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From One Baby to Two

Jul13

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Hi Amy:

I love your blog/column/twitter presence, but I’m going to cut to the chase, I think i have 6 minutes left of baby nap to write this in. My husband and I have an 18 month old girl, adorable, hilarious bundle of huggles. We love love love her. I never thought I’d want another, but I’ve been secretly thinking about it since she was about 3 months old. And then not so secretly, by discussing it with my husband over the past year. His constant answer is not now, not yet, when we get a bigger place. So we’ve been working on a bigger place, which we need anyway. Once you say Out and put on baby’s shoes, well, you’d better get the heck out of the house.

But lovely husband brought up a real problem that I haven’t been able to figure: how do you manage two? I am a SAHM to her, quit my day job when we couldn’t find a great afforadable daycare and my job wouldn’t work with me, and I too am wondering how you do that. I know you have first hand experience in this (and you have a few jobs as I can figure it). I know he is concerned about me and not just trying to throw up barriers to another baby, he is just a practical person. I know he is also worried about being a provider to all of us. We would also like for me to go back to work eventually (when everyone is in preschool otherwise how would we afford THAT), because gosh I think staying home forever and not having a job might make me poke my own eyes out from reading too much internet gossip. How do you do it?
Truly,
G

On the surface, this seems like an easy question. But I’m having a harder time than expected, putting a coherent answer together. Or at least one that doesn’t borrow too heavily from a famous sports shoe’s marketing campaign. How do I do it? Well, I just do it.

It’s sort of like how you spent your entire pregnancy worrying about coping with the sleep thing, with waking up dozens of times at night and never getting sleep in on Saturdays again. Or maybe you worried about changing gross diapers, or finding the right daycare, or going back to work or not going back to work and how do you know how often to feed them? What do you do when they get an ear infection in the middle of the night? Holy crap, they’re not really going to let us come home with a newborn from the hospital BY OURSELVES, right?
And then the baby comes and you…just do all that, and more. You muddle through and figure stuff out and sure, some of it is HARD, REALLY HARD, and you don’t love that hard stuff, but you love the baby. And you can’t imagine life without them so it’s all just one big annoying cliche about everything being “so worth it.”

The second baby tends to work out that way too. Only with maybe a little more muddling through at first.

For us — for me — it’s been all about the routine. The schedule. The division of responsibility between parents. Ezra wakes up, I nurse him. Jason gets Noah up and dressed and fed. He took him to preschool every day, and if he had a conflict and needed me to take him I requested as much notice as possible, so I could get morning writing deadlines done or at least drafted ahead of time. I take him to summer camp now, and that required a LOT of juggling and learning to get stuff together the night before, and I still depend on Jason to get at least one child up, dressed, fed. Housework remains evenly split (with help twice a month from a cleaning service). We take turns with bath time, Jason puts Noah to bed while I nurse the baby to sleep (I figure once Ezra weans we’ll either alternate who-puts-who-to-bed or try one big family joint bedtime stories and songs). We each get to sleep in one morning per weekend for as long as we want while the other handles breakfast duty. We live on a fairly strict budget to ease the what-ifs and worries that come from essentially depending on one person’s job and salary to support us.

Our non-camp or school days are less regimented, but still routine: I check email and get started on work while everyone eats breakfast, then it’s — ahem — “independent” time while I write for awhile. Everybody plays with toys on their own, perhaps a Noggin cartoon or two. Ezra goes down for his morning nap and I might set up the kiddie pool for Noah or play trains with him. Everybody eats lunch together. Then it’s quiet time with books for Noah, while Ezra and I get some time together before everybody goes down for afternoon nap. I work furiously through that nap to everything done for the day. The goal is always to only work during naps and to have our non-camp days “free” to just do whatever we want — playgrounds, walks, errands, etc. — and some weeks that works out. Other times not so much. I do my best.

