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Right Impression, Wrong Emphasis - Elizabeth Unexplained
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greyautumnrain
greyautumnrain
Right Impression, Wrong Emphasis
When I've been talking to people lately, I think I may have been going on a bit too much about how harder it is to take care of two kids than it is to take care of just one. I mean it's true, it is a lot harder, so I am not giving the wrong impression, but I'm probably not emphasizing the positive aspects enough.

Two kids is more than twice as hard as one kid. Part of this is that I really want to give them both the sort of attention I was giving Margaret when she was a tiny baby, and that is just not possible. I am getting better at balancing and anticipating and multi-tasking, but sometimes they will both have a legitimate reason to want my full attention at the same time, and I find that stressful. What can I say, making my kids even momentarily unhappy stresses me out. Also, if I didn't have Jomkwan taking Margaret during the day on weekdays I'd be more sleep deprived than I ever was at MIT, because it is rare that both kids nap at the same time during the day. So yeah, if you currently have only one child and are looking to expand your family to approximately replacement rate, you should know that it feels like more than twice the work. On the other hand, there are some major compensating factors that I have perhaps been failing to mention.

Watching my kids interact with each other makes up for all the extra work. Hearing Margaret say Duncan's name in an enthusiastic tone of voice, watching her rock him in the swing, kiss him, put his blanket on him... she's clearly pretty pleased with the new addition to the family, even though it means that my lap isn't hers alone anymore. For his part Duncan has been smiling and cooing at Margaret, and he clearly recognizes her as one of the more interesting and entertaining parts of his world. I didn't think they would be enjoying each other so soon, and watching them together is more than twice as fun as just watching Margaret by herself. I'm sure that in the future there will be fights, all siblings fight, but I have every reason to expect that they will mostly get along well and enjoy playing together.

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Comments
enugent From: enugent Date: March 31st, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know about anyone else, but it has certainly come through loud and clear to me that you think two kids were worth it all.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: March 31st, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would note that part of the reason it may seem like more than twice as much work is because we decided, due to economic uncertainties, that I wouldn't take as much time off this time around. With Margaret, I took a week off full time and several weeks off half time; with Duncan, I just took a couple days off full time.

However, I think it would still have been "at least twice the work", if not "more than twice the work", even if I'd been able to take more time off.
remcat From: remcat Date: March 31st, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmmm ... I've been understanding your posts as "harder than I expected" but also "so so worth it."

This is definitely a YMMV thing though. My personal experience was that 2 kids (3 years apart) was about 1.75 time the work of 1, and that 3 kids (3 years apart) was about 2.5 times as hard as 1. Maybe the spacing made the difference? I've often heard that twins are more than twice as much work for the first year, but then much less -- maybe you can look forward to a break once the little guy is older.

Some specific things that were easier ...
* my older kid(s) could fetch and carry while I was nursing
* I already knew how to cope with many basic baby things
* I already had a network of playgroups etc.
enugent From: enugent Date: March 31st, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I also think with the bigger spacing, your kids are more under voice control. I can ask Dorothy to wait for me (not just fetch and carry), explain what's going on, etc. She also will sit still for a long time being read to, which worked well while nursing. (Actually, now that she's six, she can read well enough to entertain herself, for hours at a time.) And there are some other useful skills, like being able to get herself into and out of the car, dress herself, etc., which made it easier than it would have been with two very little ones. I would say that two was about 1.5 times the work of one, with a spacing of four years. Three points is enough for us to draw a curve now, right?
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 1st, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh, the dressing thing... right now I have a toddler who *wants* to dress herself but can't quite manage, which equals more work for me than just dressing her. Helping Margaret dress herself feels like more work than just dressing her, and it certainly takes more time.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 1st, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the spacing does make a big difference. At 1.5 years apart things are different. It is still often faster and easier for me to carry Margaret up & down stairs. Luckily for me I am physically capable of carrying both kids at the same time, but carrying a newborn who still needs head support at the same time as you are carrying a wiggly toddler is complicated. I also need to keep Margaret from accidentally maiming Duncan because toddlers are still a little unclear on how their bodies move through space, etc.

It would be a lot worse if Margaret weren't so far ahead on certain things. She can follow multi-step instructions and bring me things that are in the same room as us, but emotionally she's still a toddler and wants my attention when she wants it, not when I've finished dealing with a crying baby. I think if she were older she would be better about waiting two minutes for what she wants.
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