Psychology
07 Sep 2018

The first child is an endurance test but the second can be more user-friendly

If the first child turns our life upside down like a hurricane, we welcome the second with the patience of an experienced meteorologist. Nearly everything can be foreseen, leaving time and space for new activities.

Wysokie Obcasy
Anna Szydlarska Wysokie Obcasy, Global
The first child is an endurance test but the second can be more user-friendly - NewsMavens
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The following is a translation of an article by Anna Szydlarska which appeared in “Wysokie Obcasy” in July 2018

Child number one is an endurance test in the struggle for balance between our expectations and reality. The second baby offers more calm and is more “user-friendly” -- practice automatizes actions, so we’re more experienced and better prepared. Children love a daily routine because it gives them a sense of security. Nevertheless, control and stability could become an easy trap for young mums and dads. Old habits, however beneficial for little ones, can easily lead their parents to a dangerous stagnation.

In most cases we associate holiday leave from work with carefree holidays and opening up to new sensations.

That is why the second maternity leave, although intended for nursing the newborn baby, could become an unexpected chance for self-exploration.

And although days are always too short, for multitasking mothers less time often means getting more things done. Paradoxically!

If it hadn’t been for her children and their rapidly changing physical appearance, Aleksandra Siatecka wouldn’t have gone back to her old hobby -- photography. Her desire to capture the precious moments before they faded away was so intense, the former photographer had to learn her profession once again, nearly from the beginning: “It’s been a while since art school and the old bathroom I’d transformed into my private dark room. I’ve missed out on significant technological progress, so I had to master new equipment and learn digital editing”. But it was worth the effort. Aleksandra’s shots of her newborn son and her older daughter were so enthusiastically received by her friends that her photo documentation of her private life quickly turned into a business. 

Agnieszka Badyna-Graczyk, a blogger and a manager at an international hotel, when asked what her second maternity gave her, always replies: ‘Time!’. For her, a prestigious job, financial independence and happy marriage simply weren’t enough.

She wanted to show her daughter that a girl is able to achieve anything she wants by herself, and that one’s gender makes no difference.

Before her caesarean section stitches healed, Agnieszka had already been making plans on getting back to her sport career. She used to participate in cycling championships, so her body is accustomed to torturous trainings. The fact that her last competition took place 20 years back didn’t worry her at all. 

“Whatever I was doing, I had this strong feeling of lack and emptiness at the back of my head,” says Agnieszka. “Thanks to my children, who always require my full attention, I realized that what I’ve been missing all these years, was sport!”

Just to make the following months of her maternity leave a bit harder, Agnieszka decided to do a triathlon. With her methodical approach, she scrupulously coordinates her plans and the training schedule with a physiotherapist. And even though her daughter was born only 5 months ago, Agnieszka - firmly supported by her husband - believes she can do it. 

For Alexandra Siateckiej, coming back to a full-time position would mean resigning from diverse and exciting daily activities with her children and all other kids. Afraid of taking that risk, she’s been stretching out her parental leave as far as she could. She stubbornly denies it, but her inventive, whimsical photography sessions are often compared to ingenious shoots by Anne Geddes. As opposed to the Australian photographer, Alexandra doesn’t limit her work to motionless, sleeping babies. She takes pictures of newborns, toddlers and older children with different sorts of disabilities, often accompanied by their parents or grandparents. She emphasises that her passion turned into work only thanks to her kids. They were her first and most precious models, bravely enduring all mum’s artistic visions and eagerly role-playing fairy tale and cartoon characters with help of various props and costumes. The fact that they always treated the photo sessions as a form of great entertainment, gave Alexandra free rein to her imagination and allowed her to realize even the most experimental ideas.

"Compared to maternity leave, my previous way of living was incredibly dull. When you become a mother, you start to feel the strong need to re-evaluate your life, do a bit of an existential tidying-up" says Agnieszka Badyna-Graczyk

"I’ve always been highly adaptable and could quickly adjust to new situations. And since my daughter has been a calm and happy baby, I reckoned that my absence caused by frequent trainings wouldn’t be too much of an issue. And luckily, I was correct," she adds.

Finding time for new activities will most likely require some reorganization. Your second, third or any following maternity often turns out less dreamy and idealistic than the first one. At some point you might start feeling that meeting all expectations and overcoming all problems is simply impossible.

That’s when you should start thinking a little bit about yourself:

1. If after your first, second or the following birth you’re able to find time and energy for a self-realization -- use it!

2. The inclination to do something you’ve always dreamt of doing could become your motivation. If you already feel professionally satisfied and you don’t fancy finding a new hobby, you could try and use your maternity leave to master the already acquired abilities, e.g. polishing up your foreign language skills.

3. Time spent with your child could also be a way of enjoying your maternity - the choice is yours!

***

Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach

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