Recently at Parent Dish, Linda has been blessed with her second child. It has been a lot of fun to read her thoughts as she moved through her third trimester, and begins to adjust to her new life now that her second child is here.
When I found myself rather unexpectedly pregnant with Claire, I did a lot of searching for information on what it's like to have "two under two." I didn't find much. Since Jenny B. is expecting her second, and I'm sure there are other moms out there who are frantically searching for info on "two kids under two years old," I thought I'd start a series on various tips and coping strategies that I've picked up along the way. Not that I'm any kind of expert or anything, but they're both still smiling, so that has to count for something.
Tip #1 - Diapers
Change diapers at the same time. If you don't, you'll feel like you are changing diapers all freakin' day. When the new baby is little, obviously she's going to go through more diapers than the older one, but if you check the older one at the same time, and change her, too, if she needs it, you'll save your sanity.
Tip #2 - How to Get Around
Find a baby carrier you love and use it. Yes, this is going to require some cash. Sorry. See if your friends have a couple you can try before you buy. Mary Grace liked the Baby Bjorn. Claire and I love the Adjustable Pouch from Kangaroo Korner. Different babies like different styles. I'd probably go with an Ergo if I were buying one now. Experiment, find one, and then don't leave home without it.
When you go shopping, never go anywhere without carts. It's just a bad idea. If you must go somewhere without carts, take your stroller. I have a double stroller, and I thought I'd really like it, but I honestly don't use it as much as I thought I would. It seems that one always wants to be held, anyway, and since the single is so much easier to manage, I end up taking it. I can still fit both the kids in the single, too, in a pinch by reclining the seat and setting Claire in the back (real safe, huh?) or sitting Claire on top of the parent tray (oh, chill, I hold on tight). Generally, though, Claire is in the sling and MG is in the stroller, or MG is walking and Claire is in the stroller. I'll bet the double sees more use as they both get bigger and Claire is too heavy to carry all the time.
Anyway, when you go to the store, you get the older kid out and put her in the cart/stroller first. Then you get the smaller kid out and put her in the carrier. When you get back to the car, you do the reverse. You put the smaller kid in the car first, then you take the bigger kid out of the cart/stroller and put her in the car (and then you put your groceries in the car).
This may seem intuitive to some of you, but it baffled me until I got my "method" down. The reason you do it this way is because you can't lift the toddler safely when you've got the little one in the carrier. My method also minimizes the littler one's exposure to the weather. Older and larger kids are better able to deal with temperature extremes, because they have more fat and more body mass.
But what about when you get home? Oprah (who doesn't have kids, I remind you) had a whole show with a bunch of horror stories about what happened when mothers and fathers left their kids alone in the car for 10 seconds and all hell broke loose. She would say, "Never, ever, ever leave a kid alone in the car, not even for a second!"
Well, until Oprah shows up to watch your kids for you, what's a mom to do? And if you have a dog, too, like we do, you're doubly hosed. You're not supposed to ever, ever leave the kids alone in the car. You're not supposed to ever, ever leave the kids alone together. And you're not supposed to ever, ever leave the kids alone with the dog. But those groceries aren't going to carry themselves in, and you can't always go to the store when Dad's home. It's like that riddle where you have to get the hunter, the fox, and the chicken across the river, but you can't leave this one with that one, and blah blah...
Here's what you do - you carry the baby in first (sorry, Oprah, the older kid's just going to have to avoid setting the car on fire for 30 seconds). You put the baby in the high chair with a snack or a toy, and you put the dog outside (either in the yard or on a tie out, whatever you've got). Then you bring the big one in and put her in the playyard (if tolerated) or at the table with a snack (which is what I always did with MG). Then you carry the groceries in as fast as you can, in as few trips as possible, and pray that no one chokes herself, or chokes her sister, or sets the house on fire or gets eaten by the dog or gets kidnapped by gypsies while you're running between the minivan and the door. And you feel pretty stupid doing it, too, but you know that if anything hideous happens you're going to die of guilt and Oprah is going to show up at your house and say, "I told you so!"
MG is reliable enough, now, that I can get her out first and send her towards the door while I get Claire out. I don't have to worry about her running into the street or anything at this point. She's trained. Which brings me to tip #3...
Tip #3 - Train Them While You're Pregnant
There comes a natural point in your pregnancy, at about 6 months in, when it becomes impossible to carry a toddler for more than 3 seconds without severe back, hip, and leg pain. God did this on purpose, because you're forced to put the kid down and let him or her learn to walk with you like a civilized creature, rather than running around like a crazy person. Use this time.
When I was pregnant with Claire I took MG to the park and we would "practice listening." She'd get too far away, and I'd say, "Mary Grace! Practice coming back!" and I'd squat down and open my arms wide. (I must have looked so stupid...) She would come careening across the park and practically knock me flat, and then I'd lavish praise on her little head because she came when she was called. It didn't take long before all I had to say was "Practice!" and she'd come running. I also taught her to put her hand on one spot and not let go until I told her it was ok. This is handy in parking lots.
By the time Claire was born, MG didn't expect to be carried and held anymore, which was good because I didn't have enough hands to carry her and hold her while carrying and holding Claire (although I have, in emergencies, carried the two of them several city blocks. I really do not
understand why I'm not a size 2).
Tip #4 - Training Wheels
When Mom left and Mom-in-Law left and BJ had to go back to work, I was a nervous wreck about being left home alone with the two kids, outnumbered, and with no back up. Fortunately, my friend Jenny B (the one who is pregnant with her #2), was available to come over and be my training wheels. I didn't let her do anything (poor thing was probably bored stiff), but she was there, with her son, to provide emotional support, and so I knew that she was there if I needed help. It worked out so well. By the end of the two days, I felt confident that I could go it alone. Her presence was a nice way to transition into doing it by myself. If you have a stay-at-home-mom friend who would be willing to come over and watch you fumble around for a day or two while you find your groove, I highly recommend it.
Ok, that's enough Two Under Two tips for now. If you have any specific questions or tips, leave 'em in the comments!