The Two-Child Tipping Point

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Years ago I read Mommy Wars.  And in one of the articles (I can’t remember which one) there was a brief mention of a working mom phenomenon.  Apparently moms can figure out how to manage as the parent of one child, but once they have a second, it sends them over the edge.  This wasn’t a major message within the book – just a passing comment – but as happens sometimes, that little nugget of information wiggled its way deep into my brain and set up long-term residence.

Not that I would have ever used such a passing comment (or even other peoples’ experiences) as a factor in my decision to have a second child, but the information was there, and I’ll admit that it whispered in my ear on occasion.

Fast forward to my daughter’s arrival.  The adjustment of adding her to our family was infinitely easier than the first time around.  I took an extended, part-time maternity leave and it was fantastic.  And when I returned to work full-time, it was manageable.  Life was busy, and the laundry pile was a little larger, but most of the tasks were the same.  Pick-up, drop-off, meal planning, laundry.  If I needed to be organized with one kid, I definitely needed to be organized with two.

And so I was, and so it went.  We were doing quite well, thankyouverymuch, and I was quite pleased with having defied the two-child tipping point for working moms.

And then, she became a toddler.

No longer the little lump of an infant, my little girl has turned into a person.  She has thoughts and needs and can make her wants known.  Though I’ve always given both of my kids good attention in the evenings, she increasingly wants more and more and more.  And in turn, she also wants to encroach on her brother’s one-on-one time.  {Which makes him super happy, by the way.}  Life is just busy.

Let’s shift gears for an illustration, shall we?  I’ve always loved grocery shopping.  For one, I love food.  For two, I feel like it’s a very tangible way that I can care for my family’s health and steward our finances.  For three, I feel like I’m good at it and appreciated for what I do.  When Conlan joined our family, I loved taking him with me to share the experience.  As a working mom it became an opportunity for uninterrupted one-on-one time and he loved helping, picking out items, and counting produce as we put it into the bag.  We’d talk as we wandered the aisles and he’d name the fruits and vegetables as we passed.  And sometimes, if we’d turn down an empty row, I’d give Conlan a “look,” ask him “should we go fast?”, pick up speed, and we’d fly down the aisle together.

It was fun.

And then this past Saturday came.  Right after we had Brynna, I took both of my kids grocery shopping alone before she was a week old.  Life marched on.  But sometime over the last 21 months it’s become less fun and more chore to take both of them.

I tried to get the little one dressed and she actually said “yuck” when I opened her closet to choose her clothes for the day.  She picked out a tutu and church shoes, while I wrangled her into leggings and a shirt to complete the ensemble because nudity in public is frowned upon.  Topping off the outfit were two flowers in her hair, one on each side, which, I’m not gonna lie, resembled little devil horns.  I tried to get a picture but she changed her mind before I got the chance.

Then we got to the store.  She’s in the seat, in the cart, walking next to the cart, running away from the cart, pushing the cart.

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Filling up the cart with American Cheese and Kit-Kats.

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{ALL OF THE AMERICAN CHEESE}

Lord help me.

My husband, heading home from his errand, called and asked if I’d like him to swing by the store and pick up the kids.  We were nearly done, but so was I.  Normally I would have just powered through, but this time I said something along the lines of FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY YES.  PLEASE YES.

And as I hung up the phone, I kid you not, a woman whizzed by me, riding her cart carelessly down the aisle and laughing while her little one shrieked gleefully in the seat.

And you know what popped back into my head at that moment?  The two-child tipping point.  Yes, I thought.  I’ve reached it.  I smugly thought I had defeated it when we seamlessly added our daughter to our home, but it is now trying to defeat me by popping up over a year and a half later.

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I know I’ll figure it out.  I had let my guard down.  It was my fault, really.  I got too cocky.  I need to stay vigilant and on top of things.  It’s not easy, but I’ll get this train back on track.

{working mom hubris}
{two-child working mom Instagram hubris circa April 2014}

It’s not so much the logistics, I’ve got those figured out.  It’s the balance.  

And isn’t that really the never-ending working mom struggle anyway?

Nothing new here, I guess.

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3 thoughts on “The Two-Child Tipping Point

  1. Oh, man. I need to read that book… thinking about #2 right now, and I want another so badly, but am terrified at the same time! I’m totally the “gleeful mom whizzing down the aisle” right now, and just can’t imagine being tipped!

  2. I read that years ago too (with two kids under 5 I certainly don’t have time to really READ anymore) – and that statement rings a bell so it obviously resonated with me too.
    I’d agree the preschool/toddler/work outside the home mix is a lot to handle. I do it better some weeks than others…

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