I thought I knew all there was to motherhood—then I had my second child

I was told over and over again that having a second or third child is much easier than the first, mainly because I would know what to expect. (Though I wondered how I would juggle two boys, when sometimes I feel like I can barely manage one.) When I became a mother of two, I found this to be partially true.

I felt more prepared for the seemingly nonstop feedings, diaper changes, etc. And I wasn't as devastated by the lack of sleep that comes with caring for a newborn—our two-year-old, Alex, woke me up at least once a night anyway. The dishes that filled the sink and cluttered the countertops made me slightly less crazy than before. I also expected some drama and tears from Alex as he adopted the role of big brother.

But, as I've learned many times before, planning and predicting only takes you so far. After the initial euphoria of new life, I was met with two emotions I did not expect.

The first was loneliness.

My husband was preparing to leave for a work trip he had initially planned to cancel since I was 12 days past my due date. I assured him that we would be fine. “I can handle it,” I told him while I held our two-day-old in the hospital bed.

At the time, I was still coming down from the high of having the birth experience that I had hoped and planned for. Had this conversation taken place the day after returning home, though, it would have sounded much different and the words "heck no" would likely have been a part of it.

When I was discharged from the hospital, I felt great, considering the fact that I had birthed a baby in the early hours of the previous morning. Fueled by apple juice from the nurse's station, a bagel, and some coffee that my mom graciously brought, at that point I naively thought it would be all down-hill from there. I was going home to resume life as I knew it, with the addition of one small brand new baby.

When we walked through our front door, it felt like weeks had passed since being home.

I clutched Connor in my arms while my husband followed close behind with Alex. Something felt different. Not good or bad, just different and strangely unfamiliar. The air even smelled different. I took a deep breath and looked around trying to figure out where to go, and tried not to attach myself to the emotions that were surfacing.

As the weeks progressed, I felt strangely isolated, despite my husband's presence and the texts and calls from family and friends. The days and nights blurred together, and I remember looking expectantly at my calendar, hoping that I had something different to look forward to.

I needed someone to sit in my kitchen and ask me how I was doing, and then call me out when I responded with my automatic, scripted response, “we're doing really well!”

It's not that I wasn't enjoying my children, or that I hadn't fallen in love with my new baby. I just needed to talk, to share, to process all of my feelings as a new mom again.

Sometimes I would get a burst of ambitious and restless energy. I would pack up the boys and enough baby supplies to fill a suitcase and drive across town to be around people. Those ventures were rarely satisfying though, and I typically returned home feeling unfulfilled and utterly exhausted.

Second came shame.

My shame was associated with needing help, but feeling like I was supposed to manage on my own. I was unleashing my feelings of inadequacy and frustration on my husband, when deep down I knew he wasn't the cause. And living for the few precious minutes when our boys’ sleep schedules overlapped made me feel even worse.

I thought that I had prepared myself for this stage of life. I read books and blogs and talked to other moms about how they adjusted to their second or third child.

I had a list of indoor activities to occupy Alex during his early weeks and months as a big brother. My husband and I even had a plan for managing grocery shopping and cooking. But despite everything, I felt completely overwhelmed.

When Connor was 10 days old, I sat down to nurse him in our family room and my eyes moved to the end of the couch and across the floor. There were at least three loads of laundry scattered across there, and the floor was nearly covered with every piece of fake food we owned, along with plastic hammers, battery-operated drills, and at least four large trucks.

When Connor fell asleep nursing, I looked at the clock and wondered if and when Alex would nap. I looked toward the sink. The dishes were stacked almost to the faucet. The countertops were camouflaged with crumpled paper towels, dirty plates, and cereal bowls.

In that moment, I felt paralyzed: I couldn't relax, I couldn't clean up, I was hungry, thirsty, and just plain exhausted.

I didn't have these feelings at first. I actually felt tremendously successful for the five or so days after coming home from the hospital. But at some point toward the end of that first week home, I felt like the hamster wheel I was on suddenly stopped with a jerk, and I was dumped onto the floor face first.

I felt consumed by the vastly different needs of my children and the never-ending mess that was our house.

I felt unremitting guilt that I was not able to meet both of my boys’ needs at the same time.

I felt like I was failing as a mother of two.

I remember craving time alone with Connor, without my two-year-old at my side. I was worried that I wouldn't bond with him like I did with Alex, or that he wouldn't feel as loved.

Then I worried about Alex. Would he grow to resent Connor? Would he doubt my love for him if I constantly reject his requests? I found myself counting down the hours until my husband was due home from work.

