Is it a curse word? A blessing? The title of a horror movie? Perhaps a survival reality show. Regardless, it’s HARD. You are now the parent of not one, but two little human beings who are not only still very needy, but each have their own unique set of needs.
While I’m no expert at this survival game, I have had several thankful moments over this first month of Gavin’s life where I have realized the preparations, strategies, and tips that have helped us to survive this first month with two under two!
I hope these help you or someone you know and would love to hear any other suggestions you would add to the list!
Some of the things that have been helpful to us as we began our #twoundertwo journey were preparations we made before the baby was even born.
- An established bedtime routine for your toddler
The last thing you want to try and accomplish while your newborn is clamoring for your attention is a new bedtime routine for your toddler.
After we clean up dinner, we take Charley upstairs to brush her teeth, then we put on pajamas, read a few books, and she goes to bed without issue. Once she’s in bed we almost never have to return to her room. One down!
- Freezer meals
I didn’t do any of this preparation myself, but I have an amazing friend who prepared and brought over freezer meals for me! Even if you don’t want to prepare meals yourself, you can stock up during your pregnancy on easy-to-make freezer meals from the grocery. Once baby arrives, you’ll be so thankful for those evenings you can just pop that sucker in the oven and dinner’s done! Not only will this help keep you from having to haul your littles out to the grocery when you’re still sporting padsicles, but it’s less time in the kitchen when you need to expend your (tiny amount of) energy elsewhere!
- Stockpiled household and toiletry items
I was really good about this during my pregnancy with Charley, but not so much this time (and am really noticing the lack of it)! Each time I went to the store while pregnant with Charley, I bought two of whatever toiletry item I was buying at the time, and put the extra one away. Then when I had a newborn and I ran out of toothpaste, no problem! I had a stockpile! No running to the store with a newborn (or in this case, a newborn and a toddler)! The stockpile lasted for several months after she was born, and each time I pulled out another item I didn’t have to go to the store for, I thought, I’m so thankful I did this!!
- Toddler, meet baby… baby doll!
Unless you have a friend’s real-life baby to borrow for teaching moments with your toddler, I found the use of baby dolls incredibly helpful in teaching Charley about a baby’s needs before her little brother arrived. That way, when he showed up, she understood the concepts of being gentle, the baby’s pacifier, “Shhh… the baby’s sleeping,” etc. She loved caring for her dolls, so now caring for and being gentle with her brother seems to come so much more naturally than I would have guessed! She is so amazing with him!
It sounds like something boring from a business meeting but having certain strategies in place has totally saved my butt during this first month of #twoundertwo!
- Multiple diaper stations
It has been super helpful not to have to leave the room every time someone needs a fresh diaper. While Charley has surprised us with her early interest in potty training (the champ pooped on the potty at 19 months!), she’s still in diapers and chances are, with #twoundertwo, so are yours. We are taking a break from cloth diapers at the moment (see below – “adjust your expectations”), so we have a stockpile of disposable diapers in our linen closet that we are currently working our way through. Periodically, we refill the “diaper stations” with the necessities – diapers, wipes, and a cloth/changing pad to lay down to protect the furniture. These “stations” are in both of the babies’ rooms, our bedroom, and the living room and are disguised in pretty baskets.
- Wipes in every room
Speaking of refilling, in addition to multiple diaper stations, we have refillable wipes in almost every room of the house! Bathrooms, bedrooms, and even the dining room! With #twoundertwo, you’ll have countless moments of mess – spit-up, poop, snack time, as well as those good-lord-what-is-that-slime-all-over-Curious-George’s-face moments? We have individual packs of wipes, but I prefer the refillable containers as they are more economical and easier to use one-handed. (Half of parenting is learning to complete tasks one-handed, am I right?!)!
- Order Online
Amazon Prime is brilliant and I believe invented for parents! Our subscription is one of the best gifts we’ve ever received (and we continue to ask for it each year again for Christmas)! You have access to almost everything you could possibly want or need, right there from your nursing chair! Amazon aside, so many stores are catching on to this online ordering thing that you can even have your groceries delivered (or waiting at the store for you)! Again, the less you have to run out for that item you just ran out of, the better!
- Wear your baby
I can’t stress enough about how beneficial baby-wearing is. I wore Charley all the time and the girl hardly ever cried. She’s still the most happy and secure human being I know, and still loves to be right with me doing whatever I’m doing! I admittedly haven’t worn Gavin as much, but when I have, it’s been healing to my “fourth trimester” heart to have him close and he loves it as well! Baby benefits aside, it’s a no-brainer strategy for when you need to hold your baby, but also need to get stuff done or tend to your toddler!
My absolute favorite for a newborn is a K-tan. The downside is that you have to buy the right size (my first one was too small and I only got to wear it once before my little piglet got too big), but compared to a wrap, it’s SO EASY to put on and take off. I used a Moby with Charley (which I still used for Gavin until I got my new, correctly-sized K-Tan!), but I’ll admit, it made me swear multiple times trying to get it on just right. I also love love love my Ergo 360. There is no shortage of baby carriers out there right now, thank goodness! Just make sure it’s ergonomic and isn’t going to hurt your baby’s hips. As an occupational therapist, I cringe when I see babies being worn in positions that force their delicate joints into poor positions.