Other things that have helped, like immensely:

1) The 2-3-4 sleep pattern. I was really worried I wasn’t going to get Ezra into a routine on my own — Noah never had any sort of predictable schedule until we sent him to daycare, and those ladies whipped our lives into regimented shape within DAYS and it saved our collective sanity. I read about the 2-3-4 pattern at Ask Moxie and decided to see if that was something I could nudge Ezra into. Two hours after he wakes up, we try for a nap. Three hours after he wakes up again, another nap. Four hours after THAT, we do the bedtime routine. And sure enough, it works. Ezra has had a wonderfully predictable nap routine during the day since he was around five months old, and being able to know when I’ll be back down to just one child on active duty (or zero, since afternoon naps and bedtimes usually overlap with each other), is a HUGE help.

2) Baby slings/carriers. I don’t think I would have survived the early months without these. Ezra refuuuuused to ever sit in a swing or a bouncer for more than a few minutes and wanted to be held constantly. Which was a problem when I had a hyper three-year-old who required a lot of wrangling and juice-fetching and hand-holding and shopping-cart-riding. My sling and my Ergo carrier gave me my arms back, and kept the baby super happy and close to his food source.
3) A good haircut. No, not vanity here, I’m just talking a good true wash-and-wear hair style. Showering is a complicated undertaking, and blow-drying and styling my hair is just not going to happen on a daily basis. Maybe once a week, on Saturday, if I’m lucky. Being able to shower, comb it out and let it air dry (without looking like frumpy, I’ve-given-up-on-life ass) is essential.

4) A good double stroller. If you hate your stroller, you’ll hate your life. You won’t want to go anywhere, so you won’t. And that sucks. Going out on your own with more than one child takes practice — it was definitely my personal Mt. Everest for awhile. Noah developed a terrible running habit right after Ezra was born and I was TERRIFIED to leave the house all outnumbered, even with the sling (it’s not fun huffing across a parking lot shrieking after one child with a 12-pound baby on your chest), and I’m really glad we have a stroller that works for us as a double containment option. (We splurged on the Phil & Ted’s with the doubles kit. Love it. Loooove it.) (Noah outgrew the running phase, by the way, so the sling gets most of the regular daily use, but we still use the stroller quite a bit.)

5) Remember that independence happens. Your older daughter won’t be 18 months old when the second baby arrives, even if you were to get pregnant right now. She’ll be able to do things she can’t right now, and you’ll be really grateful for it. Noah potty-trained before Ezra was born, can put his shoes on, can clear his own dishes from the table, etc. Just this morning I settled down to nurse Ezra when I realized I’d forgotten to let the dog in from the backyard. I groaned at the prospect of unlatching (and enraging) the baby, trudging downstairs, opening the door, likely getting a side request from Noah for more milk, we were already running late for camp, blah blah blah. The dog barked again…and I heard Noah say “Coming, Ceiba!” and open the door to let her in. “Good dog!” he told her cheerfully and closed the door again before returning to his Cheerios. It was such a tiny little thing but in that moment I was so, so impressed and grateful.

And on that note, I’m amazed at how quickly it all goes by — probably even faster than Noah’s babyhood. I can’t believe that Ezra is nine months old now and how much HAPPENS in those first nine months. He’s a person already! He and Noah can like, play together and keep each other entertained. They laugh at each other and can play in the same area with the same toys with very little input from me. Before I know it, there will be no more diapers or spoon-feeding and everybody will go to school or camp and I’ll look back and wonder how I ever got anything done.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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18 Responses to “From One Baby to Two”

  1. Bitts Jul 13 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    I have 2 children, 20 months apart (2.5 and 9 months, now). When I got pregnant with #2, I was as flummoxed as Gizella about “How am I going to DO it??” But Amy’s short answer is the truth: you just DO.
    Routines & rituals are also a mainstay at our house. Also very detailed advance-planning on my part. I keep a detailed calendar with EVERYTHING on it — meal plan, housework, appointments, playdates, etc. I plan all that kind of thing about 2 weeks ahead so I have AMPLE time to prepare.
    Our daily schedule (also using the 2-3-4 idea) looks like this:
    Everybody up at 7/7:30
    Breakfast
    Piano time
    Baby’s AM nap @ 9:15 / I shower & dress / #1 watches a DVD
    Morning activity around 10am – playdate, errands, appointment, whatever
    Lunch at 12pm
    #1 nap at 12:30, #2 asleep by 1pm – my time for housework, laundry & dinner prep
    Everybody up by 3:30
    Outside time until Daddy gets home @ 4:15
    Dinner at 5
    Joint bath every other night at 6pm
    Baby asleep by 6:30, Daddy finishes #1’s bedtime routine by 7:15pm.
    I try to deviate from this basic schedule only once a week if there’s an activity that will interfere with somebody’s naptime or something. Having the days be predictable helps everybody feel secure and like something got accomplished.
    Also, re: haircuts! ITA about as wash & go as you can get it. Mine is short-short-short, and even though I do wash & blow-dry every day, styling takes less than 5 minutes, Highly recommended.

