Junior, please don't hit your sister in the face with the cat!
April 22, 2010 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Just found out I'm pregnant again, firstborn is 14 months. Any tips on how to wrangle two small ones?

I literally just found out yesterday, but we'd been trying for a few months so it wasn't a surprise. Babby's due date is Dec 25th (poor babby). They will be 23 months apart.

I mean, my own grandmother had 3 kids in under 3 years so I know my head won't explode - it's been done before. Sometimes life is easy with Firstborn, sometimes... it's not. We wanted them this close, because I wanted a second before Firstborn was old enough to get jealous (I hated my younger brother for YEARS!).

As overjoyed as I am, I'm also feeling like being a mom of two will be overwhelming. Right now I stay home on unemployment while taking a few classes, but soon I will be going back to school full-time. My husband works full time in foodservice and also DJs on Friday nights in Boston, so the majority of the kid-watching is my responsibility.

Does anyone have two kids close in age? Are there any tips you can give me? I feel like I'll be one of those moms with the glazed eyes running for the whiskey cabinet while one kid swings from the ceiling fan and the other is wailing in the corner.
posted by kpht to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Don't sweat it. You already have the experience from the first kid. The second is a cake-walk, unless there are other unforeseen issues like a health problem, autism or high-needs issues.

A 2-year old understands way more than you give credit for. Be firm, explain things, and give choices. Your 2-year old will be jealous but that is to be expected.
posted by camworld at 5:51 AM on April 22, 2010

As overjoyed as I am, I'm also feeling like being a mom of two will be overwhelming. Right now I stay home on unemployment while taking a few classes, but soon I will be going back to school full-time. My husband works full time in foodservice and also DJs on Friday nights in Boston, so the majority of the kid-watching is my responsibility.

He's got a responsibility in this too; if you're going to be overwhelmed, you can ask that he put his DJing on hiatus for a while so that you can get some more support.

The model you have for your family is allowed to change as your family does.
posted by Hiker at 5:53 AM on April 22, 2010

Hiker: The DJing is a huge source of income (like 80% of his weekly regular-job salary for 1/10th the time), so neither of us want him to quit that, if it was a hobby it'd be different. An opportunity may be approaching where he can do that two nights a week, but he will have to reduce his hours at his food service job. Which I'm all for - he's only really there for experience and health insurance (but we have other insurance options since we're in MA).
posted by kpht at 6:03 AM on April 22, 2010

I'm going to disagree with camworld.

Ours are 23 months apart. One kid is easy. 2 kids in diapers is not 2X the work, it's more like 3X the work. The two year old doesn't stop being two just because there is a new baby in the house. They do call it the terrible twos for a reason! I'm not trying to scare anybody, but it doesn't help to go into anything with unrealistic expectations.

They are both teenagers now, so whatever tips and tricks I may have known are long gone in the haze of parenthood. I will say I remember it was definitely a team effort. My wife was a stay home mom after our second child joined us. I took over as much as I could in the evenings and on the weekends and let her have some alone time at the mall, or just to catch an uninterrupted 90 minute nap, whatever she needed. Hell, just going grocery shopping alone qualified as a "treat" for her back then!

Millions and millions of people, most of them without all the advantages we have living in the US today, have managed to raise two (or more!) young ones, so you know, it isn't *that* big of a deal. But it is definitely an adjustment, and it's more of an adjustment from one kid that you might think.
posted by COD at 6:31 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a double stroller.
I got the kind where the kids are one in front; the other in back (rather than side-by-side canvas sling-type). The back part lays down. I laid the baby in the back and sat the 18-month-old in the front. Made it very easy (well, ok, slightly less than impossible) to go places. Otherwise I felt trapped at home. A 2-year-old cannot walk as much as they think they can.

Be careful how you let the older child select things - my older girl always got the pink cereal bowl because, hey, the baby doesn't care. Except 2 years later, now the little girl cares but the older girl has always gotten the pink one. Buy 2 pink cereal bowls.

See if you can figure out something special for the older child to do for the baby, that only he can do - go get his shoes/pacifier/bib, or sing him to sleep at nap time, or rub his back to help you burp him, or "read" him one of his favorite picture books, which you tell him is SUCH a big help to you. If you can get the older one to think of being a caregiver and on your team, that may help direct his emotions. And of course, make sure there is some special thing that ONLY you and older child do together without baby. The idea is to make older child feel important, needed, loved, and special, which of course (s)he is.
posted by CathyG at 6:36 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Congrats! How exciting. My two kids, now 5 and 7, are 18 months apart. The second was much, much easier than the first simply because we were more experienced and relaxed. The first year is going to be hard. Until the little one becomes mobile, there's not much the older one can do with him/her. But after the baby starts crawling - it's lots of fun for both kids.

One thing that really helped me was putting my older one in part-time daycare when her sister was about 3 months old. It helped all of us, including her. She liked interacting with kids her own age and doing all the fun activities. And it definitely saved my sanity!

