Surviving with Kids Close in Age

How to Survive 2 Kids Under 2

No one told me how hard this was going to be. I knew it would be challenging, but I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. We wanted our kids close together but 14 1/2 months is SUPER close! I thought it would be challenging, but I didn’t know just how hard having 2 babies would be. I have not been able to find very many resources on having kids this close together, or “baby bunching” as it is known to some, and most things I did find were negative. It IS hard, but there are so many sweet moments as well. And people tell me that although it’ll be difficult at first, it’ll be great later when they’re friends. Or fighting over boys in high school, whichever comes last.

At the ripe old age of being just 8 months into this whole 2 under 2 thing, here are my time earned tips for surviving and thriving with 2 babies under 2. Because that is what you have. Babies. You have 2 babies. One who is rapidly turning into a mini teenager (who at least won’t be able to drive for another 14 years).

1) Think of all the parenting books, articles, blogs, resources you have collected over the last year-ish. If you can remember any of the advice they gave you in your haze of exhaustion, forget it. There is not one book that prepared me for having 2 babies who are not twins. Take what you learned that is helpful and don’t worry about the rest. Don’t feel guilty for doing things differently than the books say, especially if because this Little Baby is a completely different person than your Big Baby. The things that worked to soothe Big Baby to sleep when she was your one and only probably aren’t working with Little Baby now because Big Baby doesn’t permit you to have quiet minutes (or hours) in the rocking chair trying to get Little Baby to sleep. Etcetera.

2) Say no to guilt. Becoming a mom brought out a lot of fears, and with those fears came a lot of guilt. I had/have to fight letting guilt take over my mind and heart. Guilt because Little Baby has to cry longer than Big Baby did before I can get to her. Guilt because I can’t always pick up Big Baby and carry her because my arms are already full of Little Baby. Guilt because with Big Baby I cloth diapered and breast fed and made my own baby food and Little Baby gets formula (that’s a super long story for another post) and squeezy packs and Pampers. Accept that you can’t meet everybody’s needs all the time, but you’ll do the best you can. Sometimes the best you can do is Kraft Mac N Cheese and a kiss on the head and sometimes that’s enough.

3) Lower your expectations for cleanliness. Then lower them again. And again. Accept the concept of “Clean enough”. I recently saw a quote that went something like, “Having a toddler is like using a blender without the lid”. True story. Let’s be honest, no one would ever accuse me of being Holly Homemaker. Before kids I had to work hard to keep things neat and organized (alright I mostly let things fall as they may) and now with kids its nearly impossible to keep a neat and orderly house. Of course, you could also move to China and have an ayi (house helper/Chinese Mary Poppins). I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move back to the U.S. until the kids are out of the house because how will I survive?! If your house is a health hazard at times like mine you might want to get some help. Which brings me to my next point.

4) Accept any and all offers for help. Now is not the time to prove how self sufficient and strong you are. Now is the time to take care of your babies (and hopefully your own) needs. If someone offers a meal, eat it! Babysitting, take it. Coming over to you for a playdate instead of you going to them, accept that offer gracefully. I know this is a hard one for many people but just get over it. No one is thinking, “Oh look how weak she is for hiring a house cleaning service!” They are thinking, “Wow, look how hard core she is for having 2 babies under 2 and keeping everyone alive!”

5) Take care of you. Its called “Self Care”. You know how on an airplane they tell you that in case of emergency and the oxygen masks deploy, put one on yourself first then help your child or someone else? That’s a good life lesson. Find things that help you feel energized and refreshed and fight for it. Exercise helps me feel sane and happy. Getting out once or twice a month with girlfriends refreshes me and reminds me that I’m not only a mom but an individual person. Getting pedicures once a month helps me feel pretty and its 45 minutes where I can just zone out and peruse People magazine. (Speaking of which did you see the Oscar dresses? OMG! And did you know that So & So broke up with So & So but now So & So is having a kid with Other So & So Ohmygawd!).

6) Find a good moms group who you enjoy and who support you and your crazy kids. Having a close girlfriend who also had a kid the same age as Big Baby was absolutely a life saver. I also had a moms group that was great to go to for Big Baby to play and swap war stories about sleepless nights and labor and delivery. Find a mom or two with older kids who have already been through The Little Years and secretly stalk them for mentoring. Glean the wisdom they have now that they’re a little ahead of you in the game. Find out that there is life on the other side of this. Its all about perspective, people!