  2. bethany actually Jul 13 at 2:27 pm Reply Reply

    How adorable that Noah let Ceiba in by himself, without being asked! I love it when my daughter does things like that. Since she turned 5, it’s been her job to feed the cats, and she has yet to do it without being asked…but she always cheerfully does it.

  3. Amy Jul 13 at 2:27 pm Reply Reply

    Just a “off-the-top-of-my-head” comment from someone who admittedly has no personal experience in this since I don’t have kids yet:
    My husband the youngest of 12 kids. They lived on one income, were by no means wealthy, they did not ever use any sort of childcare or nanny service, and they did not use a cleaning service until most of the kids were older and out of the house. They lived frugally but comfortably. While not without problems, all 12 have grown up to be healthy, well-adjusted, successful adults, and they all love each other very much. (Sounds too good to be true, but it really is true!)
    When I hear people fret over how to manage 2 or 3 kiddos, I do not belittle the fact that more than one child must seriously add to the difficulty parenting. And I also acknowledge that people have different thresholds and capacities. But if my MIL could handle 12, it makes me think having 2 is not worth worrying too much about! (And I say that to myself as well, in a positive, encouraging way, not a condescending, critical way.)
    I wish you the best, Gizella!

  4. Heidi Jul 13 at 3:32 pm Reply Reply

    Gaaah, yes! I spent 3 months with a BF who worked two round the clock jobs, had a baby girl that, like Ez, just wanted to be held, and two stepkids. I don’t know how I did it without heading to Ye Olde Loony Bin…I just did. I will say that coloring books, and “See who can color the most in an hour!” were my trick. It’s a shameless ploy for down time but screw ‘em. It worked for me.

  5. Lisa Jul 13 at 3:57 pm Reply Reply

    I know that, for me, having the older child be at least three was the life-saver. I know that there is some argument for having all the babies be babies so the baby-ness is D.O.N.E. in one fell swoop, but I can’t imagine what it is. :)
    My older son was two months shy of four when younger son was born, and while he wasn’t completely potty-trained, he WAS old enough to understand, “You have to wait for a minute, sweetie. I’m feeding Baby and when he’s done I’ll get you some juice,” and old enough to even get himself certain things, like his sippy cups in the fridge or even pop in a video for himself.
    Plus I had a house cleaner every other week, so the only “chore” I had was laundry. I love to do laundry, so that is no problem. Mopping? Haaaate, so it was nice to know I didn’t have to do it.

  6. LJP Jul 13 at 4:33 pm Reply Reply

    I’m in the same boat! Amy, are you taking follow-up questions on this (great) question? I have a two year old son and an 8 week old daughter. I’m home for 18 months on my much valued Canadian maternity leave. I feel like my poor daughter is getting hauled around to accommodate the outtings my active 2 year old needs in order to be less bonkers. I did the 2-3-4 with my son and it was great! But I can’t see exactly how I’d implement it with my daughter. She naps in her sling or carseat or stroller while we are playing at the park or playgroups, etc. Did you just fit Noah into Ezra’s 2-3-4? Or the other way around? And, when did you start up the routine with Ezra? Was it just a crap-shoot until then? My daughter now just naps in the car seat or sling or stroller while we’re out and about. So sorry to hijack this question! For Gizella, the one thing I can say is that two babies really is a blast – can be a very hard blast, but a blast indeed.
    LJP.

