Help me get into a better frame of mind for a new baby with big age gap
April 14, 2017 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I have an elementary-aged child from a previous marriage. My new husband is eager for us to have more kids. I am on board, but I am nervous. Help me get into a better emotional state about this.

I haven't wiped a butt in a long time. But more importantly, I love spending time with my elementary aged child and I deeply appreciate that I can rationalize with him and that we can do things together that we both enjoy. I love talking with my elementary aged child about life and things. I also enjoy that elementary-aged child is pretty self-sufficient. I don't dress them, they can get their own snacks, they can entertain themselves for periods of time. I did not LOVE the day-to-day of the toddler years, at least compared to now. I did like breastfeeding and there was some novelty in a baby learning and doing new things. But generally it sucked compared to now.
But I do want to have children with my new husband, even if I know that I am not going to deeply enjoy the early years.
I also know that the second time around I will be more aware of the long haul and that things like teething will pass and will be a short bump in the road.
But every time I think about getting started making a baby, I cannot stop thinking about how stuck I am going to be and how a creature will be highly dependent upon me again. Leaving the house will involve packing a diaper bag and will be a bit of an ordeal. Travel will be a PITA. Toddlers will throw tantrums. If I want to pop into another room and read a book, it will be difficult. If I want to exercise, it'll require more coordination. I'll be tired a lot. And I'll be a decade older (I'm in my late 30s currently) and probably less capable of handling sleep deprivation.

I need help getting over this mental/emotional hurdle. And I feel like I'm rubbing off on my husband in a negative way. We'll be at the airport and see someone struggling with a toddler and I'll think (and sometimes say) - Thank Deity that I don't have to deal with that shit anymore. And I know that this bums out my husband who is really excited to be a father (and he is a great step-father). Maybe I need to be reminded about the good stuff about baby? But I really need a whole reframing.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're not at peace with this decision yet, and I don't think you should do it until you're at peace with it. You'll know if/when it happens.

In the meantime, though, maybe talking to your husband about how much he will be doing (can he be in charge of ensuring two diaper bags are checked and re-packed each night? Would he like to read a book about how to cope with toddler tantrums so you can discuss together what approach feels right? Maybe some concrete plans you can make about how you're going to get through the hard parts (and enjoy the good parts) together would help.

You will also have a great helper (most likely) in your existing elementary aged kid. Seeing your older kid get to be a sibling and be part of someone's else growing into their own little human is pretty magical.
posted by Ausamor at 8:30 AM on April 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

"I love talking with my elementary aged child about life and things. "

You will adore watching your kid become a big brother and the fascination he will have watching a new little human grow.

I just had a third little one when my biggies were 7 and 5 and FINALLY in school all day and done with diapers. And it is a hassle to go back to that day-to-day of intense parenting, but it's also a lot easier to take it all in stride. You know it'll end, none of it feels quite as intense because you know mistakes at six months this will work themselves out and not affect your kid at six years. It's not as boring, because your attention is split between a baby (dull!) and a big kid (interesting!). And with a second child (even closer together) you're just a lot more relaxed as a parent. You have experience, but you also don't have a choice, you can never again devote the 100% brain you gave to child one, and you and your baby are both better for it, your child is bit more of a wildflower and a bit less of a hothouse orchid. (Also with the added stimulation and socialization of an adoring older sibling, baby will be getting 120% attention even if you're only giving 60%.)

I saw a comic a while ago that said, "First time parent: "Here, baby, look at these scientifically validated high contrast flashcards while I carefully pronounce words to help your brain develop!" Third-time parent: "You know what's interesting for a baby? BEING AWAKE."" It's funny because it's true! I just shove a diaper in my purse and figure if I get spit up on, it's not the end of the world, and we have an elementary school science fair to get to!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

I may be reading too much into your question, but how helpful was your previous husband with your baby at the time? Are you feeling like you will have to do it all yourself again (if that was the case the first time)? If so, I'd do what Ausamor suggested and talk with your husband about how he will approach parenting and what he is expecting. His desire to be fully involved may calm some of your worries.