For weeks, each day ended the same way: exhaustion, guilt, and the feeling of dread that I would never catch up, and that I would never be enough.

My husband and I were frequently angry at each other, full of blame for the mess that we were living in, or the way we felt. And guilt always followed when I made a mental list of the million reasons why we were so tremendously blessed.

I knew I didn't have time to wallow—I had two sets of eyes always on me, studying me, relying on me. I was hyper-aware of their ability to read me, and I was scared that they would feel my anxiety. The brightness in their eyes inspired my faith that things would get easier, and that I wouldn't always feel like such a mess. And then a funny thing happened: things began to even out as routines and life got more balanced.

I realized that my expectations had been ruining my life.

The more I changed my perspective, the more I began to notice that the things I was feeling lonely or shameful about fell a little more into place.

I started writing again, without judgment and without worrying about how I was supposed to feel.

I stopped measuring myself against my madly productive and efficient pre-baby self.

I stopped punishing myself every night for all of the things that I couldn't check off my to-do list, or for the laundry that slept in the washing machine.

I spent more time immersed in Alex's world of trucks, tools and pretend play, and I spent less time picking up his toys.

I started connecting with other moms again, even when I didn't feel like I had anything to offer.

I made time for my husband again.

When I accepted the fact that I couldn't meet the needs of my boys 100% of the time (or even 80%), that our house probably would never look the way I want it to, and that taking a daily shower was an absolute necessity, I was able to let go of what I thought our life could or should look like with another baby, and I just started living it.

I had reached a new normal, and found my joy again.

In This Article

    Why right now is the best time for a drivable getaway

    Flexible schedules mean more vacation options. 🙌

    Looking back now, last winter feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, my husband and I were eagerly planning our summer vacation just as we've done in years past. You know how the next part goes: COVID-19 came into the picture and changed our plans not only for vacationing, but for so much else in life.

    In the time since then, we've gained a truly valuable new perspective on what matters—and realized we don't have to look so far to make beautiful memories with our kids. By exploring getaways within driving distance of our home, we've developed a new appreciation for the ability to "pack up the car and go."

    Of course, that isn't to say that travel is the carefree adventure it once was. With COVID-19 still a very big part of the equation, we've become much more diligent about planning trips that allow for social distancing and exceed cleanliness standards. That's why we've exclusively turned to Vrbo, which helps us find nearby accommodations that meet our new criteria. Better yet?

    Thanks to the money we've saved by skipping air travel and our remote-friendly work schedules, we're able to continue with the trips throughout the fall.

    Here are a few more reasons we believe it's a great time for drivable getaways.

    Flexible schedules allow us to mix work + play.

    After months of lockdown, my family was definitely itching for a change of scenery as the summer began. By looking at drivable destinations with a fresh set of eyes—and some helpful accommodation-finding filters on Vrbo—we were able to find private houses that meet our needs. (Like comfortably fitting our family of five without anyone having to sleep on a pull-out couch!)

    With space to spread out and feel like a home away from home, we quickly realized that we didn't need to limit our getaways to the weekends—instead we could take a "Flexcation," a trip that allows us to mix work and play. Thanks to the ability to work remotely and our kids' distance-learning schedule for the fall, we're planning a mid-week trip next month that will allow us to explore a new destination after clocking out for the day.

    We’re embracing off-season deals.

    With Labor Day no longer marking the end of our vacationing season, we're able to take advantage of nearby getaways that mark down their rates during the off season. For us in the Mountain West, that means visiting ski-town destinations when the leaves are falling rather than the snow. By saving money on that front, we're able to splurge a bit with our accommodations—so you can bet I search for houses that include a private hot tub for soaking in while enjoying the mountain views!

    Vacationing is a way to give back.

    If we've learned one thing this year, it's that life can change pretty quickly. That's given us a new appreciation for generous cancellation policies and transparent cleaning guidelines when booking trips. By seeing both of these things front and center in Vrbo listings along with reviews from fellow travelers, I feel confident when I hit the "book now" button.

    Beyond that, I know that booking a trip through Vrbo isn't only a gift to my family. On the other side of the transaction, there are vacation home owners and property managers who appreciate the income during these uncertain times. What's more, taking getaways allows us to support our local economy—even if it's just by ordering new takeout food to enjoy from our home away from home.

    While "looking ahead" doesn't feel as easy as it once did, I am confident that there will be a lot of drivable getaways in our future.

    This article was sponsored by Vrbo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.


    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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