  7. Amy Jul 13 at 6:00 pm Reply Reply

    Shameless plug – I’ve written a LOT about having “two under two” at my blog – http://prettybabies.blogspot.com
    That said, I have two girls who are 19 months apart. I find it MUCH easier now – my oldest is almost four, my youngest is a bit over two – because THEY ENTERTAIN EACH OTHER.
    I’ve never been big into routines. I’m sure we have them, but they aren’t set in stone. Some nights we have dinner at 6, other nights at 7. Our days just sort of … flow.
    I got mine to nap at the same time, which was nice. A lot of times we all napped together. I also relied heavily on my sling (Kangaroo Korner).
    I found the transition from no kids to one to be a LOT harder than the jump from one to two. I’ve heard that two to three is even easier.
    There are a lot of advantages to having closely spaced kids. It’s a lot of work, too. But if you have another, you’ll just figure it out. It’s not really something you can plan ahead for. Just be flexible and do the best you can every day. That’s all any baby/toddler needs.
    I agree with the commenter who said that your kid won’t be 18 months old forever. She’d be 2.5 by the time a baby came along, if you got pregnant instantly. You’d be amazed at how much help a 2.5 year old can be!
    Having a second child was great for me, mentally, too. With my first I was hyper about everything – I had spreadsheets. My second mellowed me out. I just couldn’t be as intense as I had been with only one – and we all benefited from my being more relaxed.
    If you wait for the perfect time to have a baby, you’ll never have a baby – whether it’s your first or your fifth. They just find their way into your family, and you all adjust to make it work.
    Please do read my blog – look for the “two under two” tag. There’s good stuff there, if I do say so… :)

  8. Stephanie Jul 13 at 10:05 pm Reply Reply

    To LJP:
    My son was dragged around to all of my then three year old daughter’s stuff, too. Your older child needs the outings even more now that there’s a little brother or sister in the picture, and I honestly think it’s good for the baby, too. Naps were not as scheduled with my little boy as they had been for his sister, but it wasn’t really much of an issue. (Both of my kids were completely over napping by the time they were 2 1/2. anyway.) He was (and still is) much better at entertaining himself than his sister, and I think it’s at least partly because he just had to learn to be that way.
    Eight weeks is still really early in the whole juggling-two-little-kids scheme of things. I remember that it just kept getting easier as time went on (I distinctly remember that it took me two hours in the morning just to feed myself and the kids breakfast, get us all dressed, and get my teeth brushed and out the door in the very early weeks after my son was born–a shower was out of the question). You’ll find your way, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it–just do what works best for you.

  9. Tiffany Jul 14 at 3:41 pm Reply Reply

    Ugh. I’m in the thick of this right now. I have a 2.5 year old and a 7.5 week old. It’s a constant state of chaos around here. I’m EXHAUSTED every day, and can’t even manage to get my teeth brushed most days until my husband gets home. Insanity…

  10. Sara Jul 14 at 6:41 pm Reply Reply

    You just adapt to your new life! I have a 22 month old and a 3 week old, both boys. I was nervous as to how the hell I was going to handle both kids by myself since my husband works at night. But we have adjusted, the oldest has adapted really well to baby brother and the baby crying at night doesn’t faze him. It is completely worth it to me go through this phase as I can’t wait until they are older and are friends as me and my siblings are.

  11. psumommy Jul 14 at 9:18 pm Reply Reply

    Heh.
    I have 4 kids. Ages 7¬Ω, 4¬Ω, 3 and 10mos.
    Trust me…it can be done. You just do it. You won’t even really think about it, either, when it’s happening. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you adapt.

  12. Nancy Jul 14 at 9:38 pm Reply Reply

    I think the best advice is to not overthink it. Plan ahead and get some basic supplies (double stroller!) and then just do it.
    We have twins, and people have always asked, “How do you DO it with two?” You just do it. I don’t know how to do one kid. After the first couple weeks, you’ll be well recovered from the delivery (and the shock of suddenly having two kids!) and you’ll find a routine that works for all of you. Before you know it, you won’t remember what it was like to only have one, and you’ll wonder what you were worried about.
    Good luck! :-) Just do it!

