It’s a question moms always have for AllMomDoes host Julie Lyles Carr; what’s the hardest, going from one kid to two, or two to three, or three to four…what transition is the most challenging. Julie has some insights on when your family moves into a new season with a new baby.
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Julie Lyles Carr: There is an experience that you might be having in your mothering career, and you haven’t thought about it as a change of seasons because it’s still within the responsibility of mothering, but I’m here to tell you: it is an interesting shift when it comes to this idea of seasons. I’m Julie Lyles Carr, host of the AllMomDoes podcast, and we are in a series on the seasons of life.
And the way that those seasons present themselves to us, our emotions around some of those seasons, some of the challenges, some of the joy, some of the confusion, some of the fatigue that we can have in some of those seasons. And so I’m just so glad that you’re here as we continue this conversation.
So if you’ve been listening for a while, you might know that we have a supersized family. We have eight kids in our family and they range in ages, now the twins are 15, they’re the youngest, all the way up to our oldest daughter who is in Chicago. And she was about 16 and a half when the twins were born. So from our oldest to our youngest, we have about 16 and a half years.
So sure. I get asked a lot of questions when it comes to the big family thing, the primary one being, why? Like why 8 kids? And I’ve done some different writing and things on that, Rebecca and I can direct you to some of those pieces of content if you’re interested in all of that story, we can put that in the show notes for you.
But I also get a lot of other things because when you have that number of kids, people assume maybe you’re some kind of expert. I, I say, you know, expert, cautionary, tale, whatever, what have you, there is some knowledge and hopefully some wisdom that comes from having mothered that many kids over that span of a time.
One of the things that I’ve talked about, that’s been interesting in raising kids in which you’ve got kids who are 16 and a half years apart, is that I would say with my first two, three, maybe four kids. There was parenting for those stages and ages in that era, in our culture. And it’s been somewhat different with the younger kids.
For example, with my older kids, particularly the oldest two, I would say. You know, cell technology, all that kind of stuff. Everybody having phones or devices that were connected online, things like that. That just wasn’t as much of a thing when those kids were moving into those middle school and early high school years.
So there were things that we didn’t really have to grapple with all that much. I mean, they have each gotten a phone when they’ve turned 14, but those early phones for those oldest kids, those were just flip phones. That was just a way that we could stay in touch with each other. There wasn’t texting. There weren’t all the apps, all that kind of stuff. So that’s sort of an interesting conversation in terms of when you’re mothering through different seasons culturally and technologically what’s been available. And what has not been part of an experience for your older kids that’s an experience for your younger kids.
I get asked about our choices for education and how we’ve handled that. I get asked questions about how we’ve done things like chores and discipline and on and on and on just any variety of questions. And there is one question that I get asked that I think is really interesting. So we’re going to dip into that question today.
And that question is this. I will have a mama come up to me and she’ll say, okay, what was the hardest transition? Was it from one kid to two kids or two kids to three kids? Sometimes I encounter a mama who’s, you know, was it three to four or four to five? And that’s a great question because things do change when you add a new baby to the family. And how does that incorporate itself into your family life? What dynamics shift? What do you need to know about those changes?
And so I’ve had some experience with that because we have now added babies to our family numerous times through the years. And so I wanna address that today. The first thing that I think we have to get our heads around is that even though you’re in a season of mothering, you are within that season of mothering having these seasons within a season.
Does that make sense? It’s kinda like in the fall season we have, when Starbucks first brings back pumpkin spice lattes, and then we move into more of that harvest feel. And then there’s all the fun that can surround if you engage in your neighborhood trick or treating activities, and then you move into Thanksgiving.
And so there are like these little seasons, right, within the season of fall. I think of mothering the same way that we have these little seasons embedded in this broader season of mothering. Now I’m a word nerd. You know, that I do a lot of writing and work with publishers. And so words mean a lot to me. And I have this tool that I love to go and take a look at.
It’s the etymology of words. And so there is a site if you wanna go see it, it is ETYM online. So it’s E T Y M online.com and it will give you the background on different words and where they come from and the root words from which they were established. I think it’s super fascinating. You may be thinking, oh, Jules, you’re a super nerd and you would not be wrong, but I love etymology and where words come from. And the word “season” that we know it, and the way we know it is an old French word and it means the season or the date, the right moment or appropriate time. So think about that a minute that a season means the right moment. Or the appropriate time. Now all of that word comes from Latin.
So if you love Latin words, the Latin word for, for seasons is Satoma and it means a sowing or a planting. So when I think about the seasons embedded within the seasons of my mothering, I, I think about the fact that there is planting that’s been going on in one little season in my mothering, that’s going to have a harvest in the next season of my mothering. Does that make sense?
