Our second daughter is due in November 2019. We learned so much from parenting our first daughter for the past 3 plus years. Here are some things I plan to do differently the second time around.
*Psst. I’m trying something new! I wanted to make this available to you three different ways: as a video, as a podcast, and as a blog. I wrote this blog and then used it for an Instagram Live video that I then uploaded to YouTube, SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts. They are ALL available below. Feel free to watch, listen, or read. And let me know in the comments what’s your favorite way to receive this info and whether it helped you or not. I’m grateful for you! Enjoy 🙂
on Apple Podcasts
Note: Although the podcasts above were recorded in March and April, the blog below was originally written in October!
1. Trusting My Gut
With my first daughter I doubted myself so much. I looked all over the internet and asked every mom I knew (except my mom) for advice about how to parent. Honestly, sometimes the information I found and the advice received did not work for me, but I took everything to heart because I didn’t have a vision for my family. I feel like I made a lot of mistakes and I was miserable!
This time around, I’m trusting my gut. The past couple of years I have learned to not be led by my feelings, but not to invalidate them either. I learned to adjust my parenting style in a way that works for me. It also helped that I was growing in my relationship with God and going to therapy so I was becoming better as a person. I have been so happy with my performance as a mom and how my daughter is thriving. Not that these things define my worth, but they have made such a huge difference that now I know, with baby girl #2, I need to pray, stay self-aware, consider the vision we have for our family and decided what’s best for us.
2. Say more YES to my family (and more NO to everything else).
Becoming a mom helped me to realize how much of a people-pleaser I was. Oftentimes, I tried so hard to make my daughter act like the perfect kid. I would lose it if anything she did was out of my control because I really wanted people to think she had it all together, because that would mean I had it all together. (Again, therapy has helped me so much!)
For that reason, I used to say, “No,” to my daughter a lot. I noticed that when we would go visit family members or some laid-back new friends, they would say, “She’s fine. It’s okay. Let her play. She’s a kid.” I realized my husband and I were the only ones who were uptight. So we started to let her do her thing. We still expected her to be respectful, but we gave her grace when she was just processing life as a toddler. We stopped putting ourselves in stressful situations that would make us want to be helicopter parents, and frequented places and homes where we felt safe (read: free from judgment) being messy parents with a beautifully messy child. And we found so much freedom. And she is less frustrated and seems to have more fun.
So with baby #2, I am saying more YES to my family, especially to my kids. Yes to fun, yes to messes, yes to exploration, yes to raw and unfiltered feelings, yes to immaturity and loving discipleship, yes to safe places to be ourselves. And I’ll be saying a lot of NO to anything that doesn’t create that kind of supportive environment for the way we do family.
3. Continuing My Career
I stopped working because the nanny job I had when I became pregnant would barely cover childcare and I wasn’t able to take my daughter with me. Although I’m grateful for the time that I was able to stay home with her, I would not repeat it. It was hard, mostly because I felt like the core of who I am was reduced to being just a mom and just a wife. Well-meaning people, whose advice I treated as gospel, suggested that I wait until my kids were school-aged before going back to work or going to school because this was the time they “needed me most.” As the author of How to Have It All, I clearly disagree now, but back then I felt so guilty desiring anything extra as if I was letting God down by having other dreams.
What happened to change my mindset? I simply started praying and reading the Bible for myself and believing what God told me. That is how God made it clear what my purpose is, aside from just loving and raising my family. That is how my husband and I got on the same page about our lives and legacy. That is how I became more intentional at home, and was able to experience more joy as a homemaker. I was actually a happier, more present mommy because I didn’t have the resentment of feeling like I was cooped up and limited in what I could do. With my husband’s co-sign, I started pursuing a career as a writer/speaker. I started college this year even though we had the surprise miracle pregnancy that is bringing baby #2 into our world smack-dab in the middle of my first semester. And I am confident that this is what God is calling us to in this season.
I will continue school and pursuing my career after baby #2 is born because that is what I feel like God is calling me to do. I have had overwhelming support from my family, friends, and my college to be able to graduate on time. As long as we continue to allow God to direct our steps, we’re going to be okay!
