Want a Second Child? Read This Before You Answer

By Karen M. Thomas / The Dallas Morning News
Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Are you thinking about having a second child but worry the kids won’t get along, that you’ll never sleep again or spend time alone with your spouse? Stop fretting and start reading.

Author Jennifer Bingham Hull uses her personal experience to describe the impact of a second child in Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life (Seal Press, October 2004, $14.95). In short essay like chapters, she walks readers through the first three years of life with her two children, now 4 and 6, offering wisdom, humor and practical tips on subjects such as marriage, tantrums, sleep, friendship and work.

In a recent telephone interview, we asked her to share some of her book’s highlights. Here’s what she had to say:

The approach to your book is different from most books about motherhood. Would you explain why? A lot of books out there are aimed at new mothers, so they don’t really address the second child at all, and when they do, they focus on sibling rivalry. I wanted to focus more on the mother’s experience – about how to be a woman, a wife and a writer as well as a mother. So I focused on the mother’s experience and also included a lot of helpful tips from my own experience.

Some women really fear that they won’t be able to love a second child as much as the first. Do they need to worry? There is this feeling of guilt. Even when you are pregnant with the second, you are not paying as much attention to the pregnancy as you did the first time around. It’s a leap of faith. My brother, whose children are older than mine, told me you love the second as much as the first. You can’t imagine how that will happen, but it does.

Marital relationships often undergo big changes with the birth of the second child. Did yours? I was lucky. My husband and I hashed out a lot of our difficulties in sharing childcare with the first child. With the second, we did much better than he expected. You have to be very specific about who does what and divide things up. Most of the families I know, all the stuff that goes with childcare goes to the mother unless there is a conscious effort to do something about it.

Why did you want to focus your book on the first three years of your second child’s life? I had heard that after age 3, things got easier, but I didn’t know for sure. I have to say, at 4 and 6 now, it’s really great. It’s not only gotten easier, it’s so much fun.

Any other words of advice for the second-time mom? Try not to be the first-time mother to your second child. Draw some boundaries around a few of your own needs. Accept that you might be lowering your standards. It’s not a repeat performance. It’s a totally new experience.

About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Credits

The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Atlantic Monthly, CNN.com, MS., Parenting, Real Simple, Salon.com, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Working Mother, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, American Way, Brain, Child, The Christian Science Monitor, and more.