Is it normal to feel this crazy?
July 11, 2014 9:53 AM   Subscribe

We have a 17 month old boy. We love him very much. Sometimes my husband and I discuss having a second child. Truth be told, I don't know if the two ounces of sanity I have left would survive it.

I am a stay at home mom. I like it sometimes. Other times I honestly think I was never cut out for this. We have moments of SOMUCHFUNAHHHHH and other moments of OMGTHISSUUUCKS. Some days I feel like I shut down completely and really have to force myself to get through the day without just flopping on the floor and throwing my own tantrum. On those days I feel as though the constant mamamamamamamama is making my lose my marbles. Sometimes my husband gets home and I just hand the baby over and go sit outside alone for 15 minutes. Other days, the same things that drove me crazy the day before, don't. I can laugh about it and let it roll off my back.

When we discussed the possibility of maybe having another my husband quite frankly said, honey, I don't know if you could handle it. He is right. I don't know if I could. I am 37, so we only have a couple of years left to decide.

My question isn't really about should we have another. It is more about how normal are these feelings? Do I need to see someone? Is this just what being a parent is like? If so, how do you stay sane?
posted by MayNicholas to Human Relations (44 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Normal feelings. Get a job, it'll really help.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2014 [27 favorites]

Emphatically, yes this is normal.
posted by novelgazer at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

My husband and I have these feelings too. It's why we decided to stop at one.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:58 AM on July 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

These feelings are 100% normal. You can love your kids and not want to be with them 24/7. Acutally, I think day care is responsible for lowering infanticide.

My Mom went back to work when I was seven because she could NOT stand staying at home with kids for one more second. She was SO much happier out in the work place, and as kids, we were much happier because Mom was happier.

My Sobrina has a son about the same age as your little guy and there was NO WAY she was willing to stay home and parent full-time. She found an awesome day care for him, and everyone is happy.

It may not be the kiddo, it may be sitting at home alone with him all day. Try farming him out to Day Care, even for half a day and see if I'm not right.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:58 AM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

So normal. The reason humanity has come this far without cracking up is because child rearing was always a community activity - mothers rarely ever were the sole caregivers. Don't feel bad about needing help, historically there always has been help.
posted by Dragonness at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2014 [35 favorites]

totally normal. Also, FWIW, if you had asked me if I wanted another child at any point before #1 was 2 years old, I would have laughed hysterically and then said some variant on OH HELL NO WHAT ARE YOU, CRAZY? But then #1 turned 2 and was a little bit more independently functional and we could sort of communicate with him and life was just that much easier, and it started to seem like maybe it was doable.

#2 was born just before #1 turned 3.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:02 AM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was a full time homemaker for about two decades. A corporate job was waaaay less stressful.

Also, fwiw, my first pregnancy and birth were so rough that he was a year old before I was willing to even think about having another. I have heard similar stories (citing varying lengths of time -- sometimes years) from other women.

My two sons were a huge handful. I adore them but I always told them that the purpose of sex was to trick you into getting pregnant because, like viruses (which are also made of RNA), genes have a goal of reproducing and they don't care how miserable they make you in their quest to do so.
posted by Michele in California at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my personal experience and with hours upon hours of discussions with girlfriends..... The second child is easier. His/her personality may/may not be more challenging, but you guys aren't newbies so it comes more naturally. Mine were 7 years apart... Except for nursing, my daughter claimed my son about 15 minutes after he was born so I may have a warped opinion but keep in mind that you are experts the second time around.
posted by pearlybob at 10:10 AM on July 11, 2014

Oh, so, so, normal. I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old and am mostly a SAHM and some days I am just going bonkers. I will say that I have it easier, though, than friends who had them closer together. And any kind of work I can get, which means hiring a babysitter for half or whole days, is a totally awesome change from the full-time at-home thing. So yeah, if you want two:

--a bigger age difference is easier than a smaller one.
--#2 is easier just because you know what you're doing
--some work outside of the home, even if it's just a half-day a week, is a good change of mental pace
--any kind of babysitting help you can get will make things easier
--but it's totally fine to have just one.
posted by Ollie at 10:21 AM on July 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Totally 100% normal. Like rabbitrabbit says, these feelings are why a lot of parents stop at one.

