From One Baby to Two
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 affordable 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?
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.