Dec 4, 2011

Posted by in Beth, Blog, Featured, Mother, Wife

Ten tips for two under 2

One of my friends recently had her second baby, joining the ranks of mamas with two under two. Her babies are almost exactly mirror images of mine- my first was born in June of ’09, her first born in June of ’10. My second followed 15 months after my first… and so did hers. She asked me for advice way back when she first found out, and I didn’t know what to tell her. But here is what I wish I would have said:

  • 1. You have to let go of being perfect.

I am not prone to perfectionism, generally speaking, but after having my second daughter, I realized how much I had been holding on to doing things “right” … because suddenly I wasn’t able to. I used to swear to myself that I would never yell at my children, but suddenly, I found myself holding a newborn with my 15-month-old about to touch a hot stove. My daughter crumpled to the floor after I screamed at her not to touch it, and sobbed. And I sobbed, too, because suddenly, I couldn’t meet my own standards. It was a hard realization to come to, and only the first of many moments where I felt like I was falling short. Eventually I learned that it was okay to not be perfect- even in my own eyes. It’s *hard* having two under two, and you have to give yourself some grace.

  • 2. You won’t be able to meet everyone’s needs all the time
This was by far the hardest part for me to learn and accept. Before I had my second daughter, I could (theoretically) meet my only child’s needs about, say 90 percent of the time- if I chose to. Sure, there were times when I told her no (many!) and did not meet that need, but I *could* have. After I had my second, that percentage dropped significantly. Down to maybe 60 percent of the time, sadly. When you have a newborn, it’s hard even to meet your own needs, let alone those of a toddler!
There were times when I was nursing my youngest and my oldest would fall down… and I had the option of either unlatching the baby and going to help her (ensuring a crying baby) or not (ensuring a crying toddler). In that situation, someone’s going to lose out. Sometimes it was the toddler, sometimes it was the baby. My ability to meet either girls’ needs now is back up to maybe 80 percent of the time, because they’re older and less needy, but sometimes those dilemmas were hard, and even now I’m not always sure I did the right thing. Which is why I need to let go of being perfect!
  • 3. You will feel guilty

Just, realize, that because of being unable to meet everyone’s needs all the time, you will feel guilty. It just comes with the territory. Forgive yourself. Try to forgive your partner, too, when they’re not meeting *your* needs to the best of your ability. But we’ll get to that later! Seriously, though, forgive yourself. I remember nothing before I was five, and I doubt my girls will remember all the times I had to tend to the other instead of them. Thank goodness we all have fuzzy memories of childhood- it’s handy that while we’re learning to be parents, our children are programmed to forget our mistakes!

  • 4. Expect to be a mama bear for a while
The  most unexpected thing I came across in the early days was a serious need to keep my toddler away from my baby at times. Where just days before, my toddler had seemed an infant (and she was and still is my baby!), she suddenly seemed huge and clumsy and like a lumbering accident waiting to happen to my defenseless squirming baby-baby.
While my husband was home on paternity leave, I had to have him remove my toddler from the room when I was nursing the baby- the first time she saw the baby nurse, she threw her very first tantrum, and it was terrifying. I’ve heard since that this is a common reaction- to get defensive of your newborn and a little short-tempered with your toddler for being, well, a toddler. The mama bear syndrome. Expect it, but don’t be too horrified by your own feelings of wanting to keep your lumbering older child away from your baby.
It’s normal, and probably pretty sensible in the grand scheme of things- if your oldest is still under two, there’s some basic lack of ability to comprehend- your instructions, their size, their space- at times. Don’t be alarmed, and try to create an area where you can be away from your toddler while your toddler is safe- for me it was just a futon that my oldest hadn’t yet figured out how to crawl up on or my computer chair, but it gave us a bit of necessary distance so that I didn’t feel like I had to fend my oldest off all the time.

  • 5. Create a completely childproofed space somewhere in your home

As part of having two under two, there were times that I needed to leave one or the other to tend to the sibling. The easiest way to do this was to have a space where I could leave one kid unattended so I could go elsewhere to change a diaper, give some medicine, etc. For us, it started off being a lot of leaving our oldest in her crib, until we got our family room childproofed enough that we could leave her there. Some moms have put baby gates up across the door to their child’s room. In all seriousness, there were times when I felt like the bathroom was the safest space to have my kids. I installed a clear shower curtain so that I could monitor them while showering with the door to the bathroom shut. But being able to leave my kid for a few minutes and know she was completely safe and happy was the biggest sanity-saver I can think of. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to mind all the crib-time and being stuck in the bathroom with mama.

  • 6. Plan for the unexpected – and then try to prepare for it

Come up with strategies for common situations- getting your kids in and out of the car, in particular, but also think about things like sleep patterns. If you and your partner lean towards being morning people or night people, use that to your advantage- have the morning person on kid duty so the night person can sleep in. Let the night person handle the kids’ bedtimes so that the morning person can go to bed early- this is harder when the youngest is tiny and takes up a lot of mama time, particularly if you’re nursing, but eventually their schedules will even out some. If you have a runner, get a toddler leash- it was invaluable for a short period of time when my oldest was mobile but not good at communicating. Like, not good at communicating that she was about to walk into a pond while I had her sister strapped to my front.

  • 7. Carve out time to spend alone with each child

One of the biggest ways to keep from feeling guilty about suddenly not being able to meet everyone’s demands is to have time that you spend with just one kid (preferably while someone else is dealing with the other kid- or maybe during naps!). I had a lot of alone time with my youngest after my oldest went to bed for many months. But to find time to spend with just the toddler? That was a tough one. I had a lovely friend who came over to babysit my littlest for a few months so that I could take my toddler to Itty Bitty Camps. It was really great to get to spend time with my first baby… because she was still a baby!

