My perspective as a parent has really changed between my first kid and my second. When I found out I was having my first baby, I dreamed of creating the "perfect" childhood for my son. When he was born, I went into hyper focus to ensure that I was doing things "right." As time passed, he and I found our way together, and when he turned 5, we welcomed another baby into our family. As I look back on my time as a first-time parent and compare it to the choices I've made as a second-time parent, the differences are astounding.
Pregnancy 1 vs. Pregnancy 2
When I was pregnant with my first kid, I researched, made lists, and had an excel spreadsheet to track my weight gain. I was religious in my food choices and made sure that each meal contained all the necessary food groups. I exercised every day and slept well. But when I was pregnant with my second child, I was so sick that I just watched "Curious George" on repeat with my son. My food choices consisted of potato chips, homemade lemonade, and ginger snaps. I didn't track my weight, and my exercise was helping my son ride his bike around the block, which was good enough.
After my first kid was born, I read every scientific study about the latest and greatest child safety issues. I belabored every, single decision—high chairs, car seats, vaccines, you name it. I read about both sides of every argument. But with my second child, I just subscribed to all the parenting blogs about functioning on total lack of sleep. I especially loved the snarky blogs about the everyday struggles parents face because it made me feel like I wasn't alone.
Who's sleep training whom?
With my first child, I was careful not to nurse him to sleep, and I worried that if I held him when he slept, he wouldn't ever sleep on his own. I religiously sleep trained him, and he became a fantastic sleeper. He had regular naps and a super set bedtime. I thought his sleep habits had something to do with me, but I tried all the same things with my second kid before I gave up and threw all caution to the wind. I always nursed my second child to sleep, and she wouldn't sleep if I didn't hold her. In fact, she still doesn't sleep if someone isn't right next to her. Sleep is sleep, and with our second child, we just try to get it anyway we can.
Food for thought
With my first kid, we made all of our own baby food; every, single last drop of food that child ate, we made by hand with fresh, organic produce. My son never ate candy or chocolate until he was 3 or 4 years old, and I wrinkled my nose at the suggestion of fast food for him. My second child is such a picky eater, and she wouldn't eat much of anything until she was 1 year old. We never made any homemade baby food, and bought it all at the grocery store, but she didn't eat much anyway. As a result, I think she survived on donuts and breast milk. And she had chocolate before the age of 1 and fast food! Gasp! Who would've thought?!
Date nights, before and after
With my first child, I left a very specific schedule for our babysitters—down to the hour. I laid out crafts, asked that they read 10 books, and made sure to have super nutritious snacks. A few nights ago, my husband and I got a babysitter for a date night. As I threw a pack of fruit snacks and a juice box on the counter, I laughed at how things have changed—no schedule, no crafts, and we ran out the door as quickly as we could!
Spotless vs. Passable
With my first kid, I tirelessly tried to keep the entire house spotless and organized, including my son's room. Now, with two children, I just do my best to keep the foyer and stairs clear of Legos and baby dolls. Their rooms are littered with crafts and toys, and while we do take time to straighten their rooms up from time to time, for the most part, their rooms are fair game.
In the end, I've learned that there really is no "perfect" way to raise a child and that each child and family is different. And, I can't imagine how perspectives shift as more children are added to a family! What differences did you see between your first and second children? Share in the comments below!
Kara Lawler is a mother, wife and teacher. She writes about the divide that is mothering our children while also mothering our spirit and the sacred on her blog, Mothering the Divide. Kara writes for the Huffington Post and has been featured on the Today Show's social media sites. She's been published on Scary Mommy, Club Mid, and Mamalode. Come, join her tribe on Facebook.