Even though I’m currently pregnant with Baby #3 I look back on the stress of finding our groove with only 2 children. Naturally as soon as you feel like you’ve figured this whole complex parenting situation out mother nature throws you a curve ball.
I can’t tell you how much I stressed thinking about how we were going to coordinate taking care of 2 kids even before the second one arrived. With my husband and I being only children it wasn’t like we had many resources to consult either.
At first I’ll admit that we did the good ole divide and conquer bit where one parent each took a kid and put them to bed or fed them etc. The problem with that is I never saw my husband and nothing else got accomplished around the house. I know every other mom blog you read will tell you that the laundry, cleaning, dishes etc can wait, but what about cooking meals?! When my husband and I were dividing and conquering bedtime we both wouldn’t be done until around 8 pm and THEN I would have to start cooking. I don’t know about you but eating at 9 pm or later at night was not a healthy or sustainable thing for me.
So how did we survive 2 kids under 2 years old?
Accept That 1 Or Both Kids May Be Crying
Well first off I’m not going to lie to you, you will probably breakdown and cry at some point when you hear both of your kids crying uncontrollably at the same time. My advice for you here is to tune it out. Yeah, I know how it sounds, but seriously! You are one person and at some point both kids cannot have whatever it is they need at that exact moment, which in turn results in either one or both kids crying. At the end of the day they will survive and can learn to wait.
In one way this sounds mean, but my toddler had a complete crying breakdown just because I was putting her leftover food in the fridge after she told me she didn’t want it. Then her crying upset the baby and he proceeded to cry. You know what I did? I laughed! I mean with how ridiculous the situation was how could you not? Side bar, if you’re going to become a mom of 2 under 2 you better get a sense of humor fast! Just remember at the end of the day as long as there is nothing physically wrong with either child, they are a fine. You don’t have to feel like you are a terrible inattentive mom just because both kids decided to have a mini-breakdown at the same time.
Always Have A Place To Contain One of Them
I’m not saying you should put your kid in baby jail, but it is quite handy to have a safe place to put one child while you have to attend to the other one. For example, I push my 7 month old around the house sometimes in an umbrella stroller. I would like to note I prefer the strollers with hard backs as opposed to the ones that are just cloth. It gives your baby more support and allows you to put them in it at an earlier age. I put both my kids in our umbrella stroller starting around 2 months with a head support pillow. The stroller gives my arms a break and allows me to keep pace with my toddler while not letting the baby out of my sight. It also gives him a break from being held all day and he is quite content to watch his sister play as long as he also has a teething toy.
I also have a large regalo portable playard filled with infant approved toys in our living room and put my son in there at least 3x a day. It gives him some independent playtime so I can give my daughter some attention and it allows him to practice his rolling and crawling skills.
Practice Independent Play BEFORE Baby # 2 Arrives
I can’t tell you how important it is to practice independent play before the new baby arrives. There will be times when you have to put one child in a safe place with some toys while you attend to the other one and it helps tremendously if you can accomplish this without one of them having a meltdown.
One of the hardest things I had to figure out was what to do with my 18 month old, who basically was acting like a full-blown toddler, tantrums and all, while I fed the baby. And if you’re asking yourself why would you need to contain a toddler while you feed a baby, then clearly you do not have 2 kids under 2 years old. My toddler is VERY busy and is always moving so it was impossible for me to follow her around the house to ensure she was safe while I was sitting on the couch putting a bottle in the baby’s mouth. If you’re also wondering why I didn’t just read her a book or give her an interactive toy to entertain herself, you’d also be wrong. Sure she’d be captivated for approximately 30 seconds, but then she was off to the next thing.
My toddler also had a breakdown when I tried to put her in the playpen while I fed the baby because I couldn’t come and get her out immediately. After about 5 attempts that all ended in meltdowns I gave that up as a possible solution.
What ended up working for me is gating in our dining room. That way I could sit in a chair at the table and feed the baby and all corners of the room were within view where I could watch my daughter play. The first couple of times she asked to go out, but now when I tell her it’s time to feed her brother she joyfully heads into the dining room to play. I have one doorway that I place a high tension gate at and a large opening that I got a longer 8+ panel gate that works great!
Consistency Is Key. Create A Schedule!
When you first come home with a newborn it is extremely important to have a support system in place. I can’t tell you how much my mother and mother-in-law helped us get through those first 2 weeks, which lets be honest you need to rest during since your body needs to recover. My mother took the night shifts so I could get a full nights rest and then my husband and mother-in-law helped during the day for the first 2 weeks. It really helped my body have time to heal and allowed me to have the energy to take on the next few weeks.
I know a lot of moms are a “go with the flow” type when it comes to schedules, but this is how I survived! Otherwise utter chaos would erupt. The biggest advantage to have 2 kids under 2 on a schedule is you can actively schedule a break for yourself! I try to align major meals like lunch and dinner and have at least 1 nap overlap. This is where you take a break or get bottles washed.
Now for whatever reason nature is cruel and generally gives you a great sleeper and then baby #2 is a sleepless disaster, so take whatever time you get. I also put the baby down for nap first followed by the toddler. This is where the “having a safe place to put one of them” comes in yet again. Since my toddler is still in a crib I put her in there with some books and tell her I’ll be right back after I put her brother down for nap. I can then watch her on her crib camera while I rock the baby to sleep and everyone is in a safe place. This also allows the toddler to have one-on-one time with just you and not have to share you with the baby. My daughter loves me to read her a few books and sing her a song while I rock her.
Cut Out The Fat
Last, but not least my advice to you Momma is to cut out the fat. What do I mean by that? Take advantage of every spare second you get to get s*** done! For example, when I have both kids safely secured in their high chairs I give the smaller one a teether or toy to play with while I give the toddler her meal. While my toddler is starting to eat I will heat up or make my lunch so that I can eat in between helping my toddler eat. Then I give her crackers or puffs and a book to entertain herself while I move on to feeding the baby his solids. If I didn’t maximize this time pre-nap I wouldn’t get to eat some days if one of them decides they aren’t going to be cooperative and sleep.
Once both kids are down for a nap I get to washing. The toddler’s dishes and the baby bottles. Sometimes my youngest only sleeps 30 minutes so I have to take advantage of the time I have to get things clean. You can’t be stuck at the sink with a roaming toddler and a baby that wants to be held trust me!
The biggest thing that has really helped us is having my husband give BOTH kids a bath and put them to bed by himself. While he is doing that I cook dinner so by the time he is out of their rooms at 8 pm dinner is ready. Stay tuned to what we’re going to do when there are 3 kids, because currently I have no idea haha.
Just know that there will be times your sanity will be tested, like when you hear both kids crying simultaneously at the same time and you wonder why you did this to yourself. But I promise you it is just a matter of perspective. Now that the kids are older and my 7 month old is sitting and starting to walk around in his walker after my toddler they are really getting attached to each other and are even starting to play together! I can’t explain how much I thought my heart would explode the first time I saw my toddler sharing and playing with her baby brother. You just need to figure out a schedule and what works best for your family. Will there still be hard days? Absolutely! But these hard years are short and what you will be left with is siblings that are close and love each other.