I have a friend who's on the fence about having a second child. She had her daughter three years ago, and she says now that things are finally getting -- well, as any parent knows, easy isn't quite the right word, but ... less consuming, let's say -- it's hard to imagine doing it all over again with another baby. I know how she feels, because that's exactly how I felt when my first son was a toddler and my husband and I were considering the timing of a second. It was, and I say this with all the love in the world, like contemplating parachuting back into a war zone for a second tour of duty.
We chose to forge ahead, and I am so incredibly glad we did. Our boys are close in age and they're the best of friends (when they're not fighting to the death over a toy, that is). But of all the major changes a second child brought to our lives, I could never have anticipated how my life as a working mom would be affected.
Okay, I admit that the title of this post is hyperbolic -- my second son didn't actually hose anything other than maybe my waistline. (I maintain it was the second C-section that gave me a permanent pudgeflap above my scar, and not my habit of snacking in front of the television every night. SHUT UP IT WAS THE SURGERY.) But it's true that while I found it challenging but doable to work full time outside the home after my first child was born, having two kids was a whole different ball game.
Ferrying two kids to and from daycare each day became a logistical nightmare on par with the fox/chicken/sack of corn river crossing puzzle: I had to get the baby's bottles all strategized because daycare policy was to discard any unused milk from each feeding rather than refrigerate it for later use (so god forbid he did one of those feedings where he took like one sip before falling asleep, which would essentially waste an entire bottle) while encouraging the other child to use the potty and packing extra clothes in case he had a Didn't Make It to the Potty Situation later and changing the baby because he'd spit up all over his outfit and lugging carseats and my laptop and god, it was just so hectic.
Plus there were the daycare fees, which were astronomical. One child was in the wildly expensive infant care room, the other was in the not-exactly-cheap toddler room. The combined cost took up more than a third of my salary.
I could have dealt with those things, of course. The expense, the hassle -- plenty of parents balance childcare and work every day, because they have to. What really became impossible to manage, however, were the sick days.
My boys have always been generally healthy, knock wood, but once they were both in a daycare environment, the everyday childhood illnesses came fast and furious. One kid would get a cold or an ear infection or whatever, they'd be down for the count for several days, and just as they were getting over it, the other kid would start running a fever. I developed a crippling phobia of getting The Call from daycare, but being paranoid of seeing their number pop up on my phone certainly didn't stop me from getting that damn call every few days. Worse, my husband and I were spending way too many mornings arguing about who was going to stay home with the barfing/coughing child this time. It was a crummy game of Whose Job Is More Important in which there were no winners -- if I stayed home, I felt guilty for not showing up at my job for the millionth time, if I went to work, I felt awful for leaving my kid.
There were other things going on with my job that made it unpleasant, too. I had a commute from hell and my office wouldn't even entertain the idea of working remotely. I'd had a revolving door of bosses who kept quitting or getting fired. I felt increasingly unappreciated and trapped in a dead-end position.
So when I'd finally built up enough freelance work, I had no problems saying goodbye to my software marketing salary, my benefits, my free iPhones and iPads, my gourmet chef-prepared lunches and dinners. It wasn't that I felt I had to stay home to be a better mom, it's that I believed our family life would be more manageable this way. And for the most part, it has been. I definitely miss working outside the home for all kinds of reasons, but I'm incredibly grateful to not be spread quite so thin.
Now that I have two kids entering school this year, life is going to be even busier than it was when they were little. Every day I have to drop one kid off at the bus stop, take the other one home, take him back to the bus stop for a noon pickup (he's in half day kindergarten, which is the only option in our neighborhood), then go back to the bus stop around 3:30 to get both kids. Not to mention driving them to and from afterschool sports and whatever other activities they're involved in, and dealing with the 32 -- THIRTY-TWO! -- no-school days this year.
My rambling point here, I guess, is this shit is tough no matter what. But I think adding more children to the mix definitely complicates things, particularly if you have a traditional full-time career. I don't know what I'd say to my friend who's having such a hard time deciding whether to have another baby. On the one hand, I doubt she'd have any regrets. On the other, I can absolutely understand her reluctance. She's got a great job and a great kid, and there's nothing wrong with not wanting to rock the boat.
Did having more than one kid change how you felt about your career?
Image via Linda Sharps