Do you have second child guilt about adding to the family? Feeling sad about your second pregnancy is normal, but see why having more kids shouldn’t make you feel guilty for your older child.
I didn’t expect to feel guilty.
Except every time I saw my three-year-old, the guilt and even sadness swept through, especially when I realized I was, after all, changing his life.
I wasn’t so much concerned with the logistics of having more than one child, aware about the challenges of balancing a toddler’s needs with a baby. I knew our days would get crazy and accepted the fact.
No—I was worried about losing my special time with my eldest and sad about saying goodbye to the three-person family I’d grown so used to. I was even scared because at least I knew my son’s personality, but had no idea what was in store with the twins.
Why you shouldn’t feel second child guilt
Any feelings of guilt is terrible because we don’t always want to admit them. What mom would ever admit she’s anxious about her soon-to-be-born baby, or worried she’ll give her second child less attention?
But it turns out, plenty of moms have felt these same emotions. They mourn the loss of having only one child and think about all they’ve gone through as a family of three. Letting go of what we once had can be pretty difficult.
And yes, this guilt surfaces even if you’ve always planned to have two or more children or wanted to give your eldest a sibling for the longest time. You’re still saying goodbye to a part of your life you won’t get back.
So, how do you cope with second child guilt? What do you tell yourself when the feeling strikes?
1. You heart will grow even more
I still remember the first few days when I learned I was expecting twins. I looked into my first-born’s smiling face and thought, You have no idea what’s about to happen.
It’s easy to feel sad for your older child, especially with all the changes that will upend his life. But instead of focusing on the difficulties, think how much he’ll love the baby.
Yes, he might ask to send him back when he realizes he’s staying for a while (true story) or throw a tantrum over every little thing. But you won’t love him any less just because you now have another child to tend to. Instead, your heart will grow when you see him with the baby.
You’re giving him an amazing opportunity to love someone else, someone unique. Not only his parents, but his own sibling. And when you see how much he’ll dote on him, your heart will feel just as full.
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2. You and your older child are in this together
Worried about losing the bond with your first child once the new baby arrives?
The new baby will be one more thing you both will have in common, something you’ll go through together. Another challenge you can face with your little trooper by your side.
She won’t be pushed aside in all the madness. Instead, you’ll feel like you’re doing this together, as a team. Even with your second child, your relationship with your first will grow stronger as a result.
3. You’re giving your older child a lifelong friend
Your kids will fight, no doubt. Just as any relationship has its ups and downs, so too will your kids.
But one reason not to feel guilty is giving them the gift of a sibling. You’ll have a chance to nurture a special relationship only they’ll have with one another. Many siblings are inseparable—they’re instant play mates.
I’ll be cooking in the kitchen while my kids are building blocks or running around in the house. Yes, it took a while before my eldest could actually play with his baby brothers (newborns don’t make for exhilarating playmates). But today, they are genuine friends who enjoy one another’s company.
This perk may not come until later, but know that they will.
4. You’re teaching your older child valuable lessons
Saying goodbye to your older child as an only child is hard, but you’re also giving him valuable lessons as a sibling. He’ll learn:
- Self-sufficiency. Now more than ever will he need to do things on his own, things he’d never consider starting until much later had he been an only child. For instance, he’ll use the potty by himself, put his toys away, or fetch his own sippy cup.
- Patience. While he’s used to having his needs met right away, soon he’ll learn the value of waiting and creative ways to cope with boredom.
- Responsibility. As the big sibling, he’ll assume a leadership role. In the past, he’d always been the child, but now he’ll feel responsible and mature. He might be accountable for certain duties now that he has a little sibling to care for.
How to make the adjustment easier
The feeling of second child guilt will go away once your little one arrives. Yes, it’ll be different, but your life will change for the better in so many ways.
Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into hiccups. Those feelings of guilt might still surface, or your older child might regress or feel excluded. How can you make sure that the adjustment to life with a baby goes smoothly for everyone?
Here’s how to further ease the guilt you may feel once your little one arrives:
1. Make time for your older child
The first few weeks and months with a new baby will be different. For instance, you may not be able to go on day-long outings like you used to, or you’ll have to tell your eldest to wait while you nurse the baby.
But even if the new baby limits your time, you’ll still find pockets of it to bond with your older child.
Maybe it’s during the 20 minutes you walk around the block, or giggling while making the bed and fanning the sheets high in the air. Perhaps it’s folding yet another basket of laundry together, or playing a game of cards between nursing sessions.
Though in small doses, these simple moments are some of the best times to be with him.
2. Talk to your older child while doing baby tasks
You’ll be busier with baby duties like nursing, changing diapers or trying to put the baby to sleep. But don’t think of these times as separate from your older child.
For some of them, yes, it might be better to keep him occupied, for instance, while you’re putting the baby to sleep. But for other times, use these opportunities to hang out. Talk or read books while you nurse the baby, or ask him to fetch a diaper during a change.
Find every opportunity to include him in most baby tasks.
3. Help you child feel excited about the baby
Seeing how excited your older child is about the new baby will help you cope with your own guilt. It’s hard to hang onto the guilt when you see how eager he is to meet his new baby brother.
Be realistic about his expectations, but do get him excited. This is, after all, an exciting part of his life! Yes, it’ll be a challenge, but he’ll have so many things to look forward to as a big sibling.
Talk about the benefits he’ll have, like helping to care for his little baby and shushing him to sleep. A few other ideas:
- Get him a doll or stuffed animal to practice being a big sibling to.
- Get him his own “baby book” he can fill out about his pretend baby doll or toy.
- Ask him to come with you to pick onesies and blankets for the baby.
- Read books about welcoming a new baby (here are my favorites).
The guilt and sadness you feel about your older child as an only child is normal, but manageable. You’ll bond with him in new ways and give him the gift of a sibling. He’ll learn valuable lessons as a big brother, and your heart will swell at seeing how much he prizes the new baby.
Having a new baby doesn’t follow conventional math. You’d think adding an extra child to your limited time would mean your love and attention are further divided.
Except parenthood doesn’t work that way. Your new baby and your older child—and the bond they’ll have—will only make your love double in size.
Get more tips about welcoming a new baby:
- Essential Things You Might Be Missing On Your Second Baby Registry
- How to Survive a Pregnancy with a Toddler
- Are You Balancing Your Children’s Needs Fairly?
- How to Stay Positive During Pregnancy
- What Every Mom Needs to Know About Her Second Pregnancy
Don’t forget: Download your Printable Monthly Expenses Worksheet! Get it below—at no cost to you: