This is the Hardest Part About Having a Newborn and a 'Threenager'

The real trials of having a three-year-old and a newborn might surprise you.

This is the Hardest Part About Having a Newborn and a 'Threenager'
Art by Tanya Leigh

I'll be the first to admit I was intimidated by the thought of having a newborn and a three-year-old, even though it's entirely common. Still, friends would warn me, "It's not just twice as hard when you have two kids, it's a million times harder..." Add that to the list of all the things NOT to tell a pregnant woman who is already chasing around a rambunctious toddler.

But, really, I'd forgotten when it comes to parenting it always sounds worse than it actually is. As a parent, you know you have to meet the needs of your kids. Somehow having no choice in the matter makes it a little easier. Yes, having a newborn and a preschooler is challenging, but you get through it and often with more finesse than you'd expect.

Thank goodness they instantly loved each other.
Thank goodness they instantly loved each other.

There are actually some positives to having a second baby three years after the first. Like, taking care of a newborn is a lot easier the second time around. I don't worry so much about whether my youngest daughter is breathing in the middle of the night. I don't scrutinize visitors with the same intensity for germs. I've survived colic, so a little fussing in the evenings doesn't make me break into a cold sweat. In fact, the sound of a crying baby is no where near as heart wrenching as it was the first time around. I may not love setting my baby down in a swing or cradle, but somehow it's easier than it used to be.

Another bonus, my body has recovered so much faster than it did after giving birth to my first. They say your body remembers how to have a baby, so I guess it also remembers how to recover. This little saving grace is a major advantage when you also have a three-year-old who needs to get out of the house on a regular basis and the only way to make it happen is with your baby strapped to your chest in a carrier. And, I hate to say it because sleep deprivation sucks no matter how you look at it, but even the lack of sleep is easier the second time around because you already know you'll survive it.

But, really, I'd forgotten when it comes to parenting it always sounds worse than it actually is.

But, here's what's really hard about having a second baby: meeting the needs of your older child, especially when she's just turned three. While overall she's adjusted better than I thought she would, we've also had some wild flare ups in the tantrum department, which of course, coincide perfectly with her age. Great. Three-year-olds already have some pretty crazy fits and I've set the fire with the ultimate source of jealousy: a baby sister. Mix in some agonizing night terrors at one in the morning and I've created the perfect storm for behavioral analysis. I guess this is why they're called threenagers.

The good news is she loves her sister. Like, LOVES. She starts her day by giving cuddles and ends it with carrying one of her sister's feet up the stairs while I handle the rest of the load. She likes to help and is overjoyed when smiles cross her face. Unless, of course, any of this interferes with something she wants for herself. Then, suddenly, I'm the cause of all anger in the universe. She hasn't once complained about her sister, but boy has she let me know when she isn't happy with me. Kicking, hitting, screaming...

Classic threenager. A handful but undeniably cute.
Classic threenager. A handful but undeniably cute.

This has prompted me to read a ton of behavior advice books and even ask her doctor whether I should be concerned. His response? A knowing smile and the simple reminder, "She did just become a big sister, right?" Apparently, all of this is normal for a spirited child of her age, no matter how larger than life her fits might seem. *Insert exhale here.*

Two months into this adventure with a three-year-old and a new baby, I have to say, we're doing alright, even if some afternoons I hide from my older daughter while she throws everything in her room over the baby gate that blocks her door in protest while simultaneously doing her best exorcist impression. Just reading that last sentence makes me laugh. Like I said before, it all sounds worse in the retelling. The bad is a small portion of our day and some days we get lucky and skip the bad altogether. And, to be fair, these last couple months have also included the sweetest embraces and unsolicited praise that I'm a "great, great mommy." Thankfully, the sweetness magically erases everything else.

My husband and I like to joke we have no idea what we complained so much about when we had a newborn the first time around. I could hardly cook or clean, let alone leave the house. Now it mostly gets done and with an extra person to chase around, no less. Sure things may be messier, but we're surviving. So, maybe the warnings about a second child being far more than double the work aren't quite true. Then again, friends now like to tell me to just wait until my youngest starts to crawl... I'll get back to you on that.

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