5 Reasons Why the Second Year As a Mom Is So Much Better Than the First

The newborn days are precious—but not much fun—compared to the toddler years.

Mother and baby daughter playing in living room JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images
I have to trust that people are telling the truth—their truth—when they say that their first year as a new parent was the best of their lives. My truth was much blearier than that: As a new mom to twins, I spent a lot of the first year tired and confused, not to mention healing from surgery in those early weeks post c-section. My body was still recovering (and, contrary to celebrity Instagrams, that's not a two-week process). And my whole sense of self was catching up to the new world order. Now that I'm a seasoned—relatively—mom to precious 20-month-old toddlers, I'm here to report that this second year has been so much more comfortable, fun, joyful—and sane. Here's why.

1. Hormones have stabilized.

I spent a lot of my first year as a mom in a daze—even if i didn't know it at the time. The hormone crash after delivering two babies was intense. I cried all the time for the first several weeks, about similar arbitrary things that I cried about while hormones rage in pregnancy—like poignant commercials for jewelry and toothpaste. Hormones also messed with other things in addition to mood, for instance causing that crazy-making hair loss so common (but rarely discussed) in the months following pregnancy. The destabilizing effects of the hormonal changes were no joke—and I'm so glad that's over.

2. The identity transition is complete.

I had my babies at that "advanced maternal age" of 35-plus, and that meant I'd had plenty of time to get adjusted—and comfortable—in my adult life without children. So having them meant a big identity shift—the biggest of a lifetime—and managing the adjustment was a huge hurdle. It wasn't just the saying no to spontaneous plans and travel—though there was plenty of that, and it was hard to do. But it was learning to understand myself in a new role, as a mom, and figure out how to weave that identity through with pieces of my individuality. After a year, I knew how to do that comfortably. And it was such a relief, and a joy I felt ready to embrace.

3. I finally felt rested.

Needless to say, new parents get very little sleep. And with two babies, I could pretty much guarantee at least one was awake most hours around the clock. It was hard. It was a painful slog. It felt like it would never end. And I just couldn't feel like myself— could never get a true sense of the big picture—when I was that fatigued. But now my babies are both sleeping through the night, and it's like a whole new world. Everything is possible when you're rested and ready to conquer the day!

4. It's more fun.

When I had twin newborns, my husband and I felt like Lucy and Ethel on the chocolate factory line: moving as fast as we could just to stay afloat, albeit without grace, and generally failing badly at that. It was a nonstop rotation of diapers, feeding, burping—and little else. These days, there's way more fun to be had than simply getting by: Our kids crack us up on the regular with their funny new words (half of which are not actually English), their erratic but enthusiastic dance moves, and their nonstop giggles—which I wish I could bottle up and have forever. They rock out in music class, have fun playing in the sprinklers, and otherwise respond to life's bounty of activities. Not for nothing, but I'll take this joyful, fun, interactive phase over the newborn period any day!

5. Kids reciprocate love.

It might have helped get us through those Lucy and Ethel days if our kids could have shown us some love back. The faint smiles came after just a few weeks, but nothing compares to the sweet, sloppy expressions of love we get these days. They blow us kisses, grab onto our legs to get us to stay close, and call out for us ("Mommy! Daddy!") when we're not in eyesight. Now it feels like we're truly all not just acquainted, but fully bonded by the most powerful love—in both directions—forever.