When my first son was born, I was your typical first time mum. I wanted to do everything by the book.
I stressed about things that I now know don’t matter and will resolve themselves with time (will he ever get off the bottle or sleep through the night) and I was convinced that he needed to be entertained all the time.
We must do activities
Determined to tick the good mum box, I took him out to do something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
We went to tumble tots, the library, music lessons, and swimming to name a few. I was at the park an average of six times a week, coffee in hand and arm prepped for swing pushing. It was like a holiday camp and I was the activity leader.
On the odd occasions when we would stay home, I’d suffer extreme pangs of motherhood guilt. I was convinced that his development may suffer because of my laziness and worried he would get ‘bored’. Subsequently the next day would be action-packed.
But it wasn’t just an action-packed activity log that I adhered to with my first son. It was other things too.
I overdid it in every area
I’d make sure that his clothes were always clean (or at least as clean as I could with a mud lover!) and his snacks were always super healthy. I’d settle him for hours to get him to sleep and I’d purchase all manner of paraphernalia for him that he just didn’t need.
I knew exactly how many teeth he had or was growing at any one time, and I’d always be abreast of his percentiles on both height and weight charts.
Then came my second son and things were significantly different
He’s almost two and has never been to an official organised baby or toddler ‘activity’ – daycare doesn’t count, right?
He won’t be playing the trumpet any time soon, swimming laps or even participating in any ‘team’ singing or rhyme time.
His world is mainly confined to the gym creche, our backyard and the TV at home (yes, bad mum I know). His social outings with me incorporate school pick up and the groceries.
Occasionally we venture out to the park but, after three years of frequenting them with my first son, my enthusiasm for them wanes pretty quick.
I just can’t anymore …
I don’t really want to play shops and feign surprise when there’s ‘no cake’ today. And I don’t want to force chit-chat with other mums about their kids’ teeth. Is it harsh to say that I really don’t care?
Son number two has worn hand-me-downs for most of his life. There’s rarely a day that goes by when he isn’t dressed in a stained t-shirt and shorts from sunrise to sunset. His snack box is more about convenience than healthy superfoods. And I don’t bake things from scratch, just to be fed to the dog.
His toys consist of a jumble of second hand, half broken, bits missing and batteries removed plastic. And most of his pre-loved cuddly toys are blind or deaf.
I’ve changed as a mum
Since becoming a mum for the second time, things have been different, but that’s because I’m different too.
I have the confidence and knowledge that my child’s happiness doesn’t stem from materialistic or superficial things. His happiness doesn’t depend on constant activity, drawers full of brand new, stain-free clothes and me being able to quote how many teeth he has.
His happiness isn’t subject to the toys he has or my undivided attention. Nor is it subject to me cooking from scratch (thank god!).
But he’s not missing out
Happiness for him is love, kisses, cuddles and safety. It’s a full belly and my outstretched arms. It’s a cup of milk and a biscuit with jam. It’s an episode of Play School and an afternoon nap. It’s picking up his brother from school and having a pillow fight and jumping off the couch.
So, is he really any worse off being the second child? Is he ‘missing out’ or suffering in any way? I don’t think so.
Besides, the one most important thing that isn’t different for him is the love I feel and the spot he holds in my heart. He grins to get what he wants and a kiss and a hug forgives all manner of sins. I guess that’s proof that, as a mum, there’s some things that never change.