- Safe place for baby
Toddlers are curious. They’re also not the most gentle human beings. Even with the best intentions, your little little is liable to take a toy to the face or even be body slammed by your big little just trying to give a hug. Baby wearing is amazing and I highly recommend it, but also strategize for those inevitable times when you’ll have to put baby down or even leave him or her unattended for a moment (coffee poops anyone?). My mom bought us a Rock & Play and it’s just high enough that Charley can’t climb in or even reach Gavin.
ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS
This has been a big one for me. I’m admittedly an over-achiever in many areas of my life, and parenthood is no exception. I didn’t want my toddler to watch any TV before age 2, I engage her in pre-homeschool activities each day, we cloth diaper, I try to make sure the dishes and laundry are done as quickly as possible & that the house is clean before my husband gets home from work, etc. But with the demands of two under two, I’d go crazy if I didn’t adjust my expectations for myself and for what our day-to-day life looks like. Do all that AND keep two kids alive?! Riiiiight.
Even while pregnant before Gavin arrived, I was exhausted… so some days, Charley watched a lot of TV. Now that Gavin is here, some days are better than others and I have the energy to engage her in intentional developmental activities. But when I don’t, I have grace for myself and we sit our butts in front of the TV (super helpful spot especially with a baby on the boob)! Charley is a great kid and I’m a good mom. An extra dose of Moana or Dory isn’t going to fry her brain forever.
Consider what expectations you have for yourself and your family, and be ready to flex a bit if you need to. Striving for excellence as a parent is such an honorable goal, but so is grace for yourself.
Some things we’ve changed or found more grace for:
- A break from cloth diapers
- More screen time when mom needs a break
- Less outings
Some of the things you might find yourself adjusting your expectations for (I can’t remember the last time I wore makeup) are some of the very things that you need to implement for self-care. So if you need to adjust your expectation that you need to fix your hair and wear make-up every day (does any mom actually do this??), then put down the hair dryer and mascara! But if you need to fix your hair and wear make-up as a part of your self-care, then primp away!! Afterall, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will eventually find yourself empty and unable to take care of your littles!
Here are some ways you can care for yourself:
- Get help!
I can’t stress enough how helpful it was to have my mom stay with me after both babies! Charley’s post-birth was traumatic and I lost a lot of blood, so on top of having to take it slow for physical healing, I was extremely fatigued for an extra long time after she was born. My mom took care of all the cooking and cleaning and allowed me to focus on healing as well as bonding with and caring for my baby! My husband had to go back to work a couple days after we got home and it was brutal. I could not have survived without my mom there. After Gavin was born, she stayed for three weeks and again was so incredibly helpful! The thing I found the most helpful was when she got up with Charley in the mornings so I could try and grab an extra hour or two of sleep after being up so often (or sometimes even all night long) with Gavin. Whether it’s your spouse who gets some time off of work, a friend, parent, or neighbor, please ask for help! This is a part of having grace for yourself. Our culture is demanding in its expectations of parents, but no one expects you to do this alone! It takes a village, right?
- Get out of the house!
I know, I know… I listed outings as something we adjusted our expectations for during this #twoundertwo season. And while you may need to make less trips out for certain reasons, getting out of the house may also be crucial to your sanity. Even leaving the baby with a full belly at home with his daddy and taking my toddler to the grocery has been helpful for me. Not only has it relieved some of my cabin fever, it has been nice to have one-on-one time again with my firstborn, which is also good for her! My first solo outing with both kids was to the library. It was admittedly a tough juggling act, but good for all of us, and actually helped to increase my confidence as a mom of #twoundertwo.
Keep the outings short and close to home if you can. Even go take a walk. You can wear your baby and put your toddler in the stroller. Just get out!
- See your friends
Because I’m a transplant to where we currently live, most of my friends are out of state. But I have had a couple of friends visit, and it has been so good for the soul! Again, don’t expect too much of yourself. Even with the best of friends, you may not feel like having company over for an extended period of time. Keep the visits short if you need to. The best friends will anticipate your needs and not over or under-stay their welcome and will also be a great help. I actually had a friend come over on a Saturday morning and make breakfast for my family! Who does that?! And even if many of your friends, like mine, aren’t close-by, make time for a phone call if you can. Snap-chat and texting throughout the day help me keep in close contact with some of my besties, and it helps me to not feel so alone when I’m drowning in the cries of a colicky baby and a needy toddler.
