Ten tips for two under 2
- 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
- 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
- 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!