4. Co-sleeping AND Creating a Routine
With our firstborn we did not have a solid sleep routine. When I say we, I mean none of us. We were so disorganized and borderline depressed. Sleeping in late into the afternoon and binge-ing Netflix late at night was our thing. We tried on and off to get our daughter to sleep in her crib, but her cries when she was separated from us felt like physical pain. There would be times where we would finally get strict about putting her to sleep at a certain time, and then there were times where we just gave up because the stress of trying to get bedtime happening didn’t seem to be worth it. By 18 months we finally got her sleeping by herself without much fuss, but getting there felt like a roller coaster.
Oh yeah, and the first 9+ months of her life she was in bed with us and I was breastfeeding. Of course it was a hard transition! Now she starts off sleeping in her own bed, but to this day she will sneak out of her bed to sleep next to Nana (my mom-in-law lives with us).
I do plan to breastfeed again, but even though there will be space in my bed with hubby working overnights, we plan to have baby #2 sleep in a bassinet next to us until she can move to a crib in her sister’s room. I plan to get her used to sleeping by herself. That way it will be easier for us to sleep-train. With all of us either working or in school, we will be needing the structure to support our newfound healthy and productive lifestyle. That will protect our sanity!
5. Prioritize My Partner
I think naturally it’s hard for me to put my hubby first when there is a new baby because she needs me, she’s cute, and I’m tired and I want him to understand. However, after experiencing tension for a variety of reasons when we first became parents, I see how important it is to be proactive in caring for our marriage. I know that if our marriage thrives, it blesses our kids because it creates security for them and models unconditional love. Sometimes a feeling of competition arises when we’re both tired and we’ll say, “Well I did this today and you did that so I need more help/rest/whatever.” If we prioritize each other, though, we remain on the same team and are able to acknowledge each other’s needs more effectively. So with baby #2, I’ll be making sure I do my part to prioritize my husband. That looks like intentionally giving him my undivided attention each day, having weekly date nights away from the kids, keeping things sexy, praying for him, and keeping Jesus first (because that’s how God keeps me loving my husband well).
6. Accepting Help
I had this idea that in order to be a good mom, I had to do everything. The issue is, I wasn’t good at everything. The bigger issue is, I never let anyone help me. We lived with my mom for the first 7 months of my firstborn’s life and I felt so offended any time my mom “mothered” me. I felt so guilty that our family even lived there, that any extra help she gave us felt like she was ashamed of us. That was all in my head, but I didn’t realize it. I even told her to back off, in more respectful words. I was foolish!!!
Then we moved out because my husband got a youth pastor job that also provided housing. His mom moved in with us. She has been a single mom for almost his whole life and he is her only son. She is amazing, she never tries to step on my toes or anything, and she somehow is so balanced in being willing to help us. It gives her joy to serve people in the background. So she started to help me with laundry and cooking. She never said anything about me being overwhelmed, which I was, she just jumped in and started to help. I was so insecure that I took offense to this as well. I felt like if she was doing it, then obviously I wasn’t doing it and it was my job so that meant I was failing. So I asked her, respectfully, to not do my laundry and not cook us dinner because I was going to do it. I was insane!!! I can laugh about it now.
Thank God none of that lasted long. I have learned to “allow” (which sounds so stupid) my mom-in-law to bless us by doing the laundry. We created a system that works for us and these days I rarely do it myself. She often cooks meals and freezes them so that I don’t have to cook after a long day. She also does dishes. And I thank her every chance I get because I could not manage without her. On top of that, we have a great relationship — she really is my other mom!
Also, when my own mom comes over she brings food and she ends up cleaning and I have learned to just let her do it. She does low-key judge me in her head (she is Jamaican and we’ve had a conversation confirming this), but it really is coming from a place of wanting to see me thrive, and it helps keep me on top of things and I am grateful! Every 6 months or so when my sister comes over she helps me give the house a deep clean and it blesses my soul.
I’ve fully learned my lesson. With baby #2 there will be no martyrdom from me! I will accept all of the help while it is still extended to me. This is the kind of stuff people wish their family members would help with. This is the kind of thing people pay money for. God has hooked me up and I will not refuse it.
7. Grace-based Discipline
My first daughter is strong-willed. I love that about her! It has also been a challenge to help her manage that strength. At first, we tried to show her who’s boss. That seemed to be working, but I hated it. Oftentimes I would become so frustrated and angry because I couldn’t control her. When a person is angry it’s not a good time to discipline, but I didn’t know there were better ways. Over time I saw her becoming more and more aggressive because the way we disciplined her just wasn’t working for her.