So the things that we are teaching our children, the habits we’re helping them develop, the spiritual truths we’re wanting to embed in their lives the things we’re teaching them about God, there’s a sowing that happens in certain seasons when our children are certain ages that we hope to see come to fruition in the next season.
And in that next season for them, there’ll, there will be more sowing as we are within this longer game of mothering overall, that’s part of how I look at this question about what’s tougher going from one to two kids, two to three, because each baby that you add each child who comes into your family through birth, through adoption, through fostering, you have now just launched a new season.
And this is part of what I think is tricky for moms when we look at the challenges of bringing another child into our homes and the impact that that’s going to have on the children we already have is we think we’re gonna be bringing this child in to a season we’ve already established, but the reality is you are starting a whole new season with your family when you bring another baby or another child into the dynamic.
So let’s just start there. The best thing I can tell you about adding a child to your existing family is it means every time you’re starting a new season. And I don’t mean that in a discouraging way. I mean that in a really exciting way, but I want you to get your mind around that because when I talk with moms, what I find is one of the biggest challenges for them is they’ve had a rhythm and a way things are going with the family and the current season they’ve been in and when they really are struggling with that new baby or that child coming into the family, part of it is because they haven’t embraced that they have all launched together on a brand new season. It’s not that you’re gonna be bringing a new baby or a new child into your home, and then seamlessly, they’re just gonna fit into the season that you’ve had.
You are starting a fresh, all of this held within the container of this long game season we call mothering, but this is gonna be a fresh season for you. So let’s just start there. You’re starting a fresh season. Now, one thing that’s interesting is a lot of people say to me, well, is it tougher to go from one to two or two to three?
And what’s interesting in that question is to me the biggest change, other than one other that I’m gonna tell you about when it came to transitioning to a number of children, was going from no kid to one kid. Have you stopped and thought about that a minute? I mean, that is a big change. And when people say to me, well, we have two kids who are thinking about having a third, but I’m worried about what that transition would look like. I, I don’t know if I could navigate that. I don’t know what that, and I have to laugh because I. Oh friend. If you went from no kids to a kid, you’ve already gotten the endurance package, all the stuff for being able to navigate this new season of adding another little person to your family, because that transition from no kid to one kid is really big.
And I think we don’t often pause and appreciate what is built, what is learned, what is, is sussed out through the process of simply adding one kiddo to your family at the very beginning. Now I will tell you that the transitions we had from a certain number of kids to adding the next kid to the family, I can tell you this, the shorter the timeframe between that child and the next one, the shorter that timeframe was it felt easier to me.
So here’s what I mean by that. We have some kids who are 20 months apart. So our third child and our fourth child are 20 months apart. And because of the age that Justus, my third child was when Maesyn, my fourth child was born. We were still sort of in that baby lane. Right? I mean, we were still, he was still in a crib. We were still doing the diaper thing. We had just recently come off of bottles and he was still in using his binki and all that kind of stuff. He was a toddler, but he was still a baby toddler. Right. And so when we made that transition to bringing Maesyn home, we were already still in baby mode. That’s what I call it. Baby mode.
One of the bigger challenges to me is when we had more of a time gap between the child that had been born last and now the next child that was coming. So we have some age gaps that are three and a half years and four years apart. And those changes, there’s just this moment where all of a sudden your brain goes, oh yeah, little baby, little baby in the carrier car seat, little baby with the full on diaper bag and all the things, because by the time your child is three or four years old, you’ve really pretty much graduated out a lot of that stuff. Like, you may not even be using a stroller as much anymore when your kids are those ages. So if you have a bigger gap like that, getting into the flow of all the baby equipment and all of that stuff, that would take me a hot minute to go. Oh, yeah, I gotta retransition myself over here. I gotta remember I gotta take all the stuff again.
Now here’s what’s a little bit easier about when you have a bigger gap, is that that child who’s been the youngest has a little bit better understanding of what’s going on than when you have the child who’s a toddler and then all of a sudden you’re introducing this new baby into the family. And so my three and four year olds, when we would add a new baby to the family and that kid who’d been the youngest was already three and a half or four years old. That transition in terms of being able to communicate well with them, help them understand what was going on, helped them to feel empowered as an older sibling. I found that to be a little bit easier when there was a bigger gap between their ages than I did with when the youngest who had been the youngest child was a toddler. And now we were bringing a baby into the family and that child who’d been the youngest was still pretty young. So that ability to communicate I found was really powerful when we had the bigger age gaps.
