overwhelmed, imagine how your only child may feel. Now that baby number two was on his way, I realized I had not properly prepared my son or myself for his arrival and the changes that were coming.
Together, we are crossing the bridge toward our new roles as we prepare to become a family of four. Here are the steps I am taking to get us there.
1. Assign More Responsibilities
After coming home with an achy back and sore feet, I would fuss about what I still needed to clean or prepare for work. It didn’t help that my son left his dirty dishes on the table, clothes on the floor, or his backpack unorganized – all for me to fix. I found myself fussing at him for being so big yet unable to do anything for himself. It wasn’t until after another night almost in tears that my husband uttered some magical words. Make him help clean up. Make him wash the dishes. Tell him to pick up the living room. These magical words allowed me to to see how much I had babied and (yes) spoiled him. It felt “unfair” at first, but now he has become a champ at helping around the house. I don’t expect to come home to a Martha Stewart house, but with his help I am maintaining a warm and clean home.
Question to ask yourself: Is my child completing age appropriate tasks and chores at home?
2. Grow Independence
During these last few months, I really discovered the importance of him becoming more independent in his life. You want to wear the plaid shirt with the polka dot shorts? Ok, but you pick one or the other. Do you want to have lunch tomorrow at school? Pre-pack the lunch items you want the night before or eat whatever the surprise dish is for lunch. Didn’t pack up your homework folder for school the next day? Oh well, you lost recess. Didn’t put your dirty dishes in the sink? Guess who lost some TV time? While I felt I was being harsh on him, this was helping him learn how to become more independent. Pregnant mamas with an older only child, reflect on how independent your child is. This is a crucial time for them to grow and to help you.
Question to ask yourself: Is my child on a path toward becoming an independent adult?
3. Include Your Child in the Process But Don’t Change His/Her Life
One of the challenges my husband and I faced was making space in our three bedroom home. We had created an awesome study and did not want to give up this space. With these thoughts in mind, I thought it would be great to put the boys together. After some reflection, I came to the realization of how unfair it would be for him. He’s nine and let’s face it – he needs his own space. These thoughts made me realize how little I have been valuing his opinions while unintentionally changing his life around for the newest family member. I have been working on this by incorporating little changes such as name suggestions, themes for the baby room, or even the flavor of the cake for my baby shower. There’s nothing wrong with him deciding that his baby brother must have Marvel super heroes like he does, but I won’t make him share his bedroom with his brother unless it’s needed.
Question to ask yourself: Am I ensuring that there will be few major changes in my child’s daily routine while transitioning my only child toward becoming an older sibling?
4. Make a Motherhood Bucket List
Finally, I think every mother needs a Motherhood Bucket List, as I call it. These are activities that I will spend with my son after the birth of his little brother. With all the craziness that will go on after the birth of my second son, it is important not to lose focus on my first son. It’s important for your child to know that you love and appreciate him or her. Listen to your child! My son tells me that we will not play with him or love him as much. We have created a list of no more than twenty different items that range from volunteering at the local soup kitchen to running in a marathon and reading ten different classical stories together. We will complete these items over the school year. But you can set a time that works for you. Work on craving out set time for you and your older child. There’s nothing wrong with doing things as a family; however, my son has had my love and attention for the last nine years. There will always be a place for us to continue creating memories together as we begin creating memories with our newest bundle.
Question to ask yourself: How will I continue to bond and spend time with my child?
5. Crawl Away For Me Time
While I am not a single mother, I do many parenting activities solo due to my husband being away from the house 4 to 6 weeks at a time. When it was just my son and me, it was no problem. I enjoyed traveling, and my son was always eager to go with me. We went to the zoo, explored New Orleans, or attended cool festivals all over the Gulf Coast. Now that I am growing another human being, I don’t have the energy or strength to be as active. During these last five months, I had to learn how to recharge in different ways. While it is important to spend time with family and friends, it’s also important to spend time alone enjoying solitude. Remember, these are the last few months you will have as a mother of one. Treasure the silence that you have become accustomed to now that you have an older child. Find time to read a book or sit at the park by yourself if a family member or friend can watch your child.
Question to ask yourself: How will I treasure these last few months of being a parent to an only child?
I must admit that one month out from my due date, we’re doing much better in crossing this bridge. Spend a few moments reflecting on these questions. How you answer these questions can help you prepare with fewer problems as you welcome your newest family member.