Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Listmania: How to Survive Two Kids - Life with a Newborn and a Toddler

When I was pregnant with my second child, I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around the logistics of parenting two children at two very different stages of life. It's amazing how much a couple years between kids can mean a world of variation in needs, schedules, meals, preferences, abilities...the list goes on and on. I searched the internet trying to find advice from moms who had been there, but found there really was a shortage of practical information that I could put to use. I am starting this post 7 months into my life with two kids, and though I'm sure it is different for everyone, I think I have a perspective that can hopefully help others out there who are wondering how the heck they will get through this part of parenting. Maybe this will help...

Surviving Two Kids - Life with a Newborn and a Toddler

  1. If you still have time before your second child arrives, do some preparation. I'm not talking about setting up the crib - I'm talking about sanity preparation. Start talking to your toddler about the new baby, and include terms like, "patience" and "fragile". 
  2. Get your hands on as many big sibling books that you can find - we found "I'm a Big Sister" (brother version also available), as well as "Waiting For Baby" and "You and Me". These all show what life with a new baby will be like and should help immensely once the baby comes home.
  3. Start stockpiling quiet toys that can be kept in special bins throughout your house. These can be used by your toddler during baby naptimes, nursing sessions, or when Mom just needs 15 minutes of silence (or almost silence anyway). Include items like books to read, crayons and coloring books, or quiet books (here's my version). To make the boxes even more exciting, only let your toddler use them when you need the quiet time.
  4. Keep emergency items all over the place. I have a gallon-size ziploc in my car, my husband's car, and in my way-too-big-to-be-trendy purse. In these bags I have a will-not-be-missed change of clothes for each kid, a diaper for each kid, wipes, a disposable changing pad and a disposable diaper trash bag. At this point I do still use a diaper bag, but it stays in the car and I just pull things from it when I need too.
  5. I always keep the following in my purse: A toddler-applicable snack. Stickers and crayons. An old (hopefully charged) smartphone loaded with whatever is the latest and greatest area of interest. I promise you will get caught somewhere, or need to buy some extra toddler happiness when the baby needs attention while you are running errands. A box of raisins always makes my older daughter happy when I need an extra 20 minutes to get everyone through a doctor appointment.
  6. Solicit your toddler for help with the baby. This has been huge for us, and Bugga loves to feel important. Even at 2.5 she is able to bring me things like a baby blanket, a clean outfit for the baby, etc. if I just ask her. 
  7. Grocery shopping with one kid was a breeze compared to two. In case you didn't learn this the first time around, your baby's car seat DOES NOT go on top of the shopping cart. Ever. And unless you are at Costco, the car seat will likely not fit inside the cart either, especially if you plan on actually shopping for anything, and definitely if your toddler is sitting in the kid seat. This is where the sling/baby carrier serves its purpose. Oh, and don't forget to park right next to the cart return.
  8. Speaking of the baby carrier...that thing will come in handy a lot. I wore it all over the house. So did my husband, as for awhile that was the only place Bella would nap. (We do not miss those days AT. ALL.) I also wore it a lot outside of the house - besides shopping, it allowed me to still keep Bugga enrolled in her gymnastics class. She isn't quite old enough for a non-parented class, but I can't have the baby in the infant seat while Bugga is in class. But the sling was no big deal. And Bugga really needs that gymnastics class for a myriad of reasons, so I am so glad I did not have to suspend that from our schedule.
  9. If your toddler doesn't use a sound machine, I would consider it at this point. My kids both have sound machines which are priceless tools when both at home and traveling. And now that you will have a new baby potentially screaming at all hours, a sound machine can muffle that sound so at least SOMEONE in your house can get some sleep.
  10. Know that this chaotic mess of a life will not last forever. There will be tears of happiness and frustration several times over as you learn to adjust to everything. That first year of your child's life is HARD on a mom. And add a second (or third, or fourth) kid to it, and everything escalates. But your family will evolve into something that works for everyone.
*Note: For some reason I wrote this post and never published it, and I just found it now that my second child is 14 months old. I am happy to say we survived the first year (as you will) and things are definitely easier nowadays that we all know each other much better and have adjusted to life outside the womb. Hang in there!

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