Yes, my husband and I are “in charge,” and “in control,” in terms of responsibility over our daughter, but I learned that the domineering, authoritarian way of parenting was not an effective way to get her to develop. So with much prayer, plus confirmation from my therapist, I decided to use a more grace-based approach to parenting. I feel like I got a completely different child as a result. Yes, she was still a toddler and she still has bad days, but over time she stopped being aggressive altogether, began learning how to communicate her feelings, and I felt better about how I approached her as a parent. I yell much less (keyword: less) and I am able to diffuse tantrums a lot better. We use positive reinforcement and we can see her being proud of herself for good behavior and taking ownership over negative choices.
So with baby #2 we will use the techniques we learned, prayer, and constant evaluation of what’s best for our family to help our kids grow. We will not be pressured by cultural norms or what other people suggest about her personality. We will trust God to direct us on how to parent her in a way that is best for her personality.
8. Call My Mom
As I mentioned with the point about accepting help, I was insecure about getting my mom’s input about things when I first had my eldest daughter. Looking back, I am realizing more and more that my mom is someone who is easy to talk to about raising children and she respects my choices, never making me feel guilty about them. She doesn’t give unsolicited advice, which is rare for a Caribbean parent, she has to be asked her opinion. In many areas of mom life, I sought out advice from the internet and friends who really were still figuring things out just like I was, but I never thought to call my mom for her wisdom. Eventually, after learning what worked and didn’t work, I’d call my mom and give her the outcome of my experiments, but it seemed like if I had called her sooner, I might not have had to learn some things the hard way.
So with baby #2, I’ll be calling my mom more often. She is, after all, a wonderful mom who raised two (awesome) girls and she is an early childhood educator. Plus she knows me and believes in me, and that helps!
9. Savor the time we have
Because the first 2 years of parenting were difficult for us, I look back and I realize I never cherished the good that we had. I felt so guilty all the time because I thought I had no idea what I was doing. I now look at old pictures and old videos and realize things were so much better than I thought they were at the time. My daughter was so happy. She didn’t look like I was ruining her life, which is how I often felt. I remember wishing the days away to a time when I would have it all together. And now I wish I had savored those years with her a little more, because I only see the joy in the photos, and I wish I had allowed myself to see and feel that joy while it was happening.
So with baby #2 I will be practicing gratitude every day. I will cherish this time with my girls and with my husband because I want to remember how beautiful it is, even if I don’t have a picture or video to prove it. I know it will go by extremely fast — I feel like my oldest was just born! Being thankful every day and seeing every good thing will help me to slow down the time.
10. Keeping my appearance
When I wear bummy clothes, I feel like a bum. As a breastfeeding stay-at-home mom who had not yet learned how to structure her life, I lived in (smelly, sticky) t-shirts and yoga pants and that reflected how I felt.
With baby #2 I am going to treat myself and make sure I’m not just comfortable, but looking cute too! When I look good I feel energized and that will be felt by my family members. I plan to be consistent with taking care of my hair, skin and nails, wearing mom jeans and nicer tops on those cozy days, playing around with makeup every so often, and practicing Christian yoga to stay toned and healthy from the inside out.
3 Things I may do again:
1. Cloth diapering (maybe. Edit: Not this time!)
We started cloth diapering because we were broke and didn’t know how we would be able to afford diapers. I absolutely loved it! Yes, even though we didn’t have a washing machine at our house during those days and we had to make trips to our family’s house or to the laundromat, I still loved it. Cloth diapers were easy to use, especially because our firstborn was exclusively breastfed. Although our budget has room for disposable diapers, I may want to invest in some all-in-one cloth diapers for when we’re home and when it’s easy during the first 6 months before baby #2 starts eating solids and her poop changes.
2. Read the Baby Bible Every Night (definitely)
Our eldest daughter has such a strong faith foundation already and it’s because we read her baby Bible every night and try to infuse our faith in every part of our lives. We look forward to the days when she begins reading the Bible to her sister. What a privilege it is to be able to raise our girls to become women of God!
3. Give myself permission to grow and change my mind.
I wouldn’t have anything to add to this list if I didn’t allow myself to change my mind and grow and learn from the past. This is one of the greatest assets I have developed as a mom.
Hey sis! I’m Imani, the Young Moms’ Advocate and Legacy Activator, who is here to help your family prosper. Also, I’m probably dancing to Michael Jackson right now.