There's an old joke about how your parenting style changes with each child. First-time parents are apt to sterilze the baby's toys each night and boil the binkie the instant it drops on the floor. Second-time parents wash the toys when they look a little grubby and rinse the pacifier with tap water. Parents with three or more kids? The toys get outgrown before they get cleaned and the paci gets wiped off on a clean corner of mom's shirt before being popped back into the baby's mouth. A little dirt helps build the immune system, right?
Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorensen's new book, "How to Have Your Second Child First: 100 Things That Are Good to Know... the First Time Around," is full of easy-to-read nuggets of wisdom and quotes from experienced moms and dads, as well as short "Second-Timer Tips" from parents who have been there, done that, laundered the spit-up covered T-shirt. It's the book I wish I had when my first baby was born.
Even though I had three stepkids by the time she came along, my first baby was, well, my first baby. Between my former life as a nanny and my experience as a stepmom, I had seen every developmental stage from toddler on up, but newborns were still new to me. I could really have used tips number 11 ("Don't fear the nighttime noises. New babies are the noisiest sleepers you can imagine."), number 24 ("Put 'Me Time' into maternity leave"), and number 61 ("It's okay for you and your baby to 'do nothing' all day").
Though the information is written in light-hearted, accessible language and presented in an easy-to-browse bullet-point format, it touches on some heavier stuff (how new fathers may feel left out at first, for example, and guilt about leaving your baby with a sitter) and offers suggestions on how to cope. New parents may not feel comfortable putting all of the advice into practice, but "How to Have Your Second Child First" has plenty of ideas that are worth considering. And there's not a single judgmental parenting drive-by in the bunch.
Seasoned parents, share your tips: What do you know now that you wish you had known the first time around?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.