Going From One to Two Kids Is the Hardest 


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There’s a frequently sited statistic that moms of three kids are more stressed than moms of fewer or more kids. On a day-to-day basis, this finding makes sense to me. Moms of one or two children simply have less kid-stuff to manage, and moms of four or more embrace their hectic, child-filled lives with the zen that comes from having been there, done that several times before. 

But I’d argue that in terms of the transition period when a new baby joins the family, going from one to two kids is the hardest. When we had our first baby, we could devote all of our energy to that one little being. We were clueless new parents and those early days were very hard, but at least we only had to worry about one child. We could tag team the work— one of us could sleep while the other one was up with the baby, we always had a free hand to carry something other than a child, and we could reasonably contain the amount of baby gear we needed.

Adding a second child to the mix was a game changer. My kids are close in age, so the combination of a very young toddler and an infant was physically and emotionally exhausting. My husband and I still talk about our first night home from the hospital after having our second. The newborn was up crying in the middle of the night, which made the toddler cry, too. We stood in the hallway, each holding a screaming child, looking at each other with wide eyes, wondering if we’d made a horrible mistake. (We didn’t, but the dynamic of a family of four knocked us off our feet.)

newborn anna sleeping at the beach
Our first baby, sleeping at the beach

In contrast, our first child fit into our existing life pretty easily. We took her wherever we wanted to go. With the second… not so much. We weren’t as mobile. We had two nap schedules to maintain, and we had so much more stuff we had to bring with us everywhere we went. Our double stroller was huge, and we had baby gear and toddler gear covering the house. We had two developmental stages to track and manage, and we had to accommodate activities and entertainment for two different ages. I thought I would at least have a better handle on how to care for my baby since I’d recently been through it with my first, but he was very different than my older one, which meant I still didn’t know what to expect and didn’t really feel like I knew what I was doing. 

I’ve heard from moms who have spread out the ages of their first and second that it’s equally tough to adjust. Going back to the helplessness of a baby can be exhausting and frustrating after enjoying the relative independence of an older child and the calm that comes with having only one. 

And then there’s the sibling dynamics of introducing a second baby to the family — the jealously of the firstborn, their need to reclaim their parents’ full attention, and their desire to “help” in very unhelpful ways.

Every family experience is different, but if my informal conversations with other moms are any indication, transitioning to two kids is universally tough. And a special shout out to the moms who go from zero to two kids. Having twins launches parents right into the chaos of multiple children. You’re playing man-to-man coverage from the very start.

In comparison, my friends with three kids agree that their third child fit into their family’s life relatively easily. Of course, they were still sleep-deprived from handling middle of the night feedings and recovering postpartum, but the transition phase went smoother. We joke that an easy-going disposition is part of the third kid’s survival mechanism — “Don’t make waves, and they’ll keep me around.” By the time the third arrives, the older two are distracted with each other. They don’t seem as threatened by the addition of a new baby and often enjoy the baby more. And parents don’t have the time or energy to sweat the small stuff with the third. Life is busy, the older siblings naturally get more attention, and the third baby comes along for the ride.

Whether or not going from one to two kids is the hardest is debatable, of course. No matter which number baby you’re on, introducing a new family member into the house is tough. I’d love to know how the transitions went for you. Share in the comments!



  1. These are all good points. I think another way to think about this topic is that the hardest transition is the one that involves giving birth to a challenging not laid back baby.

    Challenges could be due to food allergies, medical emergencies, weight gain issues, major colic, strong will, hyper sensitive, sensory, etc.

    Some moms say it’s the first baby and others say it’s the second or third or last but usually it’s that baby’s personality/issues itself that make the whole family tense and the transition harder more than the numbers. A needy baby will make even the most laid back older sibling crazy jealous while a laid baby tends to not get the older siblings as much upset since they sleep or hang out most of the time.


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