Having a second child changes a family in drastic ways. Life becomes more hectic, more expensive, more exhausting, yes. But also, for many parents, it becomes richer, more exciting, and more complete. This is shocking but it’s also not: Of course having a second baby to burp, change, soothe, and raise in this world while also continuing to love and care for your first-born is a challenge. It’s just that the ways in which it is challenging can sneak up on people. And the ways in which a second child can affect a marriage is one of those stealth attacks. Here, a dozen dads discuss what that was like for them. Some spoke of financial challenges; others of nearly signing divorce papers. Still others spoke of how absolutely crazy that first year of two children was but that they and their partner came out on the other side of it closer than ever. They get into the good, bad, ugly, and pleasantly surprising aspects of bringing a second child into this world.
It Was Calamity
“We got outnumbered, even though, technically, we didn’t. When our youngest son was born, even though there were two of us and two of them, it was like we were constantly battling a giant, all-powerful two-headed monster. Except, instead of breathing fire, it just threw up all the time. Eventually, we got the hang of a two-kid household, but it was really overwhelming for a while. We never lost track of either of the kids, per se, but there were plenty of times I had no idea where one of them was, and just had to count on my wife to keep tabs. And vice versa, of course. The dust settled and we reclaimed our kingdom but, man, it was a battle.” – Andreas, 36, North Carolina
We Almost Got Divorced
“To be clear, we had a lot of problems going into the birth of our second child. We were young, and I think the stress and exhaustion of trying to raise him and his sister together just amplified everything to the point where we considered divorce as the answer. It didn’t happen and, to this day, I’m not sure if either of us really wanted it, or if we just thought, ‘Where the hell else can we go from here? What’s left that could go wrong?’ Both of us are glad we worked it out, but I know for a fact we both also thought that was going to be the end.” – Jason, 41, Illinois
Out Sex Life Took a Major Hit. But We Didn’t Notice.
“I honestly think we didn’t have sex for at least nine months. Maybe more, actually. We were both exhausted. My wife wasn’t happy with her body, and was struggling postpartum. Neither of us had any sex drive at all. The weird thing was that neither of us really even noticed. It was almost like a trivia fact, one night: ‘Do you know it’s been nine months since we had sex?’ We were both just kind of like, ‘Huh. Yeah. I guess it has.’ At that point, we scheduled an ‘appointment’, because we knew we needed to get that part of our relationship back. But it’s amazing, and scary, to think that much time could’ve gone by without really even noticing.” – Joe, 38, Florida
Our Date Nights Were Few and Far Between
“Having a second kid gets you put on the babysitter blacklist, I’m convinced. We had three babysitters we used regularly when our first child was ready. We loved them. Then, we had our second, and when we got ready to start hiring again, they were all suddenly unavailable. I guess I get it. Two kids is a lot for two parents to handle. So, even though we paid well, I can understand why the girls weren’t interested in stepping toward that chaos.” – Hayden, 37, Maryland
We Found More Time. Somehow.
“I say ‘somehow’ because I didn’t think it would be possible to crunch any more time into a single day than we did with our first son. But, when our second was born, we ended up having to pull twice the duty in the exact same amount of time. I guess we just got really good at time management and cutting out all of the unnecessary stuff. It was a master class in productivity. Looking back, I’m actually impressed and amazed we were able to pull it off. That’s a good thing to remember on those difficult days as a parent.” – Aaron, 39, California
Sex? There Was No Sex.
It was a struggle, it really was. We had all the talks about how we would balance everything. But you can only prepare so much. For a time we were like co-workers, having meetings to figure out time management and better ways of going about our days. And for a time we were also like soldiers, making battle plans, running into fire, and jumping on live, poop-filled grenades for the other. We got through it. But sex? There was no sex. There was no sleep. There was nothing besides making sure our kids were taken care of. It seems like a blur now. We knew what we signed up for and we did it together. It’s just like, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done, you know?
I Became Batman
“When you get married, you’re each other’s number one priority. Then you have a kid, and you each move to number two. Then, when you have another kid, Dad moves to number three. At least, that’s how I felt. I don’t resent that, I just became more aware of the pecking order. The kids are obviously tied at number one. And, for me, my wife became number two. Dad sort of becomes this background character — a silent guardian, like Batman. At least, that’s how I like to imagine it.” – Carson, 39, Tennessee
We Almost Went Broke
“I don’t think I’m being overdramatic when I say that we almost had to declare bankruptcy after our second child was born. Neither of us were working at the time, and it was just a really, really rough time. We struggled, and things seemed really hopeless. All with two kids to raise. By the grace of God, my wife got a job — a good job — just as it seemed like all was lost. It took us about two more years to officially get back on our feet after that. We bonded, for sure, and came out as a stronger family, but it was easily the most trying time in both of our lives.” – Matt, 38, Ohio
We Struggled to Connect
“There just wasn’t time for deep conversation. When we were dating, and right after we got married, and even after our first daughter was born, we were still able to converse. But, one the responsibilities of a second child — our son — hit us, we just started to talk. It was all cordial, and friendly, but it was just small talk. It was a routine. Same questions, same answers. Looking back, we both knew that something was off, but I think we were just too overwhelmed to look for a constructive solution. Eventually, we were able to ease back into actual conversations but, for a while, it felt like we were just on autopilot. I’m glad it didn’t last.” – Eric, 38, New York
We Became So Much Closer.
“Not instantly. Or magically. But, through the challenges, the stress and, really, the love, we bonded as a family. My wife and I relied more on each other when we had two small kids than I think we ever have. And it’s nice to know that, even if we like to be independent — which we do — we each have the capacity to support the other one like we’d never imagined when we got married. Kids bring out the best in you. And the worst, sometimes. But if you’re able to hold onto the goodness, it will last and grow with your family.” – Anthony, 36, Texas
We Finally Hit Our Groove.
“Raising our first kid was a fucking train wreck. He turned out fine — he’s 6 now. But, I don’t think we did anything right. At first, our screw ups were a point of contention. Like we both thought the other one should know what they were doing. But, with our second kid, who’s about to turn 4, we did two things much differently. First, we learned from the mistakes we’d made with our first son. There were plenty. And second, we learned to laugh at the mistakes we made together. It wasn’t a blame game anymore. It was just a game. I don’t know if we did a better job the second time, but we were definitely more relaxed, and more supportive of each other. I’d call that a win.” – Chris, 40, Washington, D.C.
We Became “A Family”
“We had our son shortly after we got married. Then, when he was three, we had our daughter. With our son, it felt almost like he was our mascot —we were a cute couple ‘plus one’, if that makes sense. When our daughter came along, our family felt complete. We weren’t missing anything with our son, but we gained so much with our daughter. It’s hard to put into words, but that concept of ‘family’ really hit home once she was born.” – Elijah, 35, Michigan