The 6 smartest things I did before I had my second child

Having a second kidThe author, Steven John, and his family.Steven John

  • Having a second kid can bring new challenges in comparison to your first.
  • Though you've been through the process, having a second kid can compromise your time, energy, and sense of balance in new ways.
  • There are certain things you can do, like rereading baby books and starting projects like nurseries, before having a second kid that can best prepare you for his or her arrival.

In the months before we had our first child, Benjamin, in 2013, life was generally manageable - despite the fact that my wife and I were having major construction work done at our house, working full time, attending Lamaze birthing classes, setting up a nursery, reading baby books, buying baby stuff, and also maintaining our adult-only social lives for the last time.

When our second child, Scarlett, was born in 2018, there were no renovations to attend to, and my wife had taken a few years off from teaching, but there was a precocious, energetic four-year-old who demanded about 94.6% of his parents' attention during all waking hours. Life felt busier than ever, and it was sometimes hard to imagine how we would ever get anything done with yet another human being in the house.

Yes, the raising of multiple kids has been done before, but it's still unnerving to face a major life change like the birth of a second child. In fact, in some ways, the days and weeks before Scarlett's birth were more daunting than those before Ben was born.

Why? Because the second time around, we actually knew how much work a kid can be.

Fortunately, we also knew that planning ahead was critical. Here are some of the smartest things we did to prepare for our second child:


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1. We started projects early

1.  We started projects early

As soon as my wife and I learned we were expecting a second child, we started rearranging the house to accommodate her. My upstairs office would become her nursery, so we had to wall off an area in the basement to create a new space for me.

We finished that project and had Scarlett's nursery fully set up and decorated weeks before she would be born, and months before she would sleep in her room, knowing that once she arrived, our already scant free time would go down to almost nil. Case in point: Though that new basement wall and door were installed long before Scarlett was born, I didn't get around to painting them until she was more than three months old.

2. I reread my baby books

2. I reread my baby books

Oddly, in some ways I felt more prepared for the birth of my first kid than my second. Before Benjamin, I had more free time to devote to reading lots of baby books and articles, watching videos, going to classes, and so forth.

Once I realized that all the information wasn't popping back into my head, I reread my favorite baby book, “Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be,” and went through many materials I'd studied the first time around, re-educating myself on what to expect from the birth and newborn days.

3. We made our son a part of the process

3. We made our son a part of the process

Once we were far enough into the pregnancy to feel confident that the growing baby was healthy, Kristin and I began to talk to Ben about what was happening on a daily basis. He got to look at our baby app that showed the size of the fetus at each stage (lentil, grape, plum, avocado, etc.).

He also helped decorate the baby's room and attended several doctor visits with us, where he listened to Scarlett's heart and saw her on the sonogram. In fact, he even chose her name. We whittled the list down to two choices, then let Ben pick the winner.

4. We cleared out lots of clutter

4. We cleared out lots of clutter

Going through baby stuff a kid has outgrown is tough. There's so much sentimentality attached to baby things that even a threadbare bib can be hard to toss. But with another kid coming and more baby stuff inbound, we had to thin things out.

Kristin and I kept plenty of memorabilia from Ben, but we also got rid of lots of stuff that had less sentiment attached that we would not use for Scarlett. And we didn't stop at the newborn stuff — we cleared out clothes, toys, and supplies from the baby and toddler years, because why not get it done in one fell swoop?

5. I dusted off all the good baby stuff

5. I dusted off all the good baby stuff

For everything we tossed, Kristin and I kept two or more items of baby gear. Why buy a new bath seat when the old one just needs to be wiped down? Why get new onesies when Ben's were still in great shape? As much stuff as we could reuse, we did.

6. My wife and I made time for ourselves

6. My wife and I made time for ourselves

In the last weeks before Scarlett was born, I made sure not to give up on a few things I like to do for myself. I still went for at least three or four runs each week, even when there was much to be done around the house.

I made sure to read for pleasure, even though I always could have used that time to do more work or clean out a cabinet or set up a high chair. I figured (correctly) that a lot of that stuff would be marginalized soon, so I made the best of what time I had.

And we made sure Kristin got some time for herself as well, such as getting a massage or two and having kid-free blocks of time where she could relax without interruption. Because once the newborn arrives, a breastfeeding mother is always on call.

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