Having a second child is like writing for Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Sure, you’ll try a few new ideas at the beginning. (“The baby goes in the crib the first night home” is roughly analogous to “This time, Zack doesn’t get the girl.”) Eventually, though, you rediscover that familiar groove. After my second child was born, I ended up following my wife’s lead on just about everything — a plot development about as expected as Kelly Kapowski’s return.
Of course, College Years only lasted a single season. Having two children will run at least 18 seasons in prime time, before continuing forever in syndication.
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When my daughter was born, I got choked up, thinking how she would change my life for forever, for the better, and in ways I would never expect. As I waited to go into the delivery room, I felt the most incredible anticipation, mixed with the sheer terror of becoming a dad for the first time. I trembled as I took photos of her while she wailed on the heat bed. It was an out-of-body experience in hospital scrubs.
By contrast, I only had a few butterflies in my stomach when my son was born because I was eager to meet him. But my mind was clear as I held my wife’s hand, though I cried through my surgical mask as we saw him for the first time. I wasn’t scared — I was thrilled to complete our family.
There definitely was an adjustment period after we came home from the hospital — and by “adjustment period,” I specifically mean “getting peed on like I was a fire hydrant next to a kennel.” Even though we now seem to have moved past that phase in his life, I am still wary every time his privates make a public appearance.
But after a few weeks, my wife and I discovered what many had told us: the adjustment from zero kids to one is mind-blowing. From one to two, massively less so. I find myself not sweating the small things the way I had when my daughter was a newborn. I find myself enjoying the small things more. It could be going almost nose-to-nose with my son and making random noises so he starts giggling. Or it could be singing the ABCs like Brad Rogers from Crash Test Dummies while brushing my daughter’s teeth before bed. (The song really kicks in right around the letter “M,” naturally.)
All I ever wanted to do professionally was to work in newspapers, and I did that for 11 years. After my daughter was born, all I ever wanted to be was a good father. After my son was born, all I ever wanted to be was home for dinner. Changing careers ended up being a lot easier than I thought. And any doubts I had about my decision are erased when I get home to see both kids smiling — and then start helping with dinner. It’s the same joy as the first time around. There’s just more of it.
Danny Jacobs is a writer and editor in Ellicott City, Maryland. His favorite Canadian band is actually Barenaked Ladies.
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