(And if I'm wrong I greatly apologize! Just wondering if there was some "stuff" from the past marriage sneaking back up.)
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:49 AM on April 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you assume the largest share of the not-fun parenting will go to you. While some of that can't be helped (breastfeeding, for example), does your husband have a realistic idea of what kind of work it'll really take and also volunteered what he plans on in terms of the division of labor? Having a lot of talks about that from discussing paternity leave to hashing out day-to-day plans could help you feel more comfortable.

This thread from The Blue might also be relevant: How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids
posted by quince at 9:57 AM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

It really does not sound at all like you want to have a baby. It also sounds like your frame of reference for being a mom means you do most of the labor (emotional and otherwise), planning, logistics, etc. It is completely valid if you don't want to fulfill that role again, and your husband should understand that there is a huge difference between expectations for mothers and expectations for fathers. If he is serious about having a child with you he really needs to be working on making sure that he steps up and steps in to make it a level playing field. When left to it's own devices, parenting is not equal, period. So I know this question is "please help me feel good about having a kid with my husband", but honestly I think the answer is "Your husband needs to make you feel good about having a kid with him".
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:31 AM on April 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

My kids are much more widely spaced - 2 then 2 more. I waited until the timing made sense for me. We lucked into timing when our best friends became pregnant with twins, so we had some support between each other. Wait until you are ready, though. It's a bit like jumping in for a swim where you first learned how to swim. The water will be cold. And you will surprise yourself at what you know, and how your family swims along, again, when you are ready.

Maybe looking at baby pictures with or without your kiddo might bring some balance? The early years are tough, so refreshing the rewards may help get you over the hump.
posted by childofTethys at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2017

I agree that until you feel on board with this, it's ok to keep talking about what this will look like. We have a 4 1/2 year gap between our guys. So as anecdote, it was kind of a drag to drop back into diapers and waking up at night just at a point we were more mobile and independent. At the same time, though, it did not blow up my world the way my first did. I knew what it was going to be like and I knew that as hard as some parts were, they would pass. I felt more confident and was able to be a whole lot less anxious about somehow messing up this child. I knew that it was ok to get some sleep and I was much more willing to let my husband have an active hand in those intense infancy months. Our second is also way less intense as a human being than our first. Like she's 3 now and while that was incredibly hard with our first, I find myself laughing my head off with her on a daily basis. Watching the two of them together is also just so incredibly magic. When I left for work this morning, they were building this amazing fort together. They're a little team and I'm glad they have one another.
posted by goggie at 11:01 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Even with a smaller age gap I had a lot of this same anxiety. But I think because I loved my kid and where she was at the time so much, I forgot all the fun things about new babies. My #2 kid is just starting to learn language a little bit, and it's *so* magical and amazing and I totally failed to remember that.

Baby time is hard but it has its rewards too. And the second kid is a little less terrifying and overwhelming than the first; you already know you CAN keep a baby alive. And you know how transitory all of it is. I remember with my first thinking I would NEVER be done changing diapers, NEVER be done breastfeeding, etc. But now I know very well that just isn't so.

I feel like because I know how short this time is I'm somewhat more able to appreciate it.
posted by potrzebie at 11:17 AM on April 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Well, I have a one-year-old and am in my late 30s. I thought the sleep deprivation thing would be a problem for me, but no. In fact, I feel my age has made me much more patient and able to smile at all the challenges of parenting. It's so clear to me that this babyhood is passing in the blink of an eye. I mean, think, four months! That's like, I mean at my office, that's like nothing. In that time they go from being born to being really sturdy and smart babies who smile and sit up. Then in another three months, they're crawling and eating real food. From Day 1 to the one-year mark, they go from being a newborn to walking to practically running as well as pointing, waving, understanding, saying things you kinda understand. Every time I get frustrated like "noo!! don't throw food on the floor!" I think of what I was doing five years ago, and how that feels like it was yesterday, and then think about where the child will be in five years and how I'll miss their baby self and smile at both of us still here (being very temporarily annoyed by) this particular moment that'll be behind us so soon.