7) Babywear! You knew this was going to come up at some point. I would not survive if it weren’t for baby wearing. Big Baby still loves to be worn while Little Baby protests then tolerates it. Nevertheless she still gets worn. You only have so many hands but you have a front and a back, the perfect space to carry 2 babies! Even if you don’t intend to ever wear both babies at the same time, still invest in 2 good carriers so that you can wear one while your partner wears the other. Especially since I don’t have a car and need to walk or take public transportation everywhere and can’t often use the stroller, the baby carriers are a life saver!

8) There will be a period of survival mode, maybe 3 months, maybe a year. For me its closer to a year. And I am only 8 months in! But then again I did make an international move 6 months in, something you may want to think twice about should you be presented with the opportunity. Think twice about moving with a 5 month and 18 month old that is. If you have the opportunity to live overseas, do it! But I digress. When you are in survival mode you are keeping everyone alive. That’s your main job. Eventually you’ll surface and be able to be the creative pintrest genius you once were. But allow yourself some time to figure things out.

9) It will get easier. People tell me it will get easier. It does eventually right? Of course like I said maybe think twice before making an international move in the middle of your first year with 2 babies. Even now with an 8 month old and 22 month old, some things have gotten easier. Some have gotten more challenging. Like I don’t really have 2 babies anymore, I have a baby and a toddler. Having a toddler means that Big Baby is more independent, FINALLY isn’t mouthing everything in the entire world that’s on the ground, and can be occasionally trusted not to bolt. Or at least she sometimes comes back when you call her. But it also means she has crazy tantrums. And it means that now I need to think about feeding Little Baby actual food rather than just milk and that she’ll soon be mobile (TWO mobile babies??!!).

10) Look for a few good moments throughout your day. Long days, short years. I know they say “Enjoy every moment” and “Time goes so fast” but sometimes time feels SO SLOW! And I think, enjoy every moment, are you friggin’ kidding me? What about the moments when Little Baby woke up 4 times to eat and Big Baby woke up twice because of a bad dream and then they both woke up at 6:30 and wanted to play but Big Baby had her hands in her poopy diaper but fought like a wild tiger when I change her and… So instead I say reach for a few good moments in your day. Some days are harder than others but if I can find a sweet moment or 2 in the day I know we’re gonna make it.

P.S. You got this, mama.
P.P.S. Don’t forget the wine. And the chocolate.

Better posts on Surviving 2 Under 2

Camp Patton Blog
Lauren Kimmel’s blog
Mom’s Alive

Surviving 3 Under 3

I was getting ready for a new post and saw that a year ago I started but never finished this post entitled, “I am no longer a mom of 2 under 2”. I had written:

“Big baby turned 2 last week. And I am no longer a mom of 2 under 2.

I feel like I’m having an identity crisis!”

I suppose that sums it up and describes my feelings now, a year later. I’m still having a bit of an identity crisis. I feel like I reached a big milestone, my oldest child turned 3 years old last week! I no longer have 3 kids under 3 but I do still have 2 under 2 so I suppose I can’t loose my identity just yet.

Apparently I’ve survived having 3 kids under 3. It may not have been easy or looked pretty, but I did it. With a lot of help from my friends.

Now that I have 3 kids I realize that I pretty much know nothing at all about parenting. Every kid is unique and each stage is completely different. Each child has reached development stages at different timing and handles things quite uniquely. Everything that I said in my post about surviving 2 kids under 2 still applies, even more so. Here’s what I wish I would have known a year ago when I found out I was pregnant with mini mac #3.

1. Don’t “should” on yourself.

Remember how I said you have to lower your expectations when you have 2 little kids? Its true to a greater degree with 3 little ones. Lower your expectations for your standard of cleanliness in your house. Lower them for the number of activities in which you expect to participate. Lower them for the amount of time in which you’d like to loose the baby weight. And lower them again for other things like the amount of television you allow your kids to watch, the amount of gourmet meals you prepare for your family, and etcetera etcetera.

I know that this is a hard one, because every time you let your toddler watch one more tv show per day than you used to do the voice of guilt is LOUD. You feel like you SHOULD be cooking more, you SHOULD be spending more time creating pintrest worthy crafts, you SHOULD NOT let your child watch tv, you SHOULD, you SHOULD, you SHOULD. Few things will steal your joy more than when you constantly feel like you’re not living up to your expectations for yourself, like you’re a constant disappointment. The truth is that these expectations most often are internal rather than coming from our children or partner.

Don’t let the disappointment of what you think you SHOULD be doing steal your joy from what you ARE doing. 

