3 Things I learned about motherhood (as a second time mom)

It’s really true what they say about your kids. Despite having the same DNA, they will be very, very different from one another. Liam wasn’t terribly difficult as a baby (despite being the worst sleeper), and as a toddler, he was reasonable and quite easy to distract (that was always my go-to strategy – “Oh, look! That toy you love!” and tantrums were averted.)

Noah was the easiest baby. He slept like an angel, didn’t fuss over delayed naps, and ate amazingly well (Liam did, too.) However, as a toddler became a bit more challenging. He is stubborn (like his Daddy), and very strong-minded. If he decides something, it’s his way or the highway. He always knows what he wants, and it is my hope that this will make for one very successful adult one day 😉

Both my kids are very different, but I realized very early on with both of them that if we weren’t firm with boundaries, we’d be in trouble. Isn’t that most kids, though? If you give them a little, the next day they ask for a little more. Then a little more. If they realize something works, they’ll try it again. Kids can be expert manipulators when they want to be, and, yes, they know exactly what our weaknesses are. When it comes to them, at least.

You really do change with Kid #2. As I’m sure you do with Kid #3, and so on. I think that the more seasoned the mom, the less worried she is about every darn thing and the more confidently she runs her zoo 😉

Here is what I learned:

For Liam, we learned this the hard way when it comes to sleep. We hired a sleep coach – did a gentle version of cry it out (which took 3 days of consistency) and the sleep issue was resolved. I’ve realized and learned that a lot of the time, when we think our kids will give us a hard time, they don’t. They adjust a lot more quickly than we do, and are more flexible than we give them credit for.

With Noah, a great example of this is for swimming lessons. When we enrolled Noah at Goldfish Swim Yorktown Heights, I had a feeling he would have a hard time spending 30 minutes with an instructor (without me or Joe), considering he’d never been in any form of daycare or school before lessons. He cried the entire time for the first handful of lessons, yelling out my name and refusing to cooperate the entire time. It was tough to watch (and if I was a first time mom, I probably would’ve caved), but if I learned anything as a second time mom, it’s that in order to help your kids get over the “humps” in life, you need to be firm and consistent, even when it’s difficult in the moment. Separation anxiety doesn’t get better (not quickly, at least) when you are constantly running over to rescue your child. Sometimes, you think your kids need your help, but in order for them to actually grow, they need to learn independently.

This goes for Liam learning to put himself to sleep (with his own coping methods, rather than us rocking or bouncing him to sleep), and Noah becoming comfortable with an instructor in the pool. He’s actually obsessed now, and I’m proud of myself for pushing him. A lot of growth happened in those tough weeks!

P.S.) For anyone looking for swim lessons, Goldfish Swim School is, in my opinion, the best in Westchester! Extra COVID precautions + extra clean facilities, fun, island decor, and excellent instructors who really go the extra mile! If you sign up, don’t forget that my code “MAMA” waives your membership fee! Click here to find out why we chose Goldfish Swim School Yorktown Heights as our winter extracurricular for the boys!

As a first time mom, all you do is compare. Your own mom abilities, your child’s milestones… it’s a scary phase to go through, not knowing what to compare your child’s progress to. It is all new territory. However, motherhood is a lot easier if you don’t aim for perfection. If you lower your standards just a tad, and don’t stress the small stuff too much (laundry can always wait until the weekend). The journey becomes a lot more pleasant that way. You may think someone else has it together when it comes to their kids and family life, but we are all going through different (and equally difficult) struggles in private.

Ultimately, Your kids need you, so be in the moment and trust your instincts. You know your child best! I remember how overwhelmed I got accepting everyone’s advice when I was pregnant with Liam – the beauty of the second rodeo is that you’ve experienced the ride once. You realize that your child will develop at his/her own pace.

Especially when your kids are really little, some stages feel eternal. Truly, kids can wear you down to the bone and leave you feeling exhausted. Some days make you feel trapped, anxious, with no mental space to think. It can be overwhelming for sure, but we have all been there. Motherhood is hard. Your emotions are beyond valid.

Weirdly, for us, some of our toughest stages (sleep battles, potty training/wetting the bed, etc…) disappeared without leaving a trace. They seem eternal in the moment, but truly are temporary. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but: you will make it through this.

What did you learn about motherhood the second time around?

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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