Family or Marriage Finances & Money

How Much More Work Are Two Kids Compared To One?

This guest post was written by Mike from Quest For Four Pillars, a blog about personal finance and more. Feel free to visit his site and subscribe to his feed.

My wife and I recently had our second child, a beautiful baby girl. When we had our son two years ago, it was quite an adjustment to having to be on someone else’s schedule instead of just doing whatever you want, whenever you want. Although I’ve been told that having two young kids can be more than twice the work of one child, I guess I didn’t really believe them. As it turns out, it’s been a huge amount of work!

Which is more difficult?

I had a conversation with a friend several months ago before we had the new baby and I told him that I thought going from zero kids to one kid has to be a bigger adjustment than going from one kid to two kids. My logic was that with any number of kids, you have to plan around the kids, babysit them all the time etc, whereas before the kid arrived, you had unlimited freedom (relatively speaking). Since you are already committed to being a full-time parent with one child, so adding a second child shouldn’t add to the responsibility level – even if it is more actual work.

My friend told me that he had a similar conversation with his wife and another couple and the two women agreed with my idea that going from zero to one kid was a bigger jump than going from one to two kids. Much to my surprise, my friend told me that he and the other Dad thought it was much harder to go from one kid to two compared to zero to one kid.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit – on the one hand I just can’t get away from my original idea that going from childless to with child has to be the biggest jump but my own experience tells me that this wasn’t the case. I think I figured out the reason and I’d like to share it with you and hope that you can agree/disagree with it.

I believe that for the mother, it’s more difficult to go from zero to one kid than from one kid to two. For the father, it is the opposite – it is harder to go from one kid to two than from zero to one.

Why is this?

Typically when a new baby arrives on the scene, the mother does most of the parenting especially if she is breast feeding. Even if Dad is really keen and able to help, Mom probably does 80% of the work. So for the first child, the mother has a huge change to deal with because they spend a ridiculous amount of time dealing with the baby. Dad on the other hand will spend some time with the baby but will be occupied with other tasks like food shopping, cooking, basic chores etc. Most Dads take very little time off work so they get to escape to the office during the day. In my opinion, the arrival of the first child affects the mother a lot more than the father.

Baby number 2 arrives

When the second child arrives – the mother will spend the majority of her time looking after the new baby. Since she has to look after the older one as well when Dad is at work, it can be pretty tough – hopefully the older one will be in daycare at least part-time. The big difference for Dad when he is at home, is that the older child will be his responsibility almost 100% of the time. So instead of just helping out with the one child occasionally, Dad really has to step it up and become a full-time babysitter.

What to do about it?

In my case I took several months off after our new baby was born so I ended up being chief babysitter for our older son. As much as I like spending time with him – 12 hours a day, 7 days a week is way too much. My suggestion for anyone who just had a second child is to put the older kid in daycare or get a sitter. Even if it’s just once in a while, it will be a huge help and things can still get done around the house.

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About the author

Clever Dude


  • I would agree with this, in general. One of the adjustments with having two kids is that you can no longer trade off, the way you can if you only have one. And one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) things for me after our second was born was the loss of the close relationship I had with our oldest, who came to prefer Daddy to Mommy almost overnight. (Partly because the hospital bed scared him, I think.)

    But financially, the adjustment from one to two is pretty minor, especially if you have children of the same sex and can use all of the same clothes!

  • We have 5 children now ages 6 and under, and I found that the most difficult transition by far was from 3 to 4, simply because at that point it became much more difficult for me to run errands on my own with them. The financial issue hasn’t proven to be much of a concern, because we’ve been able to reuse clothing and other baby gear. I was really worried about the transition from 4 to 5, but it’s actually been very smooth. Of course, I’m very lucky to have a husband that helps out when he’s home.

  • CFO – my wife also found that she misses her son since she spends so much time with the new baby.

    Tara – congrats on the 5 kids…and here I am complaining about having 2!!


  • I have 16 month old twin girls (they are my first, second and last children! LOL!) and I am so glad that I don’t know what it’s like to have just one child . Going from nothing to two has been quite a challenge because you can never really relax…I feel like I am cross eyed sometime because one is going one way and one is going the other. But it is now getting to be fun because they are interacting so much more. I am hoping soon they will be able to completely entertain each other so I can get a break!!!

  • Well, being in the same boat I have to agree. I think women handle the stressful moments of infanthood better than men, certainly. I know that I was petrified to be left alone with my son (our first child) in the beginning, since I didn’t have much experience with kids. I have found that with the birth of our second child (a daughter) two weeks ago that I’m far calmer about child care BUT there is no respite! There is no moment where one parent can hand their kid off to the other parent and go take a 30-minute shower (unless naptimes coincide). But yeah, staying home with my 2-year-old son for the past few weeks (I also took off time) has taught me just what being a “single parent” (almost) is like. There is nobody around to pick up the slack if my son needs something.

    All that having been said, I think it’s easier this time. Every time my son farted I had a heart attack thinking something was wrong – my wife and I are far more relaxed this time around. That alone is worth something!

    Great observation on 0-1 being toughest for the wife and 1-2 being toughest for the dad. My wife in particular loved that one!

  • Thanks Steve (Brip Blap) – you are correct that the stress levels are lower with the second kid. By this time with the first one we had already taken him to the emergency room twice for stupid things like..puking, farting etc. 🙂


  • The best solution is to put the older kid in daycare?? Give me a break. Yeah, it is an adjustment to add an infant to the mix. How much of an adjustment is it to your first child? And you think putting the kid in daycare with strangers is the way to calm his fears and help him adjust so that YOU don’t have to have any extra stress?

    We have nine, count ’em nine, great kids. Six are still at home (the baby is 1). We have our days, but with such a large family, the big ones help out with the little ones, and we make it work.

  • Rose – yes, that’s exactly what my dream solution would be. By the way, my older son is doing just fine – it’s his Dad that’s losing his mind. 🙂

    Congrats on all the kids – I’d like to hear more about that.


  • My only comment is this, why does Clever dude call it babysitting? Watching your own child is not “babysitting” it is being a parent. Sorry that just really bothers me.
    Kate 🙂

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