Raising Your First Child vs. Second Child (So Different)

Alex and I were laughing the other day about how differently we’ve approached parenting with our second child versus our first. You learn to be so much more relaxed! Comedian Jason Good wrote this pitch-perfect comparison in his book This is Ridiculous, This is Amazing

Raising Your First vs. Your Second Child
By Jason Good, father of two

First Kid: All homemade in special baby-food processor. Quinoa! Spinach! Sweet potatoes!
Second Kid: Crackers.

First Kid: Crib that Daddy put together himself while Mommy yelled at him.
Second Kid: Mommy’s bed. Daddy now has his own room with a mattress on the floor surrounded by dirty socks.

First Kid: One hundred percent organic cotton. Some even made of bamboo?
Second Kid: His brother’s old clothes.

First Kid: In our backyard with a piñata hanging from the Japanese maple.
Second Kid: Pizza on the floor.

First Kid: Every night in a special bathtub that’s just the right size. Hand-washed with a soft cloth or silky sponge.
Second Kid: Twice a week. Swimming pools count.

Nighttime Routine
First Kid: Swaddled in a Miracle Blanket. “Baby Beluga” sung to him. Asleep by 7:30pm.
Second Kid: Falls asleep on the sofa with mom’s boob in his mouth at 10:30pm.

First Kid: Playgroups, mommy and baby get-togethers in the park!
Second Kid: His brother’s friends.

First Kid: All handmade out of wood. Mostly Swedish.
Second Kid: The boxes his brother’s toys came in.

TV Rules
First Kid: PBS/Sesame Street only. Two 23-minute shows per day.
Second Kid: Has his own Netflix account.

First Kid: Something European with an umlaut in its name.
Second Kid: Old muddy shoes with faded umlaut and missing sole insert.

Potty Training
First Kid: Diapers, then some kind of training underwear, then underwear.
Second Kid: Might crap in a diaper until college.

First Kid: A wonderful woman named Sarah, whom he loves and will cherish for the rest of his life.
Second Kid: Doesn’t have one. We never go out.

P.S. The crazy things you do as a parent, and 20 surprising parenting tips.

(Top photo by Alpha Smoot of Kendra‘s adorable little ones; it was an outtake from this shoot. Book excerpt via Parents)

  1. mary says...

    Hahah! We have a 3 year year old and a 6 month old…and yes, we never go out. ;)

  2. Dorise says...

    Love this!! 100% accurate. I might add with the first child if the boppy falls on the floor you boil it and with the second one you may wipe it on your pants leg, but most likely just give it back to them ;-)

  3. Lucy says...

    My favourite is second child: has his own netflix account hahaha

  4. Libertad Vera says...

    i laugh so hard! … i have a 7 moths old baby and i want a second one in a few years. this is so funny and cute :P

  5. Em says...

    This is just too funny! Thanks for the laugh!!!

  6. I’ve shared these brilliant quips with every one of my friends who are parents. Had me laughing out loud. We linked to it on Videndae :) As always, thanks Jo!

  7. Could not be more true! But I think a more relaxed parent is a better parent, so even though my second child does not get as much one-on-one attention as his sister did, he’s waaaayyy more independent which I think will help him in the long run.

  8. I skipped the First Child thing. My only child always had the “privileges” of being raised as a Second Child. =D

  9. It’s funny. I have it just the opposite way. Way less relaxed with my second one (just made some quinoa with kale for dinner)).

  10. ha! just today i was feeling guilty for not doing any mommy and me classes with my second child (9months) while my first born was already taking swim lessons by now.

  11. Oh my gosh this is so incredible spot on! I read something similar recently about nursing your first vs. your third child that was equally spot on. We have three under three and I can totally relate to all these… Funny!

  12. Love this. I have three (6, 3, 7 mo) and it is so true. Some lady told me that my baby didn’t have socks on and I just laughed and said, “At least she’s dressed today – she’s a third child!”. I don’t love my third any less, but after having been through this a few times, I realize that meeting the basic needs of children is not as complex as we assume it is the first time around.

    For those for whom this post doesn’t “resonate”, go and read your little one “Little House in the Big Woods” tonight. I just started it with my six year old. At least your kids don’t have to get the salt pork ready for the winter so you won’t starve! We live in amazing times where everyone can have a full belly of fresh food through the winter (bananas! in January!), a ride to school in a warm car or bus, and clothes that you didn’t have to make yourself. And real toys, not a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  13. While reading this I had to laugh a lot. At the moment we only have one child but I’m sure that we are going to read this again when our second child is on the way.

    Thanks for this.

