I’ve been a mother of 2 for a mere 8 months, so I know I have plenty to learn. But for what it’s worth to you parents out there that will soon be caring for a baby and a preschooler, allow me to enlighten you with my top 8 tips on handling 2 little ones. I have a 3.5-year-old son and an 8.5-month-old daughter, and I wanted to write this now while I’m in the moment so that I could accurately deliver my message to you (with a bit of a twisted sense of humor, of course).
1. When your baby arrives, your older kiddo might act weird, but he’ll be okay. I’ve heard about a variety of reactions from older siblings when their baby brother or sister arrives. Some kids get angry, some sad, some ignore the baby, some act out and some think the new baby is the most wonderful thing in the world. My son most certainly did not think that my baby girl was the most wonderful thing in the world. He was just weeks away from turning 3 when she was born, and quite frankly, I don’t think he knew what the hell she was exactly. He can be very shy with strangers and that’s exactly how he treated her – like a stranger. He acted bashful around her, was way more quiet than usual and wouldn’t even look at her. Of course I was hormonal so I thought it was the end of the damn world. I cried and cried over it and thought I’d ruined my son for forever. Then one day when Romy was 2 months old, Rowdy called her beautiful, kissed her and decided from then on that he was totally cool with her. Now he probably doesn’t even remember life before she existed.
2. You’re gonna feel torn between your first baby and the new one, but don’t worry. Balance is possible. Again, I was a hormonal mess after my daughter’s birth (see tip #1), so my mommy guilt was super duper exaggerated for a while. But once my hormones improved, well, I still felt guilty, I just cried less. You see, you have this incredible connection with your first-born, right? You know what I’m talking about. You two went through things together that nobody else can quite understand. So the guilt you’ll feel when you start gushing over your new baby with your oldest sitting alone on the other end of the couch, well…it’s gonna make you feel like shit. Unfortunately what happened for me, along with many other parents, is that I let my guilt distract me a little too much. But I finally realized that many times kids just need a small dose of one-on-one attention to get them through the day (15 minutes of undivided attention can go a long way with a 3-year-old). And while I’ve always known that I had more than enough love to give, over time I have learned that I have plenty of hugs and smiles and time to give as well. It just takes practice.
3. Simultaneous naps allow you to rule the damn world. I remember how incredibly productive I was when my son was an infant. By 5-months-old he was taking 2 naps per day of at least 2 hours each. Wow! No wonder I was able to become a runner (on my treadmill during nap time), keep the house clean and even work some from home while he was a baby. That kid was a great sleeper. Now that he’s older, he’s still a good sleeper, but he doesn’t nap as much, and some days, not at all. But if I’m ever able to get them to nap at the exact same time, even if it’s just a 45-minute overlap, I get SO MUCH DONE. Being a parent has taught me many things, and how to handle my time extremely efficiently is one of them. Granted, you have to prioritize. So there will always be things that didn’t make the cut and don’t get done. But if you choose your top 3 things and start with number 1, you might just get them all done during a simultaneous nap.
4. Yes, you can totally keep your house neat and tidy…most of the time. I love organization, clean bathrooms and just general order in my home (and everywhere else for that matter). I spent months during my first pregnancy hearing things like, “You’re about to have a baby. You may as well just get used to having a messy house.” Um, no ma’am. Never will I ever be “used to” having a messy house. With enough effort I was able to maintain a pretty tidy home even after my son’s birth. I would slack here and there, but it never got too bad. And then when I was pregnant with my daughter I heard similar things again with a little extra elaboration. “It’s different when you have more than one.” Okay, okay, I get it. Common sense tells me that I’ll have less time to clean. I didn’t need you to tell me that. But what’s with the discouragement? What you do at your home is your business. But if I’m bound and determined to keep a tidy home, then by golly give me a positive “You can do it!” and let me be on my way. Even with a preschooler, a baby, a husband, 2 dogs, a part-time job and this lovely blog, I still manage to keep my home pretty darn tidy. Granted, it gets wild and messy more often than it used to, and messes take longer to clean up. But they get cleaned up eventually. It’s possible. It really is.
5. Leaving the house with both kiddos in tow can be a real pain in the ass. So maybe you can hole up in your home for the first few weeks after your baby’s birth, but eventually you’re gonna have to leave the house. First of all, be prepared. Make sure that both of the car seats are completely installed and situated in your vehicle(s) before you go anywhere. Install a baby mirror if you want. Use a basket or bin to hold movies and/or toys in. Hell, keep the damn stroller in the back of your car at all times if you want. If it will make things easier on you when its time to head out, DO IT. Also, make sure you have duplicates of essentials to keep in your bag. And by “essentials” I mean things that will prevent your babies from crying in public (because babies crying in public is never ever ever fun). These things might be a prepared bottle, snacks, teething gel, pacifiers, gas drops or toys. And of course you need diaper-changing supplies with you at all times. So with all of this stuff in place and prepped ahead of time, you can focus on getting your kiddos and yourself dressed. P.S. There’s no shame in saving longer errand-runs for nights and weekends if that means you can go alone. Going alone to the grocery store is like a neat little treat for me these days. #parentlife
6. A cross-body bag will change your life. I always carry a purse, and I’ve got some really, really pretty ones. But no matter how pretty, if it’s not a cross-body bag, it doesn’t get used on the daily right now. Having 2 free hands for loading and unloading the kiddos is basically priceless. End of story.
7. You should eat in the car any chance you get. Seriously. Sitting down at the table for family meals is great and all. But when that’s not possible or when you’re in a rush, eat in the car. Eating in the car used to be somewhat of a chore. But nowadays, it’s one of the only times I get to eat a meal with little interruption. Think about it. The babes are in the backseat strapped in, so there’s no “Mommy, I need more drink.” And there’s certainly no spoon-feeding the baby happening. It’s perfect. And then when you get back home, you’ve already fed yourself, therefore it’s one less thing to do. P.S. Drive safely. Don’t get distracted. Etc, etc etc.
8. Laugh at it all as much as possible. The neat, clean, organized planner in me can get a bit uptight at times when things aren’t going my way. If my anxiety level skyrockets, my mood plummets. But over time I am getting much better at pulling myself up by my bootstraps, smiling and laughing at all of it. I mean, I laughed at Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom every time he got caught up in some crazy kid drama. So why can’t I laugh at myself too? After all, it’s pretty damn funny. And it’s fun. Crazy? Yes. Chaotic? Yes. Confusing? Yes. But fun, nonetheless.