The Out of Depth Dad’s life has completely changed with the arrival of baby number 2
They say that ‘pride’ comes before a fall.
I’m not sure if I was overly proud, but I was certainly a bit complacent. I think ‘SMUG’ might be the word I’m looking for. You see, I had the whole ‘parenting thing’ sorted (or so I thought).
I was an established daddy, increasingly able to tread water quite happily – no longer out of my depth. As a SAHD to my two-and-a-half-year-old son, we’d got things into a nice routine, and nothing (poo, puke or my pathological hatred of Peppa Pig) could rock our little boat.
So, when the prospect of a second child floated into view, I (rather naively) thought everything would stay the same. It was just another kid. One more couldn’t be THAT MUCH harder. Could it?
How wrong was I?
Having a second child isn’t simply a case of doubling the work load!
It’s more like quadrupling it – at least.
To put it another way, you’re at that point in a computer game, the one where you think you’ve nearly finished. You’ve mastered the gameplay, you know all the little tricks and strategies that lowly beginners miss. You’re feeling pretty smug, then suddenly – rather than being congratulated for completing the game – a big ‘Level TWO’ sign drops into view! Within moments you discover that ‘Level TWO’ is much harder than ‘Level ONE’. This isn’t a game anymore.
To be clear, the problem isn’t the newly arrived baby. Far from it. The baby is the easy bit. The issue is with your first (previously ‘only’) child. It’s funny how perspectives change. I clearly remember, first time around, thinking that those months after his birth were utterly exhausting. They seemed the toughest thing I’d ever done. Right now, however, they seem like a holiday compared to this.
Why? It’s not rocket science. The first born is suddenly aware of having competition and their character changes completely.
My two-and-half-year-old vacillates between being a cherub in love with his new baby sister and a Genghis Khan wannabe – falling into screaming rages that were never part of his pre big brother personality. The big star of our family movie is suddenly having to accept shared billing, with a younger (seemingly more exciting) newcomer; and boy, they gone ‘all diva’ about it!
My job, as a parent, becomes that of a baby-bodyguard: keeping the new arrival safe from the tantrums and ham-fisted attempts at tenderness of our first kid.
Maybe people had mentioned this issue to me before the new baby arrived? Maybe I was just too smug to listen? I’m not sure. What I do know is this is bloody hard work!
With a second kid, that world-beating advice of “Sleep when the baby sleeps” goes out of the window completely. It seems to have been replaced with: “Drink more coffee” and “You will sleep, but it’ll be when they’ve both grown up and left home”.
As the parent of two, THERE IS NO TIME – for anything. I mean no time at all. It’s taken me weeks to schedule in five minutes to trim my toenails.
Do I have any advice or solutions to these issues? Nope! The dad I used to be (the smug fella in his ordered world) was the type who’d give out advice. These days I just wander around, looking startled and muttering to myself. I’m beginning to fully understand why families opt for having three kids – there’s some logic in the thought process of: “Seriously, how much harder could it possibly get?”
So, I’ll leave you with a plea. If you have friends who’ve recently transitioned from one to two kids – be nice to them. They’re currently discovering how tough ‘Level TWO’ of the parenting game is – I’d bet they’re wondering if their smug old ‘Level ONE’ selves will ever return.
The Out of Depth Dad is Chris McGuire, a writer and stay at home dad.