Being a second time parent feels very different. I have relaxed many of my rules, recycled more of my baby products, and savored each milestone. I always laugh at the Luvs commercials that compare the first-time mom to the second-time mom, like how breastfeeding modesty goes away (see here), germophobia wanes (see here), and the ideas about what baby products are necessary get pared down (see here). I laugh at these in a way that I would have taken offense to two years ago, when I was draping my breasts in covers, dowsing my hands in alcohol gel, and packing my stroller like a mountain mule just like the moms in these commercials. The second time around, I feel liberated from the nagging question of “am I doing this right?” that follows a first-time mom around. I now know that there isn’t a right way, but that I have found my own.
I recently saw a mom and her 6-month-old daughter for a sick visit in my office and she had a list of questions for me, none particularly significant but all appeared critical to her. When we finished, she looked at her son with loving eyes and gave a loud sigh of relief. “Is he your first?” I asked her. “Yeah, can you tell?” she blushed. She had the look of a first time mom, one that I am familiar with as a pediatrician but that I also remember wearing once myself.
While I am a more confident parent now, I still do not know if I should be. Although I have done this before, I do not yet know how well it turned out, as my first child is only two-years-old, I haven’t seen how my decisions, teachings, and discipline have molded him. So how do I know if I should repeat these parenting choices? In a recent article in Brain, Child Magazine, Lauren Apfel shares what she learned between her first and last children, which is more than she learned between her first and second. As she discusses, time provides the opportunity for parental reflection and learning and two-and-a-half years is not enough time to accomplish this fully.
I am sure I will repeat many of the mistakes I made the first time with my second child. However, I am already learning that since each child is different, I am a different parent in response. Their differing temperaments bring out varied aspects of my own. I respond to each of them in a unique way and evolve as a parent because of each of their influences. As the parent of one, I could not imagine how I could love another equally, but it is amazing how your heart grows. So the things that I am happily repeating: loving with everything I have, laughing often and at myself, and growing as a parent as my children grow with me.