PhD Graduates – O’Reilly

Maureen McKeon O’Reilly, PhD
Spring 2002

“The Experience of Maternal Transition to Second-Time Parenthood”

About the thesis: This study explored the lived experience of transition to second-time parenthood from the mother’s perspective. This transition has received little attention, leaving the educational and support needs of second-time mothers largely ignored.

The descriptive phenomenological approach of Colaizzi was used to examine the experience objectively. Ten second-time mothers with a second child between the ages of 6 months and 24 months volunteered to discuss their experience. Participants included women of various ages with a range in the ages of the first born and second born children. Three women stayed home full-time, one worked full-time, and six worked part-time, with a range of 4 to 32 hours per week. One participant had adopted both the first and second child and another’s second experience was with a set of twins. This resulted in a variety of situations as a background for the transition to second-time motherhood.

Introduction: Data analysis revealed the essence of the experience as, achieving a new balance. Seven themes emerged through the metaphor of the second time mother on the tightrope. They included (a) stepping out onto the wire: balancing the positive and negative elements of the early weeks, (b) knowing what to expect: using experience as a balance pole, (c) developing a new routine: establishing priorities and making adjustments to stay centered in a whirlwind of activities, (d) maintaining the marital relationship: securing the rigging to keep the wire taut, (e) taking a break: getting recharged to get back on the wire, (f) seeking out support: constructing the safety net, and (g) building a pyramid: nurturing relationships among family members.

Results: Mothers overwhelmingly found the addition of a second child to the family to be a positive experience regardless of the effort it took to accommodate their lives to the needs of two children. Although second-time mothers approach the experience with a wealth of knowledge, this research highlights that these women may have concerns that are not addressed. Being aware of the issues for second-time mothers can help the nurse focus assessments and offer interventions to meet the needs of these women as they become mothers for the second-time.