As a parent of one child I thought I had everything under control. Baby sleeps through the night? Check. Baby eats a variety of vegetables and interesting textures? Of course. Baby is surpassing all required milestones and showing up the other babies at playgroup? Oh, stop! No need to show off now.
I was clearly a natural at this parenting gig.
And then number two came along. Poor little dude. It's amazing how much your parenting style can change from your first child to your second, or, as I call ours, the Runner Up.
* Research *
Firstborn:You read ALL THE BOOKS. Join ALL THE FORUMS. Read every single pamphlet you can get your hands on in the Doctor's waiting room. You name drop baby whisperers like they're members of your family. You know everything there is to know about babies. You could write your own book. In fact, you start a mummy blog to share all the amazing things that you've learnt.
Runner up:You flick through a few pages of your battered copy of 'Baby Love' to remind you of the bits you've conveniently forgotten, and read through your old blog posts as a refresher. No problems, you've got this!
* Bath time *
Firstborn:You lovingly bathe your precious cherub every evening, in a relaxing bath filled with appropriately diluted lavender essential oils, followed by a therapeutic baby massage.
Runner up: Unless the kid has got actual shit on more than 20% of its body, a 'festival bath' (i.e. a quick swipe with a baby wipe) will suffice.
* Stimulation / Entertainment *
Firstborn:You have a printable of stimulating activities (derived from all of the research you've done) that are appropriate to your baby's age and stage, stuck on the fridge. You do these activities religiously in the 45 minutes of the 'play' part of your baby's eat-play-sleep routine. Expensive black and white toys, Baby Einstein DVD's and soft cuddlies with lots of different textures are arranged neatly in the toy box which has been designed to fit in with your stylish lounge room décor.
Runner up: You stick Peppa Pig on the TV while you chase your toddler around the lounge room with clean plants. Baby is both entertained and stimulated. Job done.
* Cleanliness *
Firstborn:At the first drop of dirt, milk, vomit, food or poop your baby gets a complete outfit change, including fresh socks. If you fall victim to any of the aforementioned bodily fluids, you rush to have a shower, wash your hair and put on your own fresh outfit. You change your bed sheets at the slightest milky posset, and use a fresh towel for each relaxing bath (see above).
Runner up:The 'sniff test' comes in to play on a daily basis. Brown smudgey stain on bub's pants? The sniff test will tell you whether it's chocolate (quick wipe will do) or if it's actually shit, in which case a new pair of leggings might be warranted. You regularly leave the house with vomit on your clothes or in your hair. Your bed sheets have little stains all over them from a variety of bodily fluids. Baby wipes are hidden strategically throughout the house for emergencies.
* Nappy watch *
Firstborn: You check bub's nappy every 20 minutes to determine whether it's time for a change. The minute a wee lands, you rush to change the nappy to avoid any irritation. Sometimes you're so quick to change the nappy that bub fills the fresh one before you've even secured the sticky tabs.
Runner up:Sometimes the nappy gets so full that it drags down between bub's legs, leaving their miniature plumber's crack on display and giving the whole room a whiff of the nappy's contents.
* Feeding *
Firstborn:You lovingly prepare every meal from scratch, using organic produce, planning out each day's meals to ensure you've included all of the required nutrients. Your baby sits in an expensive, padded high chair to eat, using specially designed 'weaning spoons' and ergonomic sippy cups.
Runner up:Baby's first food is quite likely to be a hot chip grabbed off your plate, with a choc chip biscuit chaser. The fancy high chair has been replaced with a plastic Ikea number, and they eat with whatever you can find in the draw. Sometimes it's a chopstick.
* Record keeping *
Firstborn:You keep a weekly record of baby's development in an expensive, personalised baby book. First smile, first gurgle, first words, all recorded for posterity. You keep bub's hospital ID band, umbilical cord clip and birth card in a special box, along with a lock of hair from the first haircut. Every page of baby's 'Blue Book' is filled out, and all appointments and checks are booked months in advance. Every new word learnt, or skill developed, is captured. You know how many words your first baby could say at 13 months of age, and have them listed alphabetically, categorised by one or two syllables, and what context they were used in.
Runner up: You're not entirely sure what their first word was, but you claim it was 'mumma'. Although it was possibly 'dadda'. Or 'Peppa Pig'. You scribble down a few milestones on various scraps of paper throughout the house, never to be found again. You feel like Super Mum when you make your bub's vaccination appointments on time.
* Clothing *
Firstborn: Baby has an overflowing wardrobe jam-packed with adorable, expensive and completely impractical outfits, and you take great pains to ensure that they wear every single one of them.
Runner up:Hand-me-downs and Kmart cheapies are de rigueur. If someone gifts you an outfit that has real buttons on it you quickly hide it in the back of the cupboard. Ain't nobody got time for that shit.
* Screen time *
Firstborn: Screen time is limited to 30 minutes per day, preferably a Baby Einstein DVD. At the very least it is educational and ad-free.
Runner up:The TV is on from the moment they come home from hospital. They know the names of all of the crew in the Night Garden by their 1st birthday, and can swipe through the iPad to find the CBeebies app before you can say "low battery".
* Discipline *
Firstborn: You read all the books on gentle parenting you can get your hands on, and practice the 1-2-3-Magic! technique to great effect. You only ever raise your voice if your child is in danger, and they listen to you when you ask them to do something.
Runner up:You regularly yell, scream and lose your shit. Abandon all hope. You're outnumbered now, sucker, and you don't stand a chance.
How about you? Did your parenting style change much from baby 1 to baby 2? What about baby 3?? Or 4???
For more like this, check out the blog at Toilets aren't for Turtles, or follow Mumma McD (Rachel McDougall) on Facebook and Twitter, as she blogs about the absurdity of raising her Little Miss Threenager, and her Terrible Two-Year-Old a.k.a. The Stuntman.