The Challenges of a Second Child

Split Attention and Double the Load

Challenge: Mom's Attention Deficit

None of my years as a multitasking professional prepared me for simultaneously meeting the physical and emotional needs of two children. To me, this is the single biggest (and ongoing) challenge.

"I'm juggling," agrees Maryann LoRusso, of San Francisco, whose kids are 4 and 1. She compares it to triage; you assess a situation to see who needs you more at that moment. "You have to be there for the child whose needs are more immediate -- help with the potty, a kiss for a boo-boo -- and help the other one cope with the fact that he or she is not the only creature in the universe," she says.

My neighbor Jennifer Rinaldi enlists the help of her son, who is 4, when her daughter, 1 1/2, craves more attention. "I use it as an opportunity to teach Lucas compassion and have him respond to Maia's needs," she says. "He feels like the important big brother, and Maia gets twice the attention."

The silver lining: Just as your big kid has to get used to sharing you, you have to get used to being shared. But once you relax into not trying to be all-available all the time, you can take a step back and give both kids a little more room to solve their own problems.

Experts recommend scheduling one-on-one time with each child; for instance, sit and draw pictures with your big kid when the baby is napping, and take a mommy-and-me class with your little one when her sibling is at preschool. Finally, the support of fellow moms helps; try dropping your big kid off for a playdate when you need some I-can't-do-it-all commiseration or time with the baby.

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