And I found that I was still more in baby mode when we had shorter age gaps between kids. So, as you’re thinking about your family, as you’re considering what it’s gonna look like as you’re bringing more kiddos into your dynamic, that’s just something that I’ve noticed from my own journey that might be of help to you.
Now here’s something that I would’ve told you, by the time we had our sixth child, I had the mothering thing down. I had it. I knew what I was doing. I knew the rhythm of the thing, adding our children, number five, and number six to the flow was probably one of the easiest transitions that we’d had.
Easiest new season that we had had when we were adding a child to the family, it just, they just kind of came in and we were already in that dynamic, in that dance and that choreography. And it was, it felt very smooth. I know that sounds crazy to say that adding babies five and six to a family just seemed very smooth, but it did.
And then we had a four year age gap from our number six, and then we went in for an ultrasound with the next pregnancy and it was revealed I was pregnant with twins. And I will tell you that transition to twins, two babies at the same time. Wow. That was big. Even with the number of kids I had, even as much help as my older children were, because again, my oldest was 16 and a half when the twins were born, the next child was 13.
I mean, I had great help. Right. I wasn’t having to just completely do this solo, but that transition to two babies, it was so fun. It was wildly chaotic. It was huge. It was just a huge seasonal change. I had never been a mom to multiples in that way. Our family had gone from six kids to eight kids. You know, we went from a family of eight to a family of 10.
So anytime you find out that you are expecting multiples, that is a big transition, even if it’s your first pregnancy. You know, you’re not going to have the prototypical experience of having no kids to one kid. You’re talking about going from one to two or one to three, or depending on the multiples that God’s blessing you with, that is a completely different season as far as I’m concerned, when you move into having multiples.
I’ve said to other moms who had their multiples first and then went on to have a singleton I’m like, how did you do it? And they’ve said, I just didn’t know any better. Like our first babies were multiples. And so that’s just the way it was.
My hat is off to you because I have to say going from only having had singletons, even when they were close in age, even when they were just 20 months apart to then having twins, that was a huge change. So if you find that you’re expecting multiples or you’re adding multiples to your family, or if you’re fostering two or three kids who are coming into your existing family, just honor yourself that even if you have all kinds of parenting chops and parenting experiences, that’s a really big change.
So here are a few ideas for you when you are moving into a season of adding more kids to your family. So, first of all, with our first baby, here’s, what’s interesting. Yes, it was a very big change to go from no kids to one kid. That was a big change. Then going from one to two kids, that was also a big change, a new season because of this. With our first child, everything was about her. Our whole schedule was around her. She didn’t have to share my attention. We would just pick her up and go. We very much incorporated her into our lives, but it was, she was the only one. It was all about her. So when we added her sister three and a half years later, all a sudden for that second baby, I really felt for her because we were crazy about her and we adored her and of course she had our attention and our affection, but she was already as a second born having to accommodate the first born’s schedule, play dates, birthday parties, soccer, practice, all the things. So it is really important to note that when you’re moving, even if it’s just from one child to two children, you are still creating significant change in your family because you’re not gonna be able to mother that second one exactly the way you mothered the first one.
You’re having to accommodate for two little people now, and two schedules and two sets of interest and things that are going on. And so just know that it’s so powerful and it’s beautiful to add more kids into your family, but it changes the way that you parent, because now you are going to need to have two eyes out all the time or three or whatever the case is.
You’re gonna be running a more complex system simply because you’re adding more kids and that’s okay. That’s normal. And if it feels a little overwhelming, you’re gonna get it. You’re gonna figure it out. It is a big change though. So even going from one to two, some people talk about, oh, two to three was our big change.
We went from man on man to having to play offense. I get all of those references, but I will tell you, don’t be surprised if moving from one to two also feels like a big change because you are now having to split your parenting attention. And the first time that you have to make that split can feel like a big deal.
Now, when you begin adding other kids to your family, I wanna encourage you to do this. This was really key for us is we kept up the rituals that we’d made with the older kids. So with my older kids, I did a ton of out loud reading with them. We read through huge books. We read through a lot of series and we did that every evening before bed.
And I continued that with the older kids, even when I had littles, even when I was needing to nurse somebody to go to sleep, all of that kind of stuff. We maintained the bedtime rituals. We maintained certain things throughout the day that were really important to my kids. And that I think went a long way in helping those older kids be excited about and really pull in under their wings, their younger siblings, because the things that we had established as a family, some traditions that we had.
We maintained those even in the chaos of having infants and toddlers running around in the middle of all of it. So keep those rituals with your older kids. Your older kids also, as you’re making this transition, they’re gonna need some extra doses of praise and encouragement and attention from you. And it would be best if you can be proactive in that, that you’re not waiting until you start thinking, hmm. So, and so is really acting out. Because the kind of attention you don’t wanna be having to give is some kind of strong discipline. If you can be proactive ahead of time, if you can be thinking ahead of time, I wanna make sure that I’m telling this kid, at least this many times a day, how great they are, what they’re doing, and yes, praise them for being a great big brother or big sister.
That’s awesome. But also find things that are not related to this new little person that you’ve added to your family, make sure that you are encouraging your child and praising your older child based on things that are just about who they are and not necessarily about this transition that you’ve made.
Now, of course, when they’re doing a great job as an older sibling, you wanna praise that too, but make sure that you are continuing to validate them for who they are as a person, not just in relation to this new sibling that you’ve added.
Now, let me tell you this little story about one of mine. We added a new baby to the family and the child who’d been the youngest, who was now no longer the youngest, that child who to that point had been this very responsible and on top of things, kind of kid. That child had some regression, not only some regression, but a little bit of passive aggression. Let me tell you what I mean by that. Let me tell you this little story.
I kept walking into the new baby’s nursery thinking. Gosh, it just smells like pee in here. Why does it, the baby’s clean, the beddings all clean, like why? And I would change the diapers and all the things I was like, there’s got to be something, I am missing something and I would go through the dirty clothes hamper and wash everything all over again. I just could not figure it.
Until one day I was reaching under the baby’s crib for something and for storage, we had a long bed skirt around the crib and underneath the crib, we had tucked away the next size up car seat. You know what I’m talking about when you’ve got the baby car seat that goes everywhere, but then we’d already purchased and had ready the next bigger car seat that this new baby in our family was going to need.
And I had stored it underneath the crib with the, with the bed skirt coming down to hide that little storage situation. Well, I was looking under there for something. I dropped something or something. And when I got down on that level, I went, whoa, what is happening? This is, this is an olefactory nightmare. I pull out the car seat and very much could tell that that car seat had been peed in multiple times.
So I start looking for the culprit and I go to the child who was two and a half years older than this new baby that we had just added. And I said, have you been under the baby’s bed? To which this child replied, oh, yes. And I peed in the baby’s car seat. Mm-hmm yeah, this kid, this kid who was very responsible, seemed to love the new baby, all the things.
This kid had a moment. A couple, three, four moments where they were inflicting a little bit of revenge against this baby. So don’t be surprised if there’s some regression that happens with your child in a way that you never expected, because they’re sorting out a lot of complicated feelings for a little person.
It’s natural for a child to feel jealous. It’s natural for a child to feel a little misplaced. It’s natural for a child to feel like they need to compete for attention and to have mixed feelings about this child who’s been added to the family. It’s not wrong. It’s not bad. It is a normal part of them sorting out their emotions.
So if you see some regression in your kids, particularly the ones who have been the baby and now they’re getting misplaced in that. Now there’s a new baby of the family. Make sure you allow room for that and understanding because it’s a very normal, natural part. I watched it with all of mine, not always to the dramatic, you know, aroma that I experienced with that particular kid in the car seat, but each of my kids needed a season of time to adjust to no longer being the quote unquote, baby of the family.
We tried to do some things, to make this movement into a new season with a new baby exciting and easier. We always did special t-shirts for the kids and buttons that talked about that they were, you know, the big sister and the big brother, all that kind of stuff. I included my kids in my prenatal appointments and would take them along.
They were in ultrasounds with me and actually some of the kids were at the births of their siblings. That was a really beautiful thing. That was, I would say that some of those experiences made for some of the easiest transitions. Now I know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea. And I know that if you have a planned C-section or challenges with birth, or if you’re adopting or fostering, that’s not always possible.
But if you’ve been wondering about, Hmm, I wonder what it would be like to have my children in the birth of their next sibling. I can tell you for us, it made the transition into the next season of adding that child. It just felt more like we were all in it together. The kids felt like they were part of it.
So it’s just a little something that you might consider. But long story short, we did include our kids, even the times that they weren’t in the births, they were included in a lot of the appointments and the ultrasounds. It wasn’t like we just walked in one day with a new baby, or we walked in toward the end of the pregnancy and said, guess what? You’re getting a sibling.
We included the kids all along the way. And that included them knowing about my two miscarriages that I had, and we were thoughtful in the way that we imparted that information, but they were part of that as well. We wanted them to understand all of the experiences and so consider really making your kids a key part of adding that next child, whether that is taking them to appointments where you’re meeting with your adoption advisor or whether that is part of incorporating them in the foster experience.