  • 8. Make sure you all get time with each other- and time to yourselves.

My biggest regret when it comes to the first six months of having a second child are probably that while I did try to spend time alone with each child, I didn’t really encourage or support my husband in doing the same. The baby seemed to prefer me- and in fact, would cry mercilessly if I put her down… and because it was easier to just take care of her myself, I didn’t really try to get my husband to help with her, but instead relied on him to do most of the toddler childcare. It was the path of least resistance, but it led to him feeling less capable with our youngest than he did with our oldest (and sometimes, it led to me feeling the same when it came to our oldest, who would now run to daddy with her bumps and bruises).

And you guys have all heard the advice that you need time to yourself, but it is doubly true when you have two under two. Caring for two little ones is exhausting, and I found myself getting very resentful of having to do all the nighttime parenting and all the daytime parenting with no breaks ever (this was not actually true, but it felt like it at the time). Eventually, a friend started coming over to babysit one afternoon a week so that I could recharge, and after a few months, I finally started going out every once in a while without spouse or kids- it was amazing! Personally, I needed to feel like the amount of “me-time” that I got was equal to the amount of “me-time” that my spouse got. It took a while (and took going back to work) for that to totally even out, but making sure I had firm plans to be out of the house by myself once a week or once a month was such a sanity-saver. Make sure your spouse is getting downtime, too!

  • 9. Ask for help! And accept it!

It’s really difficult to ask for help when you’re a mom and you’re supposed to be the best at caring for your kids… but when you have two under two, the help of friends and family and even people you pay to help is invaluable. My two friends who babysat were huge helps, but even the friends who would come over and just hang out with me in those early months were amazing. When the whole family got sick for a month last January, some of our mom friends made food. We needed it more then, with two sick babies and two sick parents, than we did when our kids were newborns! We nearly hired a kid to cut the grass, and instead relied on my parents to help with that and cleaning around the house. And after months of living in a pigsty, we finally caved and hired someone to come deep-clean the house once a month.

It was really hard for me to admit at times that I didn’t have everything under control- heck, even asking my husband to help with the laundry while I was nursing a baby seemed like a confession of failure! But you know what? I wasn’t a failure- I just needed help. And I should have asked for more of it, and I should have been willing to take more people up on their offers to help out. These days, we have a wonderful nanny who loves our girls while I work, and I love it, because she is a lifesaver, but we all still need help sometimes! That saying about needing a village? I kind of think it’s more for the moms! Moral of the story: If anyone offers to help you, say yes! And if you need help, ask around! And when you’re past two under two- return the favor someday!

  • 10. Remember, it gets easier!

It does. There were times when I wasn’t sure I was going to survive having two kids- and sometimes I look back and am not sure how I did. There are always ups and downs along the way- the month of sickness was probably harder than the first month we had a 15-month-old and a newborn. Somehow magically, my baby is now the same age that her sister was when we became a family of four- and I don’t know how I did it. But at 15 months in (and a whole six months out of “two under two”), things are relatively easygoing. I joke that I wouldn’t recommend having that age gap to anyone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way- having two toddlers roaming around my house, making mischief and laughing. One of my friends had two 17 months apart, and was a great resource when I was pregnant and fretting, told me that there was nothing like the feeling of having two little people snuggled up next to you reading books- and she was absolutely right. It is wonderful- and it just keeps getting better. I survived, and you will too!

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  1. Thank you so much for this post! My two are 24 months apart so not technically 2 under two but trust me, I related to everything you said and you made me feel so much better. I am only 6 weeks in and have been feeling SO guilty, and SO exhausted, especially since my husband went back to work. I can’t even figure out how to get the infant car seat in while keeping my 2 y/o from running into traffic when she’s feeling rebellious. Which is always. Now I feel like less of a failure and more hopeful that things will get easier and that I might actually figure this stuff out.

    • Put the infant seat with the baby in, in the front passenger seat whilst holding toddlers hand/reins(put the passenger seat forward enough so there isn’t a huge amount of space for the seat to fall) and get the toddler in :) I have a ten month old and a nearly 2 year old and the two year old always went in the car first and the youngest stayed in the front room…however he has started crawling so I need to go back to the drawing board! x

  2. HIII

    This was a brilliant read!

    Just the pick me up I needed.

    I have a 18 month old and a six month old…they are exactly 1 year apart.

    It is realy hard and tiring at times but they are adorable and I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel! Ha.

    Thanks for your very close to home artical.

    Lisa

    Xx

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I have a 21 month old and a 3 month old and I’ve been grappling with the guilt of not being as good a mom as I was with my first child. Reading this was very comforting and encouraging.

  4. We r at 3 mos and 24 mos. it’s so hard and u nailed what is hard abt it. Thx so much for the encouragement. I am barely surviving

  5. Just found out I will have two under two in 8 months. I am so scared but after reading this I feel slightly at ease. I appreciate your humor and tips. I hope to use them and I know I will be the luckiest Mom when I get to enjoy both my beautiful children.

  6. This is by far the most helpful article that I have read about surviving two children under two thus far. We have two girls, 3 weeks and 22 months. I have been feeling a great deal of shame and embarrassment about how frustrated I have been with my oldest daughter’s behavior while I care for my infant. Each night while the girls are sleeping, I have been searching for some helpful tips on surviving this stage of their lives, I think I found it in this article. Thanks a million!!!!

  7. My daughter is 8 months old, and we just found out we are pregnant again. Thank you for the advice, it gives me hope that I can survive two babies and gives me a realistic view of how its gonna be. Thanks!

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