There are certain things you may choose not to compromise on, and that’s fine, but there are probably things you can let go of a little bit. Choose what works best for your family. Are your children fed? Check. Relatively clean and clothed? Check. Safe and loved? Check. Take THAT pintrest!

2. Don’t wish “this phase” away.

Now that I’m doing this for the third time, I have a new appreciation for how quickly each phase passes. My son will soon grow out of his sweet little baby goat sleep sounds, jerky arm movements, and baby coos. My daughter is quickly stretching out of her chubby baby thighs and and her toddler feet are turning into little girl feet. My older daughter is suddenly wearing high water pants and 3/4 sleeve length shirts and suddenly has a much longer attention span. When I look at my middle child and am at my wits end with her tantrums, I know that she’ll soon (I hope!) grow out of these and mature into someone who can handle her emotions more appropriately. I see it happening with Lucy so I know it will happen with Addy too. Jack will soon be rolling and trying to crawl all over the place. Just look at Addy, I thought she would never walk and now she wakes up and hits the ground running!

I used to wish that this phase, these “little years” would pass quickly, and sometimes I still do. But now I’m trying to appreciate this time for what it is. As much as I want to get through some of the challenging parts of toddlerhood, I also want to be present in the present. Once one challenging phase is over another challenge is sure to pass my way. There will always be challenging situations in parenting. If its not tantrums, its sleepless nights. If its not teething, its potty training. I might as well settle in for the long haul and give up wishing that things would be easier. Plus, I don’t want to miss the sweet things about these little years, like the funny things toddlers say (“Whoa, I almost fell. That was cwazy!”) and do (wearing underwear on the head, anyone?) to sweet cuddles at the end of a long day.

3. Love your children as they are, warts and all.

I’m learning to love my children as they are, where they’re at, in the stage they’re in. I don’t want to keep wishing my daughter wasn’t so strong willed, and then realize one day that I missed out on reaching her heart during her formative years because I was too tired and selfish to realize that’s part of who she is. I don’t want to ignore my other daughter as she has difficult tantrums because I’m tired and busy with other things. I also don’t want to compare them to each other because they each have completely different personality types and strengths. During this season, I really want to love each individual child in the way they each need to be loved, and hope I can learn to do that now so that I can continue it for a lifetime. This is hard, it falls under the SHOULD category because I feel like I SHOULD be doing things differently with each of them that I’m sometimes incapable of doing but I’m trying.

4. Find another new normal. 

For us, going from 1-2 kids was a bigger adjustment than going from 0-1 or 2-3. I know everyone has a different experience of this, but it felt like if we could handle two little ones so close together, we could handle 3. We moved from “man-on-man” to “zone defense”. It did, however, take a bit longer for us to find a new normal this time around. I’ve heard others say that with each new kid it takes a bit longer to adjust to a new normal, and that’s been true for us. Jack is 4 months old now and it was a few weeks ago that I felt like I started to surface from the newborn haze and feel a little more in control of the situation. In many ways we’re still operating in survival mode, and we probably will be for a little longer. I’m okay with that, and I know eventually things will get easier.

5. Rest as much as possible.

By nature, I’m a night owl. No one will EVER say that I’m a morning person, no matter how much coffee I’ve started drinking. But I have to get up and *gasp* be NICE not yell function at an ungodly hour these days. I’ve started going to bed early, like really early. The other night I was actually in bed before 9pm (sob…). I feel so sad about this because I love being in a quiet and cleanish house after everyone is sleeping and I can catch up on a show or surf the google machine. Going to bed early makes me feel old and boring and out of touch with the rest of the world. But it also makes me feel more functional the next day. I realize that the my patience with the kids at the end of a day is directly related to the quantity and quality of sleep I got the night before. I can’t always predict how the night is going to go (no one told me that toddler sleep is WORSE than newborn sleep?!!), but when I actually attempt to get a good night’s shut eye, I’m better able to make it through the next day with a little more un-wilted fruit of the spirit.

Resting doesn’t just mean sleeping when the babies sleep, but doing things that help me relax. I know it can be hard for us busy mamas to relax, but I find that when I take time to do “productive relaxing” (i.e. blogging, exercising, catching up on emails, chatting with a friend, taking a shower), my batteries are recharged and I can make until the kids bedtime. Of course, I love a good Netflix binge or pedicure, I’m not gonna lie, but I feel especially recharged when I do something that’s productive but not a requirement.

So there you have it, 5 things I’ve learned since having 3 kids under 3 years old. I’ve also posted this on my “Surviving kids close together” page so if you have another crazy friend with a bunch of kids close together, send ’em over there.

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