Make sure that your kids have a heads up that this is happening as best you can and make them part of it. Now one thing to know, as you’re moving from one kid to two kid to three kids, it’s gonna be more hectic than you might have thought. Even if you’re super organized, there are just ways that having to divide that attention, as we talked about earlier can be a little challenging and you haven’t done it before.
Be forgiving with yourself. You haven’t mothered three kids before, you’ve mothered two. So be gentle with yourself as you move into those transitions, but also be aware of this. When we talk about going into a new season of adding a child, I had seasons where I was just adding a kiddo for the most part. And then I had seasons where there was a whole lot going on in our lives at the same time that we were adding a child to the family.
So for example, with the twins, we moved five weeks before the twins were born. So that might have been part of my overwhelm with the multiples. Although I do think the multiples thing stands alone, but I will tell you that having those two things coincide, everything that goes into a big move, moving away from your known community, changing houses, changing the rhythm of how you’ve done everything, changing all of your kids’ extracurricular and school stuff. And then having babies five weeks later. That is a massive seasonal change. And I know that you are gonna have times that when you’re adding a child to your family, there is also going to be other change that’s happening along the way. So don’t discount how profound those changes that would’ve been a big change in your life regardless are going to feel when they’re compiled with adding a new child to your family.
I don’t mean that as a discouragement. I mean it, in this encouraging way. I kept beating myself up to some point when I had the twins and I kept thinking I’ve done this mothering thing before. Why does it seem so hard? I was not completely being as thorough as I should have been and taking care of myself to understand the impact of having made, making that move right before the twins were born. How big that was gonna be in combination with having two new babies.
So I think if I could go back and do it over, I’d be a lot easier on myself. I wouldn’t worry about the things that hadn’t gotten unpacked and the things that were left undone. I wouldn’t be as consumed with trying to nest as hard because I so badly wanted to get us into this house and everything settled and on and on and on, and then have these babies and everything that was left dangling at the point at which I went to the hospital to deliver the twins, I was kind of beating myself up about.
I wouldn’t do that to myself anymore. I would’ve said, okay. We are moving into a season where we have two brand new babies. We’ve just moved. So let’s think about realistic timelines for some of the things that we’re wanting to get done. And let me be honest about the level of outside help I might need, or the pace at which I’m setting these things.
So consider in addition to this new person that’s coming into your family, consider the season of life you’re in. Maybe you are choosing to put your career on pause for a moment to focus on this new child and this new addition to your existing family. Maybe you are choosing to go back into the workforce after this little person joins your family. Maybe you are changing schools with one of your older children. Maybe you are encountering a move or all kinds of things, going to a new church family, starting with a new preschool, all those things count and they’re important. And that’s why I think this question of what’s the toughest transition going from one to two kids or two kids to three kids.
I will tell you, I don’t think there’s a formula. I know people who have tried to write about it and say, oh, for sure, it’s going from two to three. Oh, oh for sure. It’s going from one to two. Listen. There’s just no science to that because our lives are so dynamic. Things change. So there’s no solid answer at the end of the day on what the toughest transition into a new season of adding a kid is, or the most challenging. It is all dependent on where you’re at in your seasons of life. The ages between the age gaps between your kiddos. What else is going on in your life concurrently. And those things factor into how you’re going to perceive adding another child to the mix.
Here’s what I do know for sure. You can do it. You absolutely can do it. And there are gonna be times that you get surprised and it’s gonna be way easier than you thought it was going to be. And there may be a time that you get surprised, maybe it’s twins, and that transition is more challenging that you than you anticipated, particularly if you feel like you already have had quite a bit of experience. But through it all, I keep going back to this definition of the word seasons that talked about the right moment, the appropriate time in the original word from the old French, the right moment, the appropriate time. You were created for such a time as this. God’s promises stand for you.
He is with you. He will encourage you. He will strengthen you in this season. He has designed you to be the mom of this family that you are building. And because he designed you for that, and because he builds families, he’s going to equip you with what you need to make this transition into a new season.
And in every season, we sow seeds, we plant. And then we look toward a season in which we get to see the harvest of that. And then we sow and we plant again. And so even if your kiddo, that child who was the baby, and now there’s a new baby coming into the family. Even if that child is really struggling and you’re struggling right along with them, just know that you are sowing and planting into them all kinds of goodness.
As they learn that there is enough love for them and for their siblings, that God is a God who loves all of his children. And he’s got a bunch of them. And that love is something that sustains even when the seasons are challenging, even when the seasons are easier, there is enough love to go around, no matter the season.
Well, we’ve got several more episodes on some key topics when it comes to seasons in your life. I can’t wait for you to get to hear those. And I will see you next time here on the AllMomDoes podcast.