When I returned to work this week after a six-month maternity leave, I was surprisingly calm.
Sure, my youngest son was still waking three or four times a night and my work hours had shifted to begin well before dawn. I wasn't sure how I'd manage on less than four hours of sleep each night.
Somehow, though, I knew it would all work out.
Maybe my laid-back outlook was the result of being a second-time parent. Perhaps it was because I was able to take an extended leave — 2.5 months longer than I had taken with my eldest son two years earlier — and felt better prepared to return to the workforce.
As a first-time mom, I cared far too much about things I couldn't control. This time around, my husband and I just went with it. We'd cared for a newborn before, but parenting a strong-willed toddler? We're still learning on the job.
My eldest son remains my wild child. He's been the boss of our home since the moment he was born. We tiptoed around him when he slept and planned outings based on his feeding and sleeping schedules. We catered to his every need.
With the birth of our second son last fall, we all needed to adjust.
This was hardest for big brother, who suddenly had to share his parents with a needy, squirmy, not-yet-playful infant. Separately, my husband and I took him on special outings — to libraries, parks, playgrounds and pumpkin patches — to ensure he knew he wasn't forgotten.
Fortunately, my eldest adapted well. He has his moments, of course, but loves, hugs and looks out for his baby brother.
Just last month, while attending "mommy and me" yoga with both of my boys, a young girl borrowed my baby's teething ring and wandered off. My oldest son chased down the girl and snatched the toy from her hand.
"Brother's toy!" he yelled and pushed the ring into my youngest's hand.
I wasn't sure whether to scold my eldest or to praise him for looking out for his baby brother. Motherhood is weird like that.
We learned that we regularly need to divide and conquer, with each parent caring for one child at bath, bed and meal times. It also meant shrugging when your toddler consumes a fruit-based dinner one night and a meal of meat the next.
The extended leave also allowed extra time to enjoy several activities I never attempted while home with my first son.
We sang and giggled at weekly story time at our local library and met with other new moms at a breastfeeding support group. We also discovered that babies are welcome at the walking track at our local YMCA. Several times each week I walked pushing my youngest in the stroller or, if he fussed, in his carrier.
It also meant a few special outings, including picking fresh produce at a local farm. Just last week, I plucked big brother from daycare for an impromptu trip to the zoo.
I left my youngest son with his new caregiver Monday morning, a move that nearly left me in tears with my eldest two year earlier. I unpacked his bag, hugged him and left without remembering to snap a keepsake photo.
After work, I rushed to collect him expecting a grin and a hug.
No dice. He burst into tears upon spotting me, then promptly fell asleep on the car ride home.
Eh, We'll just continue to roll with it. It will all work out as its meant to.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Returning to work is easier after baby #2. Here's why