Two kids under 2 {a survival guide for bringing home a new sibling} | Parenting

Almost a year ago I wrote a guest post for the wonderful Bec at Mumma Tells, for her to publish once her second little bundle of joy arrived and she was having time off from blogging. At the time, I still had two kids under two, and given that Bec was about to find herself in the same situation, I shared with her some of the things I'd learnt as a Mother of two kids under two.

I thought I would revisit that post today, seeing as in just under 5 days my precious Punky will turn 3, and Bec's smallest girl will turn 1 (they share a birthday!).

When I gave birth to Zee in July of 2013, my first daughter Punky had just turned 20 months, and to say my husband and I were dropped in to a steep learning curve is an understatement! Life with two kids under 2 was certainly a roller coaster of incredible highs and frustrating lows.
Meeting her little sister for the first time

The highs of course being the wonder of childbirth and the love and euphoria that finally holding your new baby brings. The joy of watching Punky become a big sister, seeing the sweet kisses and hugs she lavished on Zee. The rush of love, wonder and hormones that comes from creating life with your partner.

The lows however? Well some were expected, some not so expected.

While it's expected, it's also easy to forget how relentless caring for a newborn can be. They don't require much, but what they do, they require often! The pain of early breastfeeding and the struggle and frustration that comes from trying to teach a tiny little baby how to latch on and feed. The broken sleep and bouts of crying when they suddenly wake up to the world and seem like they will never fall asleep or stop crying again. All of this was expected, though still a shock to the toddler-conditioned system!

What was unexpected though was the reaction of the toddler. She loved her little sister and enjoyed giving her hugs and kisses (still does!). She shared her toys with her and patted her on the head and said "hello" every time she saw her. She displayed no jealousy or anger towards the baby which surprised me. She did display it towards me though. She got angry with me if I was feeding and she needed or wanted something. She would point at Zee and then the bouncer, indicating that I should put down the baby and tend to her. She got stroppy with me and wouldn't talk to me if I spent too much time with the baby. And when I didn't have the baby she clung to me, afraid that I would go back to the baby instead of being with her.

It was certainly an interesting time, but I think we came through it ok, and neither Punky or Zee seems to be any worse off for the experience of having their Mother stretched to her limit. I learnt a few important things while having two kids under 2, and I'm hoping that you may find something here thats helpful if you ever find yourself in the same situation.

And really, this advice isn't limited to having two kids under two, it's applicable to anyone having a second baby and wondering how the hell they are gonna survive!

One of our very first photos all together (why yes, I do look a little crazy!)

Tips for Surviving with 2 kids under 2 (or simply having a second baby!)

1. Invest in some decent deodorant, a self-swinging rocker and a baby carrier.

Once Dave went back to work there were days when I had either one child or the other needing my attention round the clock so having a shower was just out of the question. So unless your body odour is reminiscent of a unicorn fart (which I imagine would smell like sunshine and rainbows) long-lasting deodorant is a must! Ditto the rocker/bouncer or baby carrier. Not only do they free up your hands to get stuff done or deal with the toddler, but a good rocker or baby carrier can even get baby off to sleep.

2. Invest in some new toys/activities/DVDs that only come out in an emergency.

I built a little stash of books, toys and games in the lead-up to Zee's birth that I pulled out on those days when Punky was getting a bit of cabin-fever and the baby just wanted to feed, feed, feed. Things that required little guidance or help from me, that were versatile and most importantly, kept her entertained or engaged for more than a couple of minutes. Think play-doh and cardboard shapes with holes punched around the edges to practice threading wool or string through. I also bought two DVDs, each with about 20 episodes of Peppa Pig. You may worry about how much time the toddler spends in front of the TV but some days you just have to go with it. It won't harm her in the long run, and in the short term it will save your sanity on the really hard days.

3. Make an effort to get out of the house. One-on-one with the toddler and by yourself.

I found that even something as simple as going for a trip to the post office, or to the local shops to get a milkshake worked wonders for the relationship between Punky and myself. It made her feel special and it filled up her Mummy-love tank enough to get us through the tough days. And of course doing anything by yourself, even if it's just going out for milk, is like visiting heaven! If you have to drink a litre of milk just to have an excuse to get more, go for it. You need the calcium anyway!

Punky loved to help give Zee a bath

4. Try to keep the toddler's routine as normal as possible and get them to help.

One thing I knew, even before Zee was born, was that keeping Punky's routine as normal as possible would help make the transition to life as a big sister a little easier. And it did. While there were times when trying to work the baby around the toddler routine was really hard, it was so worth the effort to persevere. I really think that was one of the keys to ensuring Punky didn't become completely overwhelmed by this massive change in her life. (And I thank God there were no programming changes happening at ABC for Kids other than a random Peppa Pig time-swap, lemme tell ya!).

Getting older kids to help with small tasks and jobs can also go a bit way to helping them feel involved. Punky loved to help us give Zee a bath, and I would often get her to pull the wipes out of the packet or hand me a clean nappy during change times. It made her feel important and she always had a big grin on her face when I thanked her for her wonderful help and being a good big sister.

5. Banish guilty feelings and focus on the things you HAVE done!

It's inevitable that having a second baby will bring even more mother guilt with it. Guilt at wanting to spend time just basking in your newborn, guilt at not spending enough time with your toddler, guilt about the state of the house, guilt at not having much time for your partner, pretty much guilt about anything that will pop in to your sleep-deprived brain! It's ok to feel the guilt, maybe even have a cry about it, feel a bit sorry for yourself.

But then its time to give yourself a mental head slap, and then a pat on the back, and know that you are doing the absolute best you can and that you're a great Mum! I felt like I was ruining both my toddler and baby in those first few weeks and would worry about all the things I wasn't doing and get upset and beat myself up about it. But then my Mum said something to me which really helped a lot... she told me at the end of each day to stop and think about the things I HAD done. Even if all I had done was make sure both kids had full bellies, that was something to be proud of. And by reminding myself of that I felt a lot less stress and a lot more joy.

In the end, having a Mummy that loves them is the best thing you can do for your kids. There are gonna be hard days sure, days where you may or may not go and sit on the toilet and have a massive sob because it's all too much and overwhelming (true story). Days when you realise that maybe you don't like being a Mum as much as you thought you would. I'm not gonna tell you that it gets easier, because to be honest, it's more that it just gets different, but with all of the tough days come the days that you just can't believe how lucky you are to be blessed with two such amazing beings. Your heart will just about burst with the joy of it!

And if all else fails make sure your bedroom cupboard is stocked with family-size chocolate bars and a few good bottles of low-alcohol wine!

What's your best advice for coping with the life changes that having a baby brings, whether it's number 1, 2 or beyond? What do you wish you'd known when it came time to bring home a sibling?

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Kylie Purtell said…
Great post' this will be very handy for new mamas of two! I have a very sensible ten year gap between my daughters (though I scored two awesome step kids in between!)
Kylie Purtell said…
Oh this took me back!
I remember being shocked when I had that second child; it is such a huge change!
But one day, you wake up and you just do it, and it's suddenly normal. i think you just need to hold on to the fact that that day will come :)
Kylie Purtell said…
I always had problems with tip 3 - get out of the house by yourself. To be honest I still have problems with this and don't get out of the house alone any where near as much as I should.
Kylie Purtell said…
I agree with your tip about getting out of the house. Some days it really can make all of the difference. The part about doing your best reminded me of an argument I saw on a parenting page yesterday. They were arguing about doing your best not being enough because when you learn you do better and the others were saying well that is still your best. It really was such a ridiculous argument.
Kylie Purtell said…
Great tips. I can't really remember that first year when I had the two boys at home. It's all a blur. I definitely didn't get out enough. Luckily my eldest is a resilient little man but I think my youngest would have benefited from some more one-on-one time with a less-frazzled mama!
Kylie Purtell said…
Great advice there. The baby swing absolutely saved us. Our eldest was two and three months when her little sister came along. There were moments of jealousy at the beginning. I remember breastfeeding the bub with my toddler on my knee, but after awhile it settled. You just have to hang in there. Things get easier.
Kylie Purtell said…
Great tips lovely, though if I have my way there will be no more little babies here!
Kylie Purtell said…
Great post, you are making me all nostalgic for the "good ol' days" - just kidding I love my sleep too much ;-). Gorgeous pics too by the way!

Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx
Kylie Purtell said…
Hahaha, I know what you mean. Just thinking about this makes me happier each time that we have decided to stick with 2 kids!
Kylie Purtell said…
They definitely get easier as you figure out the best ways to do stuff, and then one day you just kinda go "Huh. We survived?!".
Kylie Purtell said…
I hear ya about getting out! I was so lucky Dave worked the shift rotation that he does which meant he was home more often to allow me chances to slip out for a bit. I think Zee definitely benefited from Punky going to pre-school one day a week, that was our day for one-on-one time and I know she loved it. So did I!
Kylie Purtell said…
Man people argue about ridiculous things! How can you best not be enough when it's all you know how to do. If you weren't constantly growing and changing and always on the look out for a way to improve then maybe it wouldn't be, but we all know that 99.9% of people do the best with what they have but always, over time, and almost without trying will usually get better. Stupid people.
Kylie Purtell said…
Hahaha, I make it a priority. I'm lucky that Dave has 3.5 days off in a shift rotation so I get a bit more chance than most, but I make sure that at least one of his days off I go somewhere, out of the house by myself, even if it's just to do the grocery shopping (because then I sneak in a coffee before I start at the cafe!).
Kylie Purtell said…
Exactly. You almost don't realise how normal it has become until someone points it out to you what you've been doing. I had so many of those moments, especially in regards to leaving the house with both of them by myself. One day I suddenly realised that it had stopped being a big deal and I was just doing it, something I never thought I would be able to do with ease, but here I am!
Kylie Purtell said…
Nice one! My Mum and I were actually talking about age gaps last night and how the differences between age can be good at one stage, but then bad at another (like when one kids hits teenagerdom and doesn't want to hang out with the 'little ones' anymore). It was a problem Mum had but with 5 kids there is always someone who isn't gonna be happy, LOL!
Kylie Purtell said…
Seriously, I read posts like this and I THANK GOD I never have to do the baby thing again. I had a 2.5 year old and a newborn and that was bad enough. You know how I survived? IPAD. I make no apologies for that.
Kylie Purtell said…
This is almost where I'm heading mid next year... But it will be 2 under 3. A tad easier hopefully ;) in some ways a late shift hubby is good. He's home when I need to shower and do stuff during the day, but dinner time is gonna get crazy feeding 2 little people. Maybe I will get super skinny cos there's no time to eat haha
Kylie Purtell said…
Kylie, I just found your Blog and love it! I've only recently started my own after becoming a stay at home mum 9 months ago and I feel like we share a similar perspective on the reality of life and motherhood. Can't wait to catch up on your previous posts and keep following you in future. Erin : )

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