It’s 9:30 at night and I’m exhausted.

I have one child: Smoosh*- a 17-month-old boy. He’s a handful. But he’s only one boy.

This afternoon, Smoosh and I hosted a group play date at our house. Seven other moms attended with their toddlers. Every single one of them either already had a second child or was trying for another.

My question is: How?

I understand the answers to the ‘Why?’. You have another child because you want to give the first one a play mate. Because you’ve always wanted a large family. Because you want to try for a girl. Or boy. Because you like being busy and having purpose. Or, the most honest answer that I totally understand from Smoosh’s infant days and can’t fathom going through again: “I don’t know. I just get through it.”

Yesterday, Smoosh snuck up behind me while I was washing dishes and bit my leg. He was apparently offended that I had been “ignoring” his cries for a snack for almost a full minute now. (I was washing his cup in order to put snacks inside of it.)  Right as he bit me, one of my dogs quit his whining (that, admittedly, I had been ignoring) to go outside for the fourth time that morning and pooped right there on the floor in outright defiance. No shame. The other dog whined and twisted around my ankles with his stuffed Yoda, begging for attention. Both dogs were then distracted by a sound at the door and took off, knocking Smoosh over. Tears. Chaos. So much chaos.

Now add a second child to the mix? How? Just…how do you keep your sanity? How do you keep your legs and arms and face bite/scratch free from insistent and sharp little fingernails and teeth? How do you fight off that fatigue-induced headache? How do you not completely lose your cool, yell at everyone, and sink to the floor to rock in fetal position while you try and block everything out? As much as I respect and admire the answers to the “Why?” I just can’t wrap my head around the How?

So I investigated. I interviewed and read and observed, and came up with these three theories:

At least one of your kids is in school/daycare.

Smoosh is currently at his second day of daycare. He goes once a week. I feel guilty every time I glance at the clock, willing time to go slower. I also feel a little panicked, having such little time to tackle my to-do list. But let’s set the guilt and panic aside. I am also experiencing clarity. And peace. I have time to breathe. Breathing is important. I don’t do it often enough. I’m going to enter into some delicate territory now and share a huge difference between a Stay-At-Home mom and a Working Mom. First, let me say that I chose to stay home with my son. But some days, some moments, I ache to go back to the 9-5 routine. I want to wear sophisticated dress clothes and have conversations that don’t revolve around nap and poop schedules. I want that hour lunch break to eat in peace, catching up on gossip instead of begging Smoosh to stop throwing his vegetables against the freshly washed window. I want that 30 minute commute where I can listen to an audio book of my choosing without hearing Smoosh screaming from his car seat.The difference between these two types of moms is that Working Moms get a break from Baby Land. They get to play in the world of adults.

Same goes for moms who have kids in daycare or school. You get breaks. You get to breathe. Yes, maybe you’re working your butt off – be it in an office or at home – and maybe you’re not all that thrilled with your job or boss or commute. But you’re also not desperately singing “Wheels on the Bus,” and wrestling with a surprisingly strong toddler with poop all over his butt. And hands. And oh, look, now it’s in your hair. And now he’s running naked down the hall to pet the dogs with his poopy hands and pee on the carpet. 

Breaks are everything when it comes to emotional sanity and even physical well-being. And sometimes Stay-At-Home moms just can’t get these breaks. This is why,  if I ever do decide to have a second child, I’m waiting until Smoosh is in Kindergarten.

You have family/a friendly teenager who babysits for free close by.

Again, time to breathe. And date nights. Seeing movies when they come out in the theater instead of waiting for them to be on Netflix and falling asleep halfway through watching because you decided to indulge in a second glass of wine. And taking  a shower without having to listen to Baby You Tube and/or cries of  protest while you condition your hair (way too quickly) and skip shaving your  legs (again).

Yes, I could hire a babysitter, but they get expensive quickly. Especially when you’re living off of one income. A simple movie night ends up costing over $100. And I would just feel guilty and selfish paying someone to come over so that I can do my girly grooming. This is why, on more than one occasion, Smoosh gets to watch TV and eat lunch while Mommy runs around in her underwear with hair dye dripping all over the house.

You are one of those mystical unicorns who are really creative at making up games and songs.

Whereas hours of playing with cars and blocks mentally drains me, you draw energy from it. Actually, you’re probably thinking “Cars? Pshh. How unoriginal. We’re working on glitter animals and doing toothpaste-volcano experiments over at my house…”

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of kids doing crafts and science experiments. But alas, I am not at all crafty. And my son is still in the glitter-eating stage. So I do my best with what I have. I try to get him to mimic my stick-figure drawing and I’ve gotten really, really good at building cool shapes out of legos. But Smoosh does not seem impressed with these things and only stays entertained for .5 seconds before he’s demanding to move on. 

Luckily, Daddy is really good at making up silly songs. So on the weekends, Smoosh gets some pretty fantastic personal concerts. If only I could hologram Daddy over to our living room for 15 minutes per day so that I can finally clean up the kitchen…

So, to you amazing, super-hero moms of multiple children, do you identify with any of these descriptions? Do you have any other secrets to  share? I’d love to hear from you!

Jessica Mautone

Jessica is a first-time, Stay-At-Home mom who loves to write as an outlet for the stress that comes along with raising a strong-minded little boy and two yappy dogs. Credit for her creative inspiration goes to good wine and frequent travel.