10 Things No One Told Me About Having A Second Child

motherhood, writer, mum life, parenthood, elissa johnston

It’s been over a year since we became a family of four (yep had a covid baby). I knew it would be an adjustment but I had no idea just how different life would be. Here are the ten things that no one told me about having a second child.

1) It is not twice as hard. At times it’s more like 100 times as hard. There is one of you and two of them and they both have different schedules and routines. It’s at this point you understand the meaning of juggling act. 

2) Getting organised. Just when you thought you had your mum life together, baby number two arrives to show you how unorganised you are. The chaos that descends upon life requires a complete reorganisation and tighter routines (even for those on the free ranging spectrum).

3) Guilt. Oh, the sheer pain running deep into the heart of the mum of more than one. You realise so much of what you did the first time around was totally unnecessary and you won’t even entertain the idea of doing them again. Then the guilt creeps in that this child is missing out. You try to remove that guilt by saying that your second child has an instant friend (see point 8).

4) You only have one body. It’s not something you thought of until both kids decide to burst into wailing tears in different rooms. You will scoop them up (with a jarring pain to your back), yet they will fight each other for sole custody of your lap which in turn keeps the tears flowing.

5) Be prepared to be late (at least in those early days). Getting one kid ready is super easy, even when they decide to play stubborn and have full blown meltdowns. But two is another level challenge. Particularly when one child is ready and as you get the next prepared, the first child gets unready. It’s like the kids are in cahoots together.

6) Comparing. We say we won’t. Yet even as early as the birth story, the comparing starts. Of course you will be mindful not to make such statements within their earshot, but to your partner and anyone else who will listen, you will note the large and minute differences between your children. It’s ok, everyone does.

7) You realise how far you have come as a parent. You still don’t know everything, but you do know some things. You parent with a quiet confidence having been there done that. You’ll find first time mums seeking you out with their infinite questions and it’s your turn to place the reassuring hand on their shoulder telling them they are doing a great job.

8) Instant friend. Unlike your first who only knew mum and dad, this kid gets a sibling. From that first day they have a playmate. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it offers you a brief reprieve. Your firstborn interacts with their new sibling as a child, not a parent and sometimes that is all the baby needs.

9) Sibling love. Nothing prepares you for those heart swelling moments when the baby laughs at their sibling (before you) or when they save their biggest smiles for their big brother. And equally when you vacuum the house and your eldest steps in front of the baby on the floor declaring loudly “don’t hurt my brother”. It’s so beautiful it hurts.

10) Love does multiply. It is difficult with one child to fathom how you could possible love another. But when that second child comes along, love multiples and you love them just as much as the first. Even with all the changes and the second upheaval of your life, you wouldn’t change a thing.

When Will Someone Say Yes?

“It is fresh, face paced and I would like to read it to the end.”

Late last year I entered the first part of my manuscript into a competition. First prize included a large amount of cash plus the writing currency needed to attract major attention from publishers. I had almost forgotten about the competition until the results found their way into my inbox. I was not a finalist. Disappointing, but the news did not sting. I already have experience in rejection. I looked closer at the email and to my surprise the judging notes were attached. Feedback from people inside the industry. A pot of gold. With a quivering hand I opened up the document. 

From this mystery panel of judges I scored 100%, 92% and 65%. I was close, so much they issued my work to a 4th judge. I pictured this judge as a woman, sitting down at her desk, sipping milky tea, glasses sliding down her nose. Her forehead is ceased as she reads through my work, turning pages with dry hands. She decided I would not be a finalist. “I did not feel any connection to the characters nor investment in the storyline.” Ouch. A simple no would have sufficed.

There was a book I read last year, it ended up being a bestseller. It seemed everyone was raving about it. I went and purchased my own copy. I sat down with my coffee and creased my forehead. I found it difficult to get through the pages. I stopped at page 30. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to read it. Yet a month later I picked it up again and gave it another shot. No. I wanted to throw it into an open fireplace. With that book, I did not feel any connection to the characters nor investment in the storyline. 

That is the painful yet wonderful thing about books. No book is universally loved (or disliked). Some are loved more than others, and every book will receive harsh criticism from the readers who didn’t connect with it. 

I have gone back to my manuscript from this process with hope. I scored well from two judges, with comments full of praise and encouragement and a desire to read more. It has reminded me that I simply need to find the right person. The person who will love my book and who has the power to replicate it in a way so readers, my readers, will discover it and hold it in their hands, enjoying the work I have created. I have been reminded this work is worthy, but it wasn’t the right time. Maybe tomorrow will be, or next month. I don’t know when someone will say yes to me, but I have faith that they will, and until then I will keep searching for my cheerleader.