  13. wallydraigle Jul 15 at 11:44 am Reply Reply

    I have a nine month old. And I am two months pregnant. I am naively optimistic about this. My daughter has been great at independent play for months now, and she’s also been a (mostly) great sleeper almost from day one. My goal is to develop a good routine from day one (one that fits the new baby, of course; I won’t hammer it into a strict YOU EAT EVERY THREE HOURS, AND YOU WILL LIKE IT), or as close to day one as possible. I’m also going to completely babyproof one room of the house once I get done with first trimester. That way I can put the toddler in that room with a bunch of toys while I nurse the baby or sob uncontrollably. It will depend on the day, of course.
    Goal number one could go completely out the window, of course. Our first couldn’t have been an easier baby, and she took to a schedule like a duck to water. This next one? I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be a colicky baby who needs to nurse constantly. ‘Cause we can’t afford a nanny. Or therapy.

  14. Sara Jul 15 at 3:05 pm Reply Reply

    I have a 28 month old son and a six week old daughter. It’s nothing like I thought it would be, but it’s great! My suggestions would be:
    1) Get better at accepting help. This is SO important. I was the type of person to say “no, we’re fine.” But sometimes, you aren’t fine. Since this baby, my back went out and she had a fever and spent some nights in the hospital. And aside from the emergency types of situations, you just can’t do as much. Let grandma take your two year old to Toys R Us, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom that you don’t spend 24/7 with both.
    2) Get better at division of labor. I very very rarely asked DH to get up with my son because I was nursing and I had a bassinet and I figured…what’s the point. This time, I’m bottlefeeding (due to the aforementioned back injury and a week on Vicodin) and he’s been sharing a bit in the agony of sleepless nights. He’s also staying home with two occasionally (not that he didn’t stay home with one, but two are harder and let’s face it…sometimes women are just better at juggling two kiddies). It makes him A LOT more appreciative of what I do and I think this is the first time he’s truly been aware of the amount of work and admitted he couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do it.
    3) Find a good preschool/camp/playroom/babysitter. I’m sending my son to camp at the heathclub this summer because I wanted him to have something just for him once the baby came. was really concerned about jealousy (which didn’t happen). He loves it and is learning so much it’s insane. It’s a nice time for me to spend alone with my daughter and stroll the mall or run errands.
    Oh my gosh, I can think of so many more…like teach your older child to be more independent (like walking and hand holding instead of carrying), take the time to take care of yourself (develop a five minute makeup routine), childproof as much of your house as possible, keep momentum in your life (a little laundry, picking up after meals right away instead of letting things pile up).
    You’ll be great. Motherhood (especially now that I have two) has taught me that I can do SO MUCH MORE than I thought I could before. I can’t help with the job advice, I never made enough that it made that much difference (frickin art degree).

  15. Carolyn Jul 16 at 7:14 pm Reply Reply

    Oh my goodness, you just changed my life with that 2-3-4 comment. That’s it! I’ve been working on a set nap schedule for my 9-month-old for months now, and it always seems slightly off. But that routine sounds perfect! Why didn’t I discover this before???? Thanks. :)

  16. makakona Jul 16 at 11:11 pm Reply Reply

    psumommy is right. you just do it. my girls (yep, ALL girls) are 6mo and 2, 4, and 5yo. my first two were 17 months apart. it’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of FUN!
    no strollers at all here, just a sling that i couldn’t live without. not much of a scheduler, either, but definitely into routines. breastfeeding is a lifesaver… i can do it while catnapping, it cuts down on time spent washing and preparing bottles, and (most important!) the hormones released while nursing my baby calm my frazzled mind!
    i’m a sahm, too. my husband is a cop and we live in southern california, so we’re not exactly rolling in dough. you just make it work. i wouldn’t trade a second of it.

  17. wallydraigle Jul 16 at 11:41 pm Reply Reply

    Holy cows! Thank you for posting the 2-3-4 link. The Child has been sleeping like a champ for pretty much her whole life, and then it all fell apart a couple weeks ago (coinciding nicely with the onset of first trimester horrible fatigue). Crappy naps all around. I have been fiddling with her schedule here and there, trying to find something that works, hoping my sweet, happy baby would come back and boot out McGrouchypants sometime in the near future. Today we did the 2-3-4 thing, and it was magic! MAGIC. You just saved my life, I am pretty sure.

  18. heather Feb 06 at 3:57 pm Reply Reply

    hey everybody i just wanted to say i will try to calm down a bit i am due in 8 weeks and my daughter is 16 months old i was freaking out not sleeping worrying about how i would handle this on my own but now i feel like it might be possible thank you so much for your advice

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