Things that keep you sane:
* Connecting with other parents who have kids about the same age. You can commiserate, and it makes you realize that your feelings are universal. Additionally, when you get together, your kids can entertain themselves to some degree, so you get a breather and a chance to talk like an adult.
* Connecting with family. Getting grandparents and aunts/uncles more involved goes a long way, for some reason. This may be more or less feasible depending on how close you are to them (physically and emotionally).
* Get out of the house when the other parent is home. You've got to get some time physically away from home, especially as a stay-at-home-parent.
* Wait 'em out. The Elusive Architeuthis is right that somewhere around 24 months there is a big change that makes having another child seem more reasonable. Not that there aren't any more challenges, but it's a different kind of caregiving and it kind of opens up more mental space.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd also like to affirm that taking 15 minutes (or more) for yourself is a really appropriate coping mechanism. My wife and I do tag team parenting whenever we can.

If you think seeing someone would be a helpful form of self care, by all means do it. Maybe the only professional help you need is a babysitter. If you'd get more out of a night out with friends, use the time that way. Be purposeful about making opportunities to take off your caregiver hat and exercise other aspects of your personality - it's a lot of responsibility to manage 24/7. Enlist your partner's help and reciprocate.
posted by novelgazer at 10:30 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I felt the same when my son was that age and it turns out I am just not stay at home mom material. I have two kids now and I love being their mom but I can't express you how glad I am that there are 4.5 years between them and that both of them are in school/full-time care.
posted by a22lamia at 10:35 AM on July 11, 2014

Listen to the podcast One Bad Mother. You are not alone in feeling this way.

Also? While baby is napping, do something just for you. Whether that is giving yourself a manicure, watching the latest episode of True Blood, or going into another room, closing the door, and having that tantrum, it will make you happier, and a happy mom is the best kind of mom.

Having mom friends and nurturing all your adult friends is really, really important for your sanity.
posted by Night_owl at 10:37 AM on July 11, 2014

This is absolutely 100% normal. When my son was that age I felt like I was going to lose it all the fucking time. He'll be four in October and it's really only within the last few months that I've felt like I could breathe... which means I am now having thoughts like "another one might be nice!"

It's a very personal decision, and I think there are absolutely things that could mitigate your stress, including having a part-time job or something like that, even if it only covers the cost of daycare. Your kid will get socialization--so important!--and you will get to feel like an adult again for a few hours each week.

Your mention of your husband saying "I don't know if you could handle it" worries me a little bit. I hope he recognizes that you both have full-time jobs right now and that when he's home, parenting should be a team effort.

You just need breaks. Plenty of them. Self-care is important. You're the best parent you can be when you feel good. And that requires sleep and showers and adult time and wine and whatever else you need. Do it, you totally have my permission.
posted by woodvine at 10:41 AM on July 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is it possible that the critical issue is less about 1 kid vs. 2 kids and more about being a SAHM vs. WAFHM? That may be an issue that's worth revisiting. Because oh my god, yes, is it normal to feel shut-down and overwhelmed and driven batty by your kids sometimes. But if the number of days where you don't like it outnumber the days when you do (or number of hours or whatever metric you want to use), that's not sustainable.

I think it's really common for moms to put on the brave face and declare "My kid is driving me crazy and sometimes I don't know how I'm going to survive!" and fellow moms chime back "Oh, yes! That's normal!" but it's also good to get serious for a moment and admit...uh, maybe my kids are making me a little crazy, by which I mean anxious or depressed or whatever TOTALLY FIXABLE bad state of mental health you may be experiencing. Because that's really no joke.
posted by drlith at 10:43 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am not a parent but I have heard people describe parenting as being about 51% unbelievably wonderful and inspiring/49% soul-destroying and miserable. Occasionally that ratio moves around a bit. But if I had to guess, I would say that no, you are absolutely not alone.

Having things to do besides kid might help. If you want to talk to someone, go for it. But I think your feelings are totally normal.
posted by kat518 at 10:45 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's totally normal...and I'd say pretty typical for anyone who stays at home full time (and also for those who don't). It definitely aligns with our experience in those first two years of life. Thing's have gotten easier now that our kid is almost three, but child-rearing is still freaking hard (and yes, fun, and awesome, and rewarding too).

We live far away from family and I will say that when we are visiting with family...I just experience such relief and calm at not having to watch my kid and interact with her for every single moment of the day. The first time I experienced that I was like: "Duh, this is how humans are supposed to live and raise children."

We are your age, and have stopped at one, and feel really good about it. More than half of our parent friends have gone on to have more kids, so you should do whatever you think is best for you/whatever you think you can handle. While I think we technically could handle having another kid, we don't really want to. The family feels complete.

I will freely admit that I find parenting so hard because I'm introverted, and I just have way less time to just space out and be inside my own head these days. Then again, the always-having-to-be-on and attending to another person's needs is tough no matter what your temperament is like.

So yeah, you should not feel bad for feeling the way you feel. This is what being a parent is often like. Not just for humans either. You should watch a nature documentary about animal parenting, and observe the body language and behaviors of those poor, harried, animal mothers.
posted by bennett being thrown at 10:48 AM on July 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Normal. We had these feelings. It is why we stopped at three instead of the fourth. When our first was 16 months old we had our second. Got pregnant so fast (six months) after first we did not even realize it could be exasperating. By the third, we had accepted and appreciated our reality. I would say that having had three in diapers, two not walking and two in or close to their terrible twos for several years, that I do not think that two was twice as hard as one or even close. Annoyances are going to annoy, but it is not linear or even exponential.
posted by 724A at 10:49 AM on July 11, 2014

Yup, normal. Get regular childcare (even if it's one afternoon a week). Consider part time work (I know, easier said than done). Find mommy friends and baby classes. Know that the childcare experience will be completely different in six months.

Anecdotally, my second was way easier, but the biggest difference in my enjoyment of motherhood was getting help. Also, keep in mind that parenthood often surfaces the baggage we carry from our own upbringing, and it's ok to seek help in resolving it. If nothing else, join a parenting Facebook group so you can see for yourself where kids are developmentally; it really helped me be gentler on myself and my kids.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing I think you can do immediately for yourself is have your husband be "on" with your son for 30 minutes or so when he gets home from work.

While it's true that he just got home from working all day, I bet he was able to pee by himself.

Take that 30 minutes to destress. Whatever that means to you. Take a drink to the porch, take a nap, read a book, go for a walk, something.

When that 30 minutes is up you can resume co-parenting.

I have a 5 year old daughter and a 4 month old daughter. I work 3 12 hour shifts per week. It's hard but I don't feel too crazy unless I over commit to activities besides work and baby. On the days I work for 12 hours I try to be the "on" parent for awhile when I get home.
posted by MadMadam at 11:13 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Absolutely normal, of course. And another baby is more work, of course, but, like bennett being thrown, I found the emotional intensity of being at home with a single baby/toddler psychically exhausting. Another soul around the house, even an infant, actually lightened that load. But so would the growing independence of an only child...
posted by Sybil Stockwell Oop at 11:16 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

#1 is 3.5 now, and in full time preschool. I'm home from work on maternity with #2. I couldn't even have a good-faith conversation about #2 until #1 turned 2 years old. At that point he started to get more independent and I could see how adding another might work. Yes, at each stage you get new challenges, but at least as they get older they get more independent for basic things.

Your kid is at an age where both of you would benefit a lot from some kind of preschool situation, even just a couple of mornings per week. Seriously, it's good for you both - your kid will likely love the socialization and art/play/etc.

For me, #2 is much easier than #1, in large part because he seems way simpler than his older brother and I know how to handle an infant. But not being home with two at once is pretty key to my happiness - that would be intense.
posted by handful of rain at 11:21 AM on July 11, 2014

I thought a lot of the descriptions of parenting infants and young children in this book were pretty spot on.

And this is one of the only parenting books I really put any stock in anymore.
posted by bennett being thrown at 11:22 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing that it's so normal. When working through your thoughts on this issue, you might want to check out the books of Susan Newman. One is The Case for the Only Child. She also has a website with lots of info about raising an only child. (I -- a happy parent of one child -- was interviewed for one of her books, but I don't remember if it's this one.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2014

Totally normal and also totally ok to decide to put him in preschool or a mother's day out program at this age. He'll love hanging out and playing and you'll love a few minutes of peace and quiet in your week.
posted by dawkins_7 at 11:34 AM on July 11, 2014

Normal! I have one son, and I cannot imagine having two kids. Cannot. Imagine. I love my son, but I just could not do it. I would go crazy, seriously. As far as family size goes, three seems to be the new two, right? How those parents do it and stay sane, I have no idea. (I was an only child and my son will be too. There are great advantages to being/having an only child!)

I've been wanting to read a book called All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting. It might be a good read for you, too.
posted by trillian at 11:45 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

OMG I am a part time working mom. I had to go back to work to save my sanity. And seriously, some afternoons I just want to advertise them on Craigslist for free anyway. By which I mean that I admire you for coping the way you do. Go you! You rock as a mom!
If 15 minutes alone time after your husband comes home works for you, that's great!