I agree with everyone that it makes sense to wait until you're more ready. Unlike others, I can't deny that some challenges seem to fall on women more than men despite everyone's best intentions, and some are just so big that they fall on everyone. I understand having been through it once and not wanting to re-do certain parts that you are glad are behind you. I do try to remind myself that going through it a second time will be all different because we'll be a different family, and the little one will bring a different energy and personality, and even I'll be different, with a different sense of what matters and what doesn't.

Maybe try looking at photos of families with an older kid and a younger kid, and look at the children interacting. Seeing love on an older child's face might awaken your own sense of how a second child might multiply your family's joy.
posted by slidell at 1:06 PM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wonder if there is a part of you that doesn't want to get too excited about a baby because currently you are the Keeper of the Knowledge of how much the baby years suck.

You know what the reality of the baby years is -- your husband doesn't. Honestly, I would be nervous too. If my husband and I decided to have a third kid we would spend a good amount of time strategizing how to get through the baby years with our sanity intact, and it would be tough even though we'd both know what we were getting into.

What if he spent some serious time babysitting a niece or nephew? Or volunteered every Sunday for a year at the nursery at church? If you knew that he knew what he was getting into, and if you were confident that he would be an enthusiastic and equal partner, then you might find yourself thinking about the good parts of having a baby more.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:47 PM on April 14, 2017

I don't enjoy taking care of babies or toddlers for more than a few minutes, myself, so I get where you're coming from. However, watching my daughter interact with my son is delightful.

Tonight I was putting my daughter to bed and she was telling me how she was going to make a special present for someone. "For who?" I asked. "For [babysitter]?" "No." "For daddy?" "No - for someone I REALLY LOVE. BROTHER."

[small giggle at the expense of other people involved, but it was super cute. She tells brother that she loves him every day, and gives him hugs, too.]
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:38 PM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Caveat: older humans are often already aware of babies and small children, see them as nuisances more than miracles, and have one foot out the door, and are just not that interested. My youngest brother is 14 years younger than me. He's an interesting dude, but he's more of a cousin than a sibling. We grew up in different homes, with different relatives as people aged, with siblings and parents at different stages. I don't remember much of him as a baby or young child, other than that for a while when he came to visit he'd call me "Grandma" (older lady who smelled of perfume and cigarettes and gave you presents; it made sense).

Someday it would be neat to sit down with him and tell him what our family was like when it was young, but I'm 42 and have yet to do that; he lives across the country and we barely see each other.

Sorry I don't have a more encouraging take. I am a bit older than you, my kid a bit younger, and, yikes, as much as I enjoyed my kid's infancy and early years, I feel like having another kid would leave me bitter about having less time for the pre-existing kid.

You must have discussed this before marriage. What happened between then and now? Are there ways in which your partner needs to change to make this more palatable?
posted by kmennie at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2017

Back again as the mother of a one-month-old. I was at a party this weekend with a bunch of parents who have kids ages 4-7. They said things like, "ah, I haven't seen a baby crawl in so long!" and were otherwise delighted to see his barely-toddling self do his thing. I mean, I'm sure they wouldn't say "I'm SO GLAD we don't have to deal with what you're dealing with" to my face. But there were also joys that they seemed to have forgotten and were enjoying getting to revisit. So, I thought I'd comment again about that. For me, these recent few months have brought great joys, like increasingly being able to communicate with him. And he's just barely starting to get into the super cuddly thing that I associate with two- and three-year-olds, of wanting to climb on everyone's lap, of jumping up and wrapping his arms around you and burying his face in your neck. I can't dispute that things are probably hugely easier for you and that there are challenges I have yet to go through. But also, if I could wave a wand and have him suddenly be five or eight so that I could more easily go to the gym or read a book, I definitely wouldn't trade away these days.

But we're all different, and I think that a lot of the parenting experience is in the eye of the beholder, so I hope you can find a path forward that works for you.
posted by slidell at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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