Furious Fiction February 2021 – The Witching Hour

Three in the morning. Twelve hours earlier and the students were cluttered in classrooms, sitting on the edge of their seats, watching the ticking clock. Ten minutes later and their bodies spilled into these hallways, the noise level peaking as lockers flung open and clanged shut. Five minutes of frantic activity, then silence is restored. But when the students are gone, the energy shifts. In the evenings, early mornings, weekends and pupil free days. Those are the times when I feel I am being watched. When I spin myself around to catch the person whose presence I feel on the back of my neck, only to discover no one is there.

Now here I am, tightening the belt on my coat. It is all the fault of Jacob Taylor. He was sent to my office for the second time last week. I asked myself what would Shane do, if he wasn’t locked down on the other side of the world. The pandemic that propelled me into the principals chair. Shane would organise a meeting with Jacob’s parents. So I did. Peter Taylor sat across from me, full of magnetic charm. I was hooked. When he mentioned he dabbled in ghost hunting the words tumbled out of my mouth, bypassing the filter which would have stopped them. Now Peter, two other middle aged men and a younger woman with flowery perfume, are huddled together, fiddling with suspicious looking equipment.

“Ready?” Peter says, raising his head and locking his eyes onto mine. I nod. He raises his hand onto the light switch and flicks. Darkness descends. I reach for my throat and hold my hand across it. My pulse speeding up, thumping adrenaline through my veins.

“Is anyone here? We only want to talk.” Peter says, holding a box in his hand. 

The woman holds up her phone and one of the other men, holding what appears to be an aerial, turns around and jabs it into my cheek.

“Ouch.”

“Well, get out of the way.”

My jaw drops. If he was a student his uncouth manner would see him with detention.

“Hello, we know you are there. Is it just you?” Peter says.

“I’m getting a reading.” The other man says.

“We will not harm you, please, give us a sign that you can hear us.” Peter says.

I hold my breath. 

Crash.

I scream and can feel someone grab my hand. 

“It’s ok Nic, this is what we came for.” Peter says into my ear.

I spray my hand up and turn on the light.

“No, you’ll scare it.” Aerial man says.

I can see a pile of books lying in the hallway. The ghost hunters scramble around. I look up above the locker where they must have been perched. My eye shifts to the classroom door. I walk across, turn the handle, lean on the door and wrap my hand around to turn on the light.

Crouched under a desk is a smirking Jacob Taylor.

“Detention Monday Taylor.”

Furious Fiction January 2021 – Escape Plan

Venetian blinds are a rental standard and this morning the sun is particularly bright as it rises and peeks through each individual gap, wedging itself under my eyelids. My ears tune into the roaring snore of Michael beside me. I feel my teeth grind, I should have told him to go home after dinner. I stare at the ceiling. Today is the day. Am I going to go through with it? I’m still on the proverbial fence. 

Uh! Michael’s phone blares out the sound of the dizi. It’s meant to wake him up gently, so as not to, alarm him. The sound bugs me because it reminds me of the time my downstairs was aggressively waxed when I decided to duck into the day spa during my lunch break last year. I had no appointment and found the place adjacent to the food court. I should have processed that information instead of walking through the door. I was applying ice for almost a week afterwards.

Michael opens his bagless eyes, raises his arms above his head and stretches. He turns to me.

“Hey Beautiful.” His dragon breath is offending my nose.

“You set your alarm early today.”

He sits himself up and cracks his knuckles. “I have a patient coming at 7:30, moved things around so we could get to the real estate office early and swap our signatures for two sets of keys.” He rolls out of bed and into the bathroom.

He has clients, not patients. Patients are people who receive medical treatment, not deep tissue massage. The distinction is clear to me, but Michael feels strongly otherwise. We had been dating over a month when I suggested he was using the wrong terminology. This lead to an argument, or debate, as he referred to it the next day. It lasted three hours and stopped because I needed to go home. If he wanted to sound like a tosser that was his choice.

He emerges from the bathroom looking fresh and I feel a butterfly in my stomach as I remember that cheeky smile was the reason I fell for him. He throws the wet towel on the bed and the feeling dissipates.

He dresses and we head to the kitchen. I make coffee as he blends his collection of items from the fridge into a frothy green concoction which is tipped into a stainless steel bottle. I follow him to the garage where he opens the door and collects his bicycle. As he straps on his helmet he looks up and down the hallway.

“It will be much better in our place. That house has the correct feng shui.”

He leans over and kisses my cheek then climbs on the bike. I watch him vanish before I wipe his still wet kiss off. Nope, I can’t live with him. Decision made. I glace at my watch. Two hours to come up with an escape plan. Better get to work.

*This was entered into the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition for January 2021