From One Mom to Another…
Yes, I'm a marriage and family therapist but I'm also a mom. I was 6 months postpartum with my first baby when I found out I was pregnant with my second. This was not exactly a planned event and I am a consummate planner. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I felt like I was just getting my parenting sea legs and was suddenly going to be thrown into a momentous storm.
So I did what any person would do, I panicked and then consulted the internet, asking “how to survive two under two?” My babies are now 1 and 2, and we're all okay. I can confidently say we made it through the first year, and I learned many things along the way.
While the one thing I know to be consistently true is that nothing is consistent and that the next year will bring a whole new set of triumphs and challenges, there are a few tips I have for living (not just surviving) with two under two.
Two Under Two: How To Make it Work
Help your oldest kid first
I remember reading this same piece of advice over and over again and it always seemed backwards to me. I thought my newborn would be so helpless that they would need my attention immediately while my older one was a bit more self-sufficient and could wait. However, in practice, I found this advice to be gold.
With the exception of any safety/imminent threat issues I attended to my older child first and once I got her settled, I was able to fully attend to my baby. My older child was generally easier and quicker to serve and once she was settled I had enough time to fully give the baby what he needed.
Trust that you have enough love and time for them both
I was afraid that having a second child so soon was going to mean I was going to miss out on my first. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have enough love or time for them both and that my first child was going to get lost in the needs of a newborn.
One of the many things having children has taught me is that love is infinite, endless and brutally intense. Love can expand far beyond the reaches you could ever expect and there is always room for more. You can trust that your heart will make space for your growing family, it always does.
As for time, I would be lying if I said that having two children did not create limitations on my time, but that was going to be true no matter what the age gap! What I found was that I became more intentional and present with my time. Because I was afraid of not having enough of it, I was more thoughtful when I did have it. I started to cherish the baby's morning nap because it gave me space to give my oldest my full attention.
I also reminded myself that it’s good for kids to learn to not be the center of attention, to have to entertain them self, to share, to practice patience to realize that the universe has many people in it and there is enough love and space for them all.
Find a routine that gives you a break
Nap time is one of my favorite times of the day. It is a much-needed break from parenting. I love my kids but I also love the break from them, it is like coming up for air after being submerged by the endless needs of others.
When my second baby came I vowed to get them on a schedule that allowed me this break. Although it took some time, I aligned their naps so that most afternoons I get at least an hour break (here are some parenting tips around sleep schedules, if you're interested). That break is my haven, my time to reset, check out, get a task done or read a book. That break is imperative to my survival.
Be kind to yourself
The day after I brought home my son from the hospital my daughter fell off the bed. I was holding the baby and saw it happen but couldn’t get to her in time. She cried. I cried. We both survived. Things happen. Be kind to yourself.
Honestly, of all my tips, this one is the best. Breathe. When both babies scream you’re entire drive…breathe. When you’re overwhelmed and exhausted…breathe. When your one child poops in the tub that both children are in…breathe (and yes, this did happen). Focus hard on that breath and say to yourself “this too shall pass.”
It always does.
You’ve got this.
PS: If you are in the thick of parenting babies, toddlers or both, and are looking for more practical tips and emotional support – I hope you consider joining our online postpartum support group. We laugh, we cry, and recently washed hair is absolutely optional. 😉