- Talk to other moms
Your friends may or not be moms yet, so this may be covered by the last tip! But I know how helpful it is when you realize that you’re not alone. We likely don’t see each other at our worst moments, so we have this picture in our minds that everyone else is nailing it at this parenting thing, while we’re over here in the middle of the day, still in pajamas, teeth unbrushed, and the house looking like there was an earthquake. I have an ongoing group chat thread with my girlfriends from OT school, who all also have children and toddlers. There have been some very healing moments for each of us upon realization that we weren’t the only one with a super messy house or a tantrum-throwing toddler!
It’s not about comparing ourselves against others’ lives. It’s about knowing we’re not alone in our battles and embracing a realistic picture of ourselves and those on a journey similar to ours.
- Do something you enjoy
Remember, you’re a human being too, and not just a parent. I haven’t done enough of this myself, but I feel the need. I’m dying to go hiking. It’s especially hard to leave the house for an extended period of time without your newborn if you’re breastfeeding, but it’s not imperative for to have long periods away from the house in order to do something you enjoy. For example, if you’re lucky enough to have a simultaneous nap time (that’s how I wrote this blog today!), instead of trying to catch up on chores, do something at home that you find fulfilling! Better yet, combine it with a self-care task! Reading in the bathtub, anyone? My husband and I shared the “best/worst” part of our day tonight at dinner, and I told him that the best part of my day was sitting down to write. It’s something I truly enjoy, it made me feel productive, and it was something I did away from my kids that was for me (even though it was about them, LOL).
- Help your toddler
Yes, this is listed under self-care. Help your toddler, and help you. Let me explain!
Children are not oblivious to our stress, anxiety, and definitely not the words birthed out of these places. Toiletry stockpiles, baby-wearing, and mom-time aside, one of the greatest ways I believe that parents can find help in surviving #twoundertwo is in the way that we foster this new relationship between toddler and baby. True, we’ve just become parents again and are learning a new baby. We may even be learning our toddler in a whole new way now. But something often overlooked is that this toddler and baby have a new relationship to navigate as well! I believe that sometimes, parents are so overly anxious and stressed about the toddler’s interaction with the baby that the toddler feels it too, and each interaction with the baby for them becomes one of stress and anxiety instead of one of love and excitement, like it should be!
Can’t you see it? Toddler approaches this new person that has suddenly appeared at the house, and mom yells, “DON’T TOUCH THE BABY!”
In toddler’s mind, baby now = Trouble. Stress. Anxiety.
Might go throw a fit now. Or smash baby’s face with my blocks.
As a parent, we can still maintain caution. Sit nearby. Help make sure touches are gentle. Correct when we need to. But I firmly believe that creating a positive environment between our two children with our attitude, words, and responses to our toddler is vital not only to surviving, but thriving as a family. So when your toddler approaches baby, try to help each interaction be positive. Don’t force anything. Some toddlers don’t care much about this new baby, and no, they might not want to kiss baby brother or sister despite your desire for that perfect Instagram sibling photo.
But when they do attempt some interaction with baby, speak encouraging words. (“You’re such a wonderful big sister!”)
Share their enthusiasm. (“Yes, look at his tiny toes! So cute!”)
Allow toddler to hold baby if they ask. (Charley did – “Hold it?” – but she was finished after about 15 seconds!)
I have put a lot of effort in to making sure Charley’s interactions with her brother have been positive experiences instead of creating an atmosphere of anxiety for her in a moment of trying to protect him. Now, she approaches him at will, which usually includes stroking his head or a kiss on his cheek, hands, or toes, and then she’s off again! It’s been absolutely amazing.
These two have just possibly become each other’s best friends.
What better way to survive than fostering a family environment full of friendship, love, and acceptance? Sounds like thriving to me!
It’s true… much of this season of life is about simply surviving. We make sure the babies are fed and loved. We are forced to adjust our expectations, to sacrifice, to give when we are already empty.
But we do not have to be diminished to less than excellence forever.
Sometimes our best looks like staying in pajamas all day and watching too much TV, because that’s all we have in us. But other days, we are capable of more.
Hardship isn’t an excuse to allow what we’re capable of to be diminished forever.
So for now… while everything is raw and fresh and overwhelming, we’ll have grace for ourselves and each other, and we’ll just make sure we survive. We’ll sleep when we can, eat when we can, and warm up that cold coffee for the fourteenth time. We’ll hold our babies, try to keep up with our toddlers, and try to have enough left for our spouse at the end of the day.
But we’ll keep trying. We’ll ask for help when needed, but we’ll keep going.
We won’t expect perfection but we’ll still strive for excellence.
And one day, we may actually look back on this time, and think, “Wow, those were the days…”
Okay, probably not!
But hey… we survived! 😉
I am fortunate to not have to go back to work immediately, so I know there is a whole new world of survival when the mom-goes-back-to-work factor kicks in! If you’ve been (or are currently) a mom of two under two and have gone back to work, please share your ideas and tricks for what helped you to raise two happy healthy littles while working and maintaining your sanity. I mean… at least partially maintained sanity.
(This I write as a 3.5 hour crying spell has finally ended.)
As always, thanks for reading!
Family and Newborn Photos by: