A few weeks ago, my husband and I had our first (and only) date out of the house after the baby's birth. He took me to see one of my all-time favorite movies in 3D (yes, I LOVE Jurassic Park -- it's the only solid dinosaur movie out there). We met our friends at the theatre, whose kids are already grown up and getting married.
As I sat next to my friend, I mentioned how weird it was being out of the house for the first time with Elliott. She made a comment that stuck with me. My friend said that when you have the first baby, you expect that your life is going to turn upside down and you'll never have a spare moment again. Instead, it's just sort of a little bump in the road and things go back to normal. When you have the second baby, you expect another little bump, but instead you are sitting on a roller coaster and it never goes back to normal.
I completely relate to this statement, realizing that not everyone does. When we had our first daughter, we were sort of already in a lifestyle conducive to children: as homebodies, we rarely ventured out; we liked early nights and earlier mornings; we were ready to nest. The adjustment was really easy for us -- just a little bump in the road that went back to normal.
Our youngest daughter is just about two months old, so maybe this will change, but I'm finding that life is anything but "normal" or "the way it used to be." That's fine, but it's just different and requires some "intentionality" on our parts.
Here are some suggestions to adjusting to life with two kids (my kids are 21 months apart):
1. Get Used to Crying
As a person who HATES having her children -- or anyone -- cry (because it makes me oh-so-sad), this was something I just embraced immediately. Someone is going to cry. If I'm putting Baby A to bed and the other one needs my attention, I have to finish what I'm doing before I go to comfort Baby B (otherwise there will be TWO babies crying). It doesn't mean I like it -- it just means it's the reality in which I now live.
My sister-in-law mentioned that you have to start doing some bargaining in your brain. "It will take me 15 minutes to put down Baby A but it will take me 30 minutes to feed Baby B. So I'll put down Baby A first, and then get to Baby B." Sometimes things -- like naptime routines -- are a little rushed, but overall, you have to time-bargain in your head.
2. Get Some Rest
The whole "nap when baby naps" mantra is not very practical with two kids. Although it might happen on some days, I've found that it's best not to count on getting a nap. If you can get one, great. If not, find other ways you can rest.
My toddler is obviously more active and requires more energy than the newborn, so when the older one is asleep, I plan on doing restful things even if the little one is awake at that time. Sometimes it means putting on a TV show while nursing, reading a book while bouncing the bouncy seat, or doing some yoga while babygirl is on the play-gym mat. Whatever it is, I try to make sure I conserve as much energy as possible so I have the amount I need to get me through to bedtime.
I've also been planning very simple meals -- ones that require barely any prep time. This allows extra rest time during the day, as well as delegation If I'm too tired to make dinner, I simply have to tell Elliott what's on the menu and he can whip it up.
3. Get Comfy with Clutter
Did I mention the house gets cluttered very easily the more kids you have? Well, it does, so get used to it. Between baby swings and baby doll clothes and books and socks hastily strewn on the floor -- not to mention the pile of mail that "we'll get to later" -- it's easy for things to collect. Throw in the fact that the time when I used to do chores is no longer available, there's bound to be more mess than ever.
If mess bothers you (like it bothers me), then you just have to accept your limitations. I do little things here and there (a quick sweep after every meal, grabbing dirty clothes while walking to the closet, quickly wiping down the sink during bath time) instead of setting aside a "major cleaning" time. On the better days, Gwen even helps me a little bit. I do what I need to do to keep things orderly, but gone are the days when I have a scheduled time for every chore.
And I remind myself: this is temporary. Someday they will both be old enough to help me with the chores, and our house will be neat(er) and tidy(er) again. It's not the end of the world.
4. Get Your Schedule Down (or not!)
I try -- as much as possible -- to schedule things nicely. By this, I mean I anticipate the next thing. At two months, the little one is still too little to be on a schedule (and let's face it, during the first year, naps are changing all the time depending on what nap they are dropping), so I do what I can.
Babies this small tend to only want to be awake for two hours or less at a time (at least, according to this book, which I have found to be both accurate and helpful). So in the morning, I can gauge when baby is going to go to sleep depending on when she woke up. If I want to ensure time to myself, then I start getting the toddler ready for quiet time or a nap as soon as baby goes to sleep. This doesn't always work (and sometimes baby's naps are super short!) but it keeps the crying to a minimum, at least.
The other thing that might work for some people (but not me because I thrive off of schedules) is just throwing the schedule away. You'll probably have to find another blog for this advice, though. I'm not sure how to operate that way, but I know it works for certain families and kids just fine.
5. Get Some Date Time
During the first year, it was so easy to schedule in time as a couple. Our older daughter went to bed really early (read: 5 pm), so that meant Elliott and I always ate dinner alone and had the whole evening to ourselves. Now our time has been squished to about an hour -- maybe an hour and a half at the most -- between my working out and cleaning up dinner and having to go to bed early. So we realized the whole, "let's just see what we want to do," and, "let's watch TV for an hour for fun," thing isn't working.
We can't really afford a dinner-date-and-babysitter thing except maybe on special occasions, so we're just making do by focusing on the quality of time we spend together. Instead of a show, we're going to start playing games together more -- to give ourselves more fun interaction. Maybe we'll even start reading plays together again. Whatever it is, we're going to make sure that we are interacting, and not just existing, together.
6. Get a Firm Foundation
In the first few weeks of being home alone with two kids, I found my fuse to be shorter than I realized. Yelling, crying, throwing fits -- these all became really easy for me to fall into. I didn't like who I was becoming.
There are times for yelling, but kids do not deserve to be yelled at when I'm just frustrated or tired. This is why I've started turning to the Lord in prayer. At 3 am when my daughter just doesn't want to burp and is keeping me up for an hour or two, I pray for the next day: "Lord, please help my attitude tomorrow. I'm going to be tired and I need your help to be patient and kind." I ask for gentleness in my spirit -- for peace. In moments when I feel like I'm about to burst, I pray my way through them. I sing.
Without the Lord, I don't know how I would be able to manage. He keeps me grounded in what really matters and gives me "peace that surpasses all understanding." When I have nothing left inside me to give to my girls, He provides me with what I need.