    Love, Nina

  14. Ha! And #3 is even better. Not easier, but so much more fun. we are more relaxed and devour the small things so much more with #3.

  15. If you’ve ever read any of Jason Good’s stuff you will know how much he loves and cherishes each child and I mean beyond love. He’s just really funny and that’s how I took this. It’s true! You are more relaxed, the love is not less, not even close, you just don’t fret over every little thing and of course this is exaggerated! I have two so I get it and very true.

  16. This is so funny and ridiculously true for me. My 2nd child is currently dressed entirely in her older sisters beautiful children’s boutique outfit and shoes that have seen much better days, still in diapers at almost 3, and watching a non pbs show on netflix while eating crackers, completely true story. That said to the commenters that find this post sad I actually think I’m a much better parent to my younger child in many ways. She loves those hand me down dresses and likes to look at pictures of her sister wearing them also, I’m not pushing her to potty train like I did her sister (she will let me know when she is ready and I’m not panicked about timelines/milestones anymore), we still limit screen time but we are definitely more liberal the second time around and the crackers are organic at least:) We don’t love are 2nd child any less we have just learned that a lot of the things that we thought were so crucial the first time around in fact don’t matter. Things are absolutely more hectic but I thing our younger daughter actually benefits from all the activity and the more relaxed parenting.

  17. Haha, this is all true. I’m the middle of three and I definitely had an easier time that my older brother (so much less pressure)!

  18. thanks for these comments! for us, i think it’s actually way more fun for anton (the second child) because the house is always noisy and full of adventures and he gets to do all these fun childhood things (going down the slide on his belly, eating sugar before the age of two:) without his mama worrying so much! :)

  19. This is hilarious! I really feel for my friends who are raising their 4th child!

  20. I found this rather funny, and I took it to mean that you are more relaxed with subsequent children…not neglectful. I only have one baby now (he just turned one). I know that we want at least one more, probably 2 and so I will try and be aware of making it as even as possible. There are benefits of being the second or third child as well. My younger sister had way more freedom and less intense parents growing up and I know she enjoyed that very much. Plus as the baby she was kinda spoiled and my mom still helps pay for her schooling (at 26 years old). My mom would never have given me money at 26…which is totally fine. We both had benefits to our birth order and negatives. It is just how it goes. I am curious to see how she will feel about this, I am going to share it with her and see.

  21. Well, to make the 2nd (and 3rd) kids feel better, I feel like this is not entirely accurate. What happens (at least for us) after the arrival of the second is that the standards for *everyone* dropped. So it is more like this:

    1st kid: Exclusive BF-ing. Then Diced organic veggies and free-range meat.
    1st kid after sibling arrives: crackers.
    2nd kid: breastmilk (but terribly envious of 1st’s crackers)

    1st kid: No TV. Only wooden toys.
    1st kid after sibling arrives: Netflix account (what else while 2nd in marathon BF-ing session???)
    2nd kid: TV often on so (unlike 1st)completely uninterested.

    1st kid: Lovingly matched organic outfits plus matching bow
    1st kid after sibling arrives: Daddy dresses. Daddy does hair. (You can imagine the results!)
    2nd kid: Different sex. Everyone releases pent-up urge to buy boys clothes; receive two dozen overalls and newsboy caps.

    And so on. Basically everyone’s lives become messier and more chaotic – but often more joyful – and Mom and Dad just end up eating crackers, watching Dora reruns and wearing mismatched clothes themselves!

  22. HAHAHA I literally sprayed water (like a whale) all over my desk.

  23. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t think it was funny. I believe you are more relaxed with subsequent children, but I don’t think you have to be lazy or borderline neglectful about them. I had three rather close in age and I would like to think they all had special birthdays, nice clothes, healthful food, etc.

  24. True, true TRUE! I don’t agree with comments about this being sad or negative – I’m sure the second (and any subsequent babies) are less highly-strung, more content and just different to their older siblings. We learn a lot after the first one (and that a lot of what we do and worry about with the first is unnecesary!)

  25. This post doesn’t really resonate very well with me either. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to space your children apart enough, then you will have plenty of time with each kid. My first two are three years apart and my second has had three years of solid mama time while my #1 is in school all day. I am expecting my third any day now and #3 will be nearly five years apart from #2. I realize not everyone is able to space kids apart this far, but it can really make a difference.

  26. I have to admit, I felt really ambivalent reading this. It’s completely true. I have a 2.5 year old and a 10 month old, and on the one hand, I know absolutely that the entire family benefits from me being less of a control freak with our second than I was with our first. On the other hand, I really worry that she’ll be/feel a bit neglected, especially in the early years when she just can’t compete for attention with the wider range of things her brother can do – talking, running around, joking, etc. Trying to be really thoughtful about making sure she gets the same love and attention, even if I’m too pulled in 70 billion directions to fuss about the details the way I did for her brother. Seems like a balancing act.

