They say that having a baby changes everything. It was no secret. When I had one baby, she changed things. But, as I used to say, she came into our house. I happily adapted her feeding schedule to fit the needs of the day, put her toys in pretty decorative bins, and had plenty of room in her bedroom to keep her stuffed animals. It was a change in that we no longer were able to stay out past 8 p.m. while on vacation. Sitting in a dark hotel room while a baby stood in her crib staring at us was not really our former idea of night life on vacation, but we adapted for our child. She fit perfectly into our life. And then...we had baby number two. Now, the second monkey was very much wanted, but I never realized how drastically things would change with a second tiny little being.
I still have pretty of decorative bins in which to store toys. They even have toys in them! For some reason, though, the second child brought with him more toys than I can keep track of. There are cars, balls, pieces of play food, Legos, you name it, it's all over the house. There is a wooden toy spoon on my dresser, silly bands and doll clothes on my desk, and a rubber duck on my kitchen counter! I have no idea how they got there or why they don’t return to the lovely bin where such things are kept. I just know they shouldn’t be there! I dread birthdays and holidays because I can’t imagine finding locations to keep all the toys that might come into the house. When we had one child, a friend commented that our house was so nice. He could tell we had a child, but it didn’t overwhelm you. Sorry, friend. You might not want to drop by anymore because, now, I can hardly tell adults live here.
I do remember our laundry increasing with one child, but I thought I still did it once a week. Now, I no sooner get the last shirt folded than another basket of laundry is overflowing and ready to start the process over. How does one tiny kid generate so much laundry??? I am wearing the same pajamas for a week and the same jeans two days in a row (provided no noses were wiped on them), yet I still find myself constantly folding laundry. And we’ve been inside all winter! When the kids are running around outside this summer, I am pretty sure I might lose my mind.
We have four mouths to feed now, two adults and two tiny children. A pound of hamburger was plenty for three of us with leftovers for lunch the next day. Suddenly, a pound is no longer enough. I buy fruits and vegetables at the farmers market every Friday and can’t tell you the last time I was able to eat a piece of fruit myself. My daughter even eats grapefruit! Is nothing sacred for mom??? I bought a package of six yogurts. By the evening that day, three of them were already gone, and one kid was asking for another. The two year old can polish off an entire kids’ entrée at whatever restaurant we go to, so there is no more sharing off mom’s plate. One day, these kids will be teenagers, and I will be frantically coaxing my backyard garden to grow more tomatoes to feed them while I nibble acorns to stave off my own hunger.
Let's not forget about packing the car to go away for a weekend or even a day! Why do we need so much stuff? Each kid has their stuffed lovey and a blanket that they must bring with them for each overnight. Of course they don’t both like the same foods, so we must bring different foods for each of them as well as for us. Even as we move past the stage for baby equipment, the amount of stuff we need doesn’t get any smaller. Once upon a time, we could get away with an overnight bag each. Now, we have a van full!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not in any way saying that having two kids is any harder than having three, four, or five. You learn as you have kids that you are able to handle a lot more than you ever expected to handle. The strangest of emergencies come up, and we handle them while cooking dinner and helping with homework at the same time. Somehow, we manage to carpool kids to events and show up at the right ones at the right times, all while keeping the kids fed, clothed, and relatively clean. Whether you have one child or twelve, somehow, you are able to make it work. I am just amazed at how things have changed so drastically, so exponentially by adding just one more child to the equation. Maybe it is because monkey number two was a boy and vastly different than princess number one. In any case, I will still dream of the day when my floor will not be cluttered with Little People, trains, and play food, and I will be able to leave the house with simply my keys and cell phone. Until then, I won’t judge any of you for the clutter in your house. It will just make me feel at home.
Ellen Deebel has a BS in Early Childhood Education from Bucknell University and over 15 years of experience in the field, both as a teacher and administrator. She focuses her time now as a mom to her two young children, alternately packing lunches and chauferring them to various activities.