I signed up for having two kids under two. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified about the big day and how I’d manage to balance the very different needs of two kids. I’ve made it three months now, and we’ve long since gotten into a groove. It’s challenging, for sure, but I’ve learned how to manage by lowering certain standards, choosing my battles and adapting where necessary. Here are just a few things I’ve learned!
Tips for Surviving Two Under Two
1. Crying happens. With your first child, you jump at every peep and groan. With your second, it’s just not possible to get there because your oldest is demanding your immediate attention because she’s eating dog food. The baby will be okay if he cries for a couple of minutes. You might even be surprised that he or she self-soothes.
2. You’ll feel like a failure. There will be moments you feel like an utter failure, like when you haven’t showered, you’ve lost your patience multiple times, you haven’t managed to make dinner and have spit-up on your shirt, snot on your pants and drool dripping down your arm.
3. You’ll feel like a stud. Then there are times you feel like you can conquer the world, like when you complete a mission to the grocery store with both kids in the rain.
4. May chaos commence! There are moments of pure chaos because the kids inevitably melt down at the same time, while the dog is barking and your phone is ringing. Game-time decisions must be made on who and what is the highest priority at the moment.
5. Savor the silence. While few, there are moments of peace, like when both are napping at the same time.
6. You come in last. Time for yourself is minimal at best. You definitely take the backseat to the high-needs under-two set. Get away when you can. Even an hour or so a week will make a huge difference.
7. Predictably unpredictable. The toddler was in such a predictable routine that the non-routine of a newborn was an adjustment. But the unpredictable newborn stage will end, and the baby will settle into more of a pattern that fits into your schedule.
8. Take help when you can get it. Especially in those first weeks. Have someone get breakfast for the older one while you catch more snooze time.
9. Forget about cooking. There may come a day when I’m able to make a simple meal like tacos again, but it’s not today. The toddler freaks out if she sees me making dinner and it’s not available IMMEDIATELY. And 4 to 6 p.m. is just the grumpy time of day where my attention must be on kids, not the stove. So while it’s not the healthiest, we’ve been relying on the freezer section to help get dinner on the table. More processed, sure, but I try to balance it out with a side of veggies and less processed options throughout the day. And it’s better than takeout, right?
10. Paper plates. Seriously. You can save the world once your life settles down.
11. Buy in bulk. The wipes you will go through with two in diapers…insanity!
12. Hire a maid. Or if you can’t afford that, like me, just accept that your house will be a wreck. Try to teach the oldest to help you put away toys without getting out two more (good luck with that). Otherwise, don’t even try to pick up toys until bedtime.
13. Stairs. If you’ve got stairs in the house, teach your oldest to use them safely. It is a tremendous help to have my daughter be able to climb and descend while holding the rail or my hand, freeing me up for baby-carrying.
14. Prepare for backlash. My oldest has adjusted quite well to her sibling but was a maniac in the early days. If the attention wasn’t on her, well, she’d do what it took to get us to refocus. I try to include her in every way possible, and luckily she’s stopped taking frustrations out on the baby.
15. Distract, distract. Luckily my son is a super fast and efficient eater, unlike my daughter who took her sweet time nursing. But time spent breastfeeding can be seen as time away from your oldest. Have plenty of books and toys at hand at feeding time to make your older one feel included. And confine yourself to a room or make good use of baby gates; nothing is worse than having to pick up from a comfortable nursing position to get the toddler out of the dog food. (Yes, she’s obsessed with dog food and “helping” the dog eat.)
16. Use technology. The iPad and Sesame Street have saved my life. I try to avoid TV-watching as much as possible, but an Elmo video on the iPad or a few minutes of Sesame Street can buy you valuable nap time on the couch.
17. A new accessory. Wearing the baby was the key because for the first six weeks, I couldn’t put him down or he’d freak out. My Ergo and K’tan helped me have two free hands when I desperately needed them.
So there you have it. I’m surviving, and you can, too. It’s definitely the toughest job ever, and some days I’m counting the minutes until my husband gets home. But it does get easier, and you manage, somehow.
Do you have two little ones? Any tips to share? —Erin