  27. ND says...

    Interesting, I didn’t quite find this to be true for me and my younger sibling. At times I felt like the “practice child” since my parents were more careful to capture moments of my brother after not thinking to do it with me. Of course, that was before smartphones with photo and video cameras :)

  28. hilarious! i’m literally laughing. so true.

  29. I don’t have children yet, but am a second sibling. I’m glad there are some people who feel the same as me and find this post more sad than funny. I remember being really sad growing up that there were no baby pictures of me but albums and albums of my sister. And just in general a feeling of not having things as nice like giant themed birthday parties that my parents threw for my sister growing up. And she was always able to make more friends than me too, partly because they were so keen to socialize her while I did just tag along with her friends. I remember as a little kid wondering if they loved her more than me. Of course now I know it’s just the way parenting is, but when I have kids I would be sure to not let the younger ones feel that way. Or just have one child if I can’t treat them the same. This post doesn’t resonate well with me either.

  30. This is really cute. We just found out we’re expecting number 2, and I can already tell the difference.

  31. Hahaha as a first child I can totally relate to that!! There are 3 huge photo albums at home dedicated to… my first year of life! Then, there’s another one, which is just semi-full of my younger brother baby photos, and as @anniethered says, more than half feature me! And he always inherited my clothes, except for the most girly ones (which were few, since my mother never dressed me in pink, and basically dressed me as a tomboy… I guess she wanted a boy first!)

  32. This is all so true! i’m the 4th child in my family (invisible?), which may have some bearing on the decision we made to have just one. Our little guy gets the best (and worst) of us. we feel complete.

  33. Imagine the 3rd kid.
    You could have something about putting in sports/activities. So different.

  34. Haha, I howled with laughter as I read down. How true!!! I have 3 kids, I reckon my eldest, a girl will be a scientist, my middle guy something arty & my youngest (another girl), possibly a pole dancer – it’s where we at!

  35. My mom once heard somewhere,
    “Your first child eats dirt, you call the pediatrician. Your second child eats dirt, you rinse his mouth out. Your third child eats dirt, you think, ‘great! I don’t have to feed him dinner!'”

  36. This made me laugh out loud! I’m pregnant with our second and I barely think about it, whereas with our first, pregnancy was ALL I thought about!

    I’m the oldest of six so you can imagine how “neglected” the last couple were. Haha, not really… we are all very loved. But it’s pretty funny to see what the younger kids’ experiences are as compared to us older ones!

  37. That last comment from Cambodia was me, Alexis. Not my husband, Tyler, haha.

  38. Haha too funny! We are hoping for another baby sometime next year so this is what I will be expecting, huh? :)

  39. I have twins so I had my first and second kids at the same time! We fall somewhere in the middle. There is some cute clothes and baby beluga but 2 infants is all about survival!

  40. I have twin 3-year-old boys and sometimes I feel like I have two first-borns and sometimes I feel like I have two second kids!

    They both ate organic baby food that I cooked and pureed myself and they play with wooden toys instead of watching TV (first-borns), but neither one has even one page of his baby book filled out and we certainly don’t do bath time every night (second kids).

    The best part, though, is that I never have to attribute any of their natural differences to birth order and wonder if I’m to blame because I wasn’t as attentive with the second baby or something. For better or worse, they are getting the same treatment!

  41. Another one I’d add..

    First kid: Every childhood moment lovingly documented (pictures, journals, videos, etc.)
    Second kid: There are two pictures of him, both featuring his older sibling. Parents know he got his first tooth at some point but can’t remember exactly when or how it happened.

    As a second child myself, I can only laugh at this point. Glad to know it wasn’t just my family!

  42. So true! All of it. I’ve got two and as much as I tried to avoid this, it still happened.

  43. jm says...


  44. As one of six and a mother of three, this made me laugh so hard! It’s not that you love or care for number two, or three any less, it’s that you realize the little things don’t matter so much and you’re relaxed enough in your role as a parent to not worry about every little detail. New clothes don’t make happy adults!

  45. LOL these are really funny and so true.
    I have 2 children. I was so young with the first, she sort of raised herself and we are all happy she did such a good job.
    The baby boy, I was semi grown up with him so he might have had a more structured childhood but otherwise, having 2 children before I was 24 was wonderful in so many ways. They are old now lol and I am happy that we all can get along so well, since I am so very very young :)

  46. So timely. I just posted the below to my FB. Your post made me laugh, be sad and feel guilty all in one read…bc some is all too true. And I swore I wouldn’t let the second get “leftovers”.
    When Annika was Gemma’s age and younger I did adventures at least 3x a week. We did the aquarium, zoo, LACMA, Getty, beach, downtown, etc. Ive never done the same just for Gemma. I’ve not only felt guilty for short changing Gemma but I’ve noticed a difference in how they’re developing. Today I spent the morning with just Gemma at the beach and Santa Monica. I gave her my undivided attention. We did what she wanted. After, we went to lunch and I must admit I dread eating out with Gemma. She’s loud and unsettled, what you would expect from children. But Annika was never like this. One of the differences I’ve noticed and worried about. Today was the first time Gemma sat politely through a meal at a restaurant. It was heaven. It’s what I’ve hoped my efforts were developing but I chalked up her “bad” behavior to her innate personality. Today, I fully realized how empowering it is for a child to get to do what they want from time to time within reason. I realized how empowering my sole focus is for her and how thrilled she was to see we were doing an adventure just for her. Today I had a big ah-ha moment!

  47. Aw, heylottiegrey, it’s not about cherishing children in a specific familial position more, or less, of course not! It’s more to do with instinctive, ‘good enough’ parenting versus somewhat anxious rule book stuff that marks you as a textbook ‘good’ parent when you’re a naive first-time parent; in my own case at least, not speaking for Joanna of course. My boys are 20 months apart, they are now 10.5 and almost 9 and – duh to my former anxious self! – both seem sane and happy (and get on really well together, phew!)

  48. I laughed out loud reading this. I gotta read this guys book, so hilarious and so true. I feel so bad for my number 2. I can only hope that having a built in friend at home makes up for it.

  49. Hehe this is vey funny! NOT that I am planning any more children, one is quite enough! How do you do it mamas?!?
    IF i do have more kids, I will be sure to come and check this out again! x

  50. Jenn, I’m the third like I said and even though I never had new clothes and there are no videos of my first steps, I know my parents love me and were proud of me. There’s also a benefit to not coming first, I’ve found. You’re not as sheltered and you’re more self-reliant. I don’t know if others will agree but that was my experience.

  51. LOL!! SO true!! And it only gets “worse” (or better? We worry a little less) with each one. ;) Our oldest, who is nearly 17, says we were “Victorian” parents with her and the middle 13-year-old guy…and now we’re “Hippie” parents with their 6-year-old brother. (She might be on to something…)

  52. Jason Good is so funny! I’m glad you reminded me to get his book!

  53. Hahahahahaha!

  54. I was literally rocking my (first born) daughter to sleep singing Baby Beluga while reading this haha

  55. This is hilarious! I’m the oldest of three, and remember how the other two completely got the shaft – even as far as childhood snapshots! We wish we had more younger-year pictures of them … while there’s albums and albums of me … :-) Being the oldest had (and still has) its perks, even at age 26.

  56. hysterical! this is so true, I have a two year old and a 5 month old. Poor kid is never going to have anything new! Also, you get so lax with the older kid when the second one is a newborn. “Wheat thins and a cheese stick for dinner? SURE!”

  57. bahaha “Has his own Netflix account.”

  58. This is hilarious. Being the older sibling I was able to even see the difference in how our parents raised us. Love the food and clothing comparison especially.

  59. Do parents feel badly about this, or understand if second children feel badly about this? I’m the second child, and if I complain, I just get told I’m making things up, and that actually the first child had it harder. Uh no, it was harder for the parents the first time around, not the kid! So much personalized attention! More than the fact that it happens, the fact that my parents refuse to acknowledge it makes me insane.

  60. So, so true! We have three boys and even though #3 doesn’t quite have his own Netflix account, he does know how to use the remote to turn on the TV and imitates his brothers with the Wii Steering Wheel they use for Mario Kart. Also, yes, swimming pools totally count as a bath.

  61. I needed a good laugh today. Thanks!

  62. I think if you come from a very large family, you start somewhere around second kid. At least in my case! Although if you’re going to co-sleep, just own it– the bed is actually much safer than the couch!

  63. Haha, Kiana – me too! My baby album was, like, half filled.

  64. This actually makes me sad even though it’s meant to be comical. Also I know families where the first child came unexpected and the second one was more cherished since her arrival was planned and parents were ready to fully embrace the experience of being a family, not just newly weds who happened to have a baby a bit too soon.

    Anyway, this post doesn’t really resonate well with me.

  65. Ha! I’m the third child. Imagine what my life was like!

  66. Loved this. “Second has his own Netflix account.” Basically.