That said, two kids are the same thing x 1.5. So by all means, wait until number one is two years old and see how you feel. But two children means no more "sleep when the baby sleeps". It means not only do you not have any time for your own stuff when baby yells, you also don't have time for toddler when baby yells, and vice versa.
Ultimately, my stress level now is equal or greater to the one I had with only one child. Childcare comes much easier to me, now, but on the other hand I now have two of them!
posted by Omnomnom at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2014

Also, hire a cleaner.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:52 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

And I think it could be the staying at home rather than the kid (or number of kids). I have always loved babies/kids, always wanted to be a mother, THOUGHT I would love to stay home with them if I could, but thank goodness it just didn't seem to be the right thing so I went back to work (part time at first) and it was such a relief! Staying at home just wasn't easy or fun for me. It was exhausting, boring, maddening, seriously why can't you just leave me alone for an hour?, etc. I kind of feel bad saying that, it wasn't his fault, he was/is wonderful wonderful wonderful, and I enjoy much of our time together more than anything else in the world. But I enjoy it so much more now that I'm not ALWAYS on call.

Now I'll be having my second one when the first is about 17months old and going back to work a few months after. So I can't speak to what it's like with two, but I think it's a lot less likely I would have wanted to have another one so soon (though age was a factor for me as well) if I hadn't gone back to work.
posted by pennypiper at 11:54 AM on July 11, 2014

Your kid is just around the age when they will start really loving being around others kids -- way more interesting than mommy, so if you are able to find good quality daycare, you won't likely feel guilty for it. Even just a few days a week can make a huge difference. I think you should know your limits. Really mellow extroverted people can handle the exponential increase in chaos that an additional kid, but if you know you can't, you should listen to your inner voice.
posted by ravioli at 12:13 PM on July 11, 2014

normal normal normal

and the funny thing is, that a second one does somehow make it overall less intense and lonely.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:16 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Staying at home all the time is just really weird. You probably worked/studied outside the house with peers your own age from ages 5-35. Suddenly being thrown into a peerless void with this semi-verbal creature that not so long ago was a parasite leeching nutrients from your body is a bizarre experience and it is completely normal for you to find it overwhelming.

Most other folks here have great advice but my advice to you is that you need peers and you need to spend more time around adults. Suddenly cutting off that daily line of external world communication is somewhat soul-destroying. That's why many sing the virtues of work, as it is an adult playground. You could go to the gym and use their childcare, volunteer, or even have many playdates with some well-chosen parent companions just to have adult conversation in your day.

Also it is somewhat unhinging as a stay at home person to have no schedule (or worse, a baby dictated schedule). Again, you had control of your calendar from 18-35. Getting back some control of your time and using it for yourself helps. You will have to structure it until you get used to it.

Having an adult companion during the day really helps. Having an adult-oriented schedule helps. Many people go back to work to achieve these aims but you can do it other ways. Make sure you have someone to talk to and this too shall pass.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Normal" is not a strong enough word to describe how normal your emotional reaction is. It's completely and utterly normal.
posted by Mr. Justice at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hey, can you go to some mommy & me groups with your kid? Nothing like comparing your crazy with that of other mommies to make you feel instantly better about it. Also, your kid will enjoy it. (And when you have number two you won't have time for it, so do it now!)
posted by Omnomnom at 1:05 PM on July 11, 2014

I have no children, but I am an only child. My parents were like "NO WAY" after one, and I was an easy kid to raise! (Behavior wise, but I had some health stuff and colic that apparently was horrific when I was a baby.)

So, if you don't want another, don't do it. Your kid will be fine without siblings. They'll have friends, neighbors, cousins, etc. Just wanted to chime in, in case you thought you'd be doing your kid a disservice by not giving them a sibling. They'll be fine. I turned out great!
posted by Crystalinne at 3:09 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for helping me feel less like a crazy person.

I too am an only, so no problems there as to feeling the need to give him a sibling. If we do, it will be because we as a family would like to add another.

Glad to know these are just normal parent feelings.
posted by MayNicholas at 3:16 PM on July 11, 2014

Noooooooormal - so normal. And I strongly encourage - if you do decide to have a second - to discuss what options you can pursue so that 1) it's easier for you specifically, and the both of you and 2) so your husband gets a true understanding of the existential horror that is months on end of full time parenting, alone.

For us, for example (And I totes acknowledge that not everyone is in the position to do this, I was helped by a huge redundancy pay-out that basically covered the whole thing, financially), that meant I took six months off looking after baby when we had our second. It was so, so good. For me (dad), for our family, and for my partner.

Also, seconds can be easier, if first has been challenging. Ours certainly has been, but we had friends with a second at around the same time, and the experience has been almost opposite with them. They really would have benefitted if the husband had taken six months off.
posted by smoke at 4:41 PM on July 11, 2014

So normal. I had those feelings, too, but I very firmly wanted a second child. It was hard, some days I thought I wasn't going to make it, but now that I can see the long view (they are 17 and 14 now), it was so worth it. Things got easier gradually. I couldn't even pinpoint when I started feeling like I had everything under control (granted, I don't feel that way every day, even now) but it happened.

It may be that you need to revisit division of duties with your husband or that you need a high school kid to come in a few afternoons a week to entertain the kid while you do whatever you want/need to do, but with some thought and planning, you can get your sanity back.
posted by cooker girl at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2014

Yup, normal. SAHM here, I had my first at 39, so my point of view is don't let your age stress you too much. I was an only, but my husband and I had always wanted two. Mine are 22 months apart. In retrospect, I would have added at least another 3 months to that (2.5 yo are a lot easier in terms of what they need and being able to process info), but time was a concern.

I actually find it easier with two, I can't focus or worry too much about either as the other one always wants or needs something. My second is a bit over a year now, and it was much easier to deal with the second newborn after experience with the first. The challenge now is the older toddler. And it is weird not having siblings myself, total new ground, but I also consider it fresh ground as I'm not bring any baggage to dealing with two.

I'm soo ready to put the first into daycare and enjoyish some one on one time with the second before I'm ready to rejoin the workforce ( and I definitely look forward to a different work/ life balance).

Hope this makes sense, feel free to memail if you'd like.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:50 PM on July 11, 2014

Normal, and watching several families I know, I really wish more people were willing to say "I don't think we can handle another child" rather than assuming the second is easier (not always) (second children may be: twins, triplets, special needs, colicky, ill etc.) and that 'want' is enough to make up for 'unable to handle'.

And the things you do now to cope may not work with more than one kid.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:00 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

I made it to 14 months. I'd always assumed I'd love being a stay at home mom because I love kids (and I love our kid immeasurably) but even with play groups and play dates and making friends with other moms, it just is not for me. It wasn't just the tedium and doing the same thing every day over and over again- the hardest part for me is the constant vigilance. My kid is very good at playing on his own but he's still a toddler and he thinks he can, for example, just go over the back of the couch headfirst.

I'm starting work as a freelancer from home and our son just started at a co-op daycare this week. Everyone is happy. My kid is really social and I was just not enough stimulation for him. It's amazing the difference.

I'd also recommend finding something outside of the day to day kid stuff. I was really grateful for monthly board meetings for my volunteer job, even if sometimes it seemed like much more work just to get out of the house.

If you have moms with kids nearby, you can also try doing childcare swaps (I watch yours, you watch mine) a couple days a week.

And if you can find a way at all to afford it, hire a babysitter for a set time every week. Even if it's just an hour.

Our plan is to try for a second in a year or so. It seems doable now that I'm getting a break.

I have a sister I'm close to and I always advocate for having a sibling. There's no other relationship like it.
posted by betsybetsy at 6:19 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this was mentioned upthread, but if you can afford a few hours of childcare a week, DO IT. It makes all the difference to be able to get away for a few hours on your own. My two kids (3 and 1) are 27 months apart, and the first year was excruciatingly challenging for both me and my marriage, but I feel like I'm slowly emerging into the light again. But man it's hard. And even when people say it's normal to feel frustrated and alienated, you still feel like the loneliest soul on earth. I found the transition from one to two really hard, and the only thing that saved me was working part-time from home and having the sitter come on a regular p-t basis. But I'd try to work out some kind of childcare arrangement even if I were a SAHM if I could possibly afford it.
posted by cymru_j at 6:53 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have an 18-month-old and agree with the angst and self-doubt in your post 110%, except if my husband said, "I don't know if you can handle it," I'd be ultra tempted to punch him in the face. If he expresses that thought to me in the future, he'd better say, "I don't know if WE can handle it."

But yes, I look at horror at other mothers at the park with children my son's age who are also wearing a newborn strapped to their chests (I hope they are too tired to notice my horror). If your toddler is anything like mine, getting through a day of keeping said toddler alive and interpreting their ever-more deafening opinionated shrieks is unbelievably difficult. Also, as the parent of an 18-month-old who does not come anywhere close to sleeping through the night, I will not seriously consider future offspring until I get a couple months of good sleep (and then I may be tempted to never give it up again).

So don't beat yourself up about this. I can't wait to see how different our lives will be in 6 months - you may be in a completely different parenting place by then.
posted by Maarika at 9:04 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

It made me so crazy to be with my darling child 24/7 that I waited 3 1/2 years for another...and I went back to work in the mean time. It was a great decision for all of us.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:55 PM on July 13, 2014

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