Here's the same question asked previously. I gave a more detailed response there.
posted by yawper at 6:44 AM on April 22, 2010

Oh yeah - heartily seconding the double stroller. We used it a ton.
posted by yawper at 6:45 AM on April 22, 2010

My boys are 22 months apart; they will soon be 7 and 9. I agree with COD-- two in diapers is a lot of work. I recommend getting out of the house as much as you can (wish I'd done that more!) and finding a group of moms to be social with. The double stroller is a must, and making sure your older child gets a bit of your undivided attention helps with the jealousy monster. Hopefully your two children will be as close as mine are... they are truly best friends. It is great that they always have someone to play with, and that makes your job easier! Congrats, and good luck!
posted by ebee at 7:01 AM on April 22, 2010

Mine are 19 months apart, and I'm going to be contrary and say forget the double stroller, unless you go on a lot of really long walks. I used a combination of a sling and a lightweight umbrella stroller and it was much easier and more convenient for my lifestyle. The double stroller we bought got used twice, and both times the toddler completely refused to ride in it. Other than that, logistically speaking, it always seemed a matter of throwing all my ideas and past experience up against the wall and seeing what stuck, until the younger one was old enough to have a routine that lasted for more than a few days and the older one was hitting preschool age and having a schedule and a social life independently of the rest of us.

I have always tried to believe the advice that it's harder to go from zero kids to one, than it is to go from one kid to two, and I really do believe it's true in most ways, none of them being the point at which you were up all night with the little one and then the bigger one decides to have a no-nap day.

And I can tell you very truthfully that I have never regretted having our kids so close, but now that they are 7.5 and almost 6, it's much harder than it ever was when they were babies and toddlers.
posted by padraigin at 7:02 AM on April 22, 2010

Congratulations! Just Kidding in Beverly has the occasional used double stroller. I think you can tell them to keep an eye out for something in particular you are looking for.
posted by mkb at 7:09 AM on April 22, 2010

Father of a two year old and soon to be four year old here (22 months apart.)

I'm gonna agree with COD. 2 kids in diapers (or otherwise) is not 2X the work, it's more like an exponential function. It IS more an adjustment than you might think. Two kids screaming at the same time for different reasons will be a test of your patience. Keep the whiskey bottle close at hand. It won't be overwhelming, but it will certainly feel like it at times.....

My husband works full time in foodservice and also DJs on Friday nights in Boston, so the majority of the kid-watching is my responsibility.

Wrong. I work full time, travel too much, but I share the responsibility for raising my children AND running my household as much as I can. It's all about teamwork. I am a terrible cook, but I'm great at washing dishes so this is my job. I get up with the kids in the morning so my wife can sleep in and oftentimes I return to work in the evenings after they have gone to sleep. What has suffered is my time with my wife and my own sleep - but this is temporary and our teamwork with the kids is of course bringing us closer together - even if we only pass each other in the hallway right now.

Divide up the tasks as much as you can. COD's comment about "just going grocery shopping alone qualified as a treat for her back then" is absolutely true. I spend enough time alone with my kids to understand what a relief it is to hand them off.

Also while I completely admit that it is a relief sometimes to go to work, it is still work. Don't think that just because your husband is spending time away from the kids, he's on some sort of vacation. (You WILL feel this way.)

My daughter was never jealous of her baby brother - but this is changing as he becomes a toddler.

It's not all negative. The greatest thing is that they are playing WITH EACH OTHER. They entertain each other and keep each other busy and really seem to enjoy each other's company. Also now my four year old translates for her brother which is very helpful. A two year old can think in complete sentences, but can often utter only a few words which are hard to understand. It is extremely frustrating for the two year old (and the parent) and once they are able to communicate it's much better. My four year old understands her brother much better than I do. She also helps him to learn our second language (Swedish) as she is more fluent than I. (She has no accent whereas mine is horrible.) Kids learn more from each other (and less from us parents) than you might think.

Oh and the terrible twos only begins at two - it extends well into the threes.

Don't sweat it. Like COD says millions and millions of people do this and you can too.

Good luck and best wishes.
posted by three blind mice at 7:12 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I one of those crazy 3 kids in 3 years moms and I'm pregnant with #4, which will give me 4 kids in (almost exactly) 5 years. They are 19 and 15 months apart and # 4 will be exactly 2 years younger then #3.

The first little while with #2 is a little hectic, it's true. Get as much help as you can. If you can afford it try to get someone to come in once or twice a month for the last month or two of your pregnancy and the first few months with both children to clean your house. It will be some of the best money you spend.

Prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them. This will make the first couple of weeks at home easier. If anyone asks if they can help say yes! Ask them to hold baby while you read to the older child or to watch both while you have a shower. If you feel comfortable, ask them to take out the garbage or do the dishes.

Start pointing out babies in the grocery store or introducing friend's babies to your oldest. Don't tell them early that you'll be bringing home another baby. 9 months is a long time for a 14 month old and they won't really understand. Save it for when your belly is huge. Buy your oldest a baby to coddle while you're attending to the newest addition.

Don't let Dad off the hook. When he's home, he's on baby duty too. He can get up in the middle of the night, he can watch the babies while you go to the store.

Buy a sling. Slings are wonderful and let you have nearly full mobility while staying close to baby #2.

As much as possible get into an ideal routine before #2 joins you. When #2 arrives try to keep the schedule as intact as possible. Include time for #1 to have alone time with mom +/or dad and to help with #2.

Nap when the children nap. It's okay to let #1 watch more tv then they normally would for a while.

Include baby #1 as much as possible. The standard advice is to have them fetch diapers and such for you. Also, have #1 help pick books to 'read' to the newborn or to 'help' you give the baby a bath.

Things take a lot longer with 2 (or 3 or 4) babies. Accept this. Trying to rush everyone will make you frazzled and everyone unhappy. You will get everywhere 5-15 minutes late. This is okay and will be expected for a while.

Buy a white noise machine for each of the children's rooms. Especially if they're sharing a room. If one child wakes up the other will most likely continue sleeping.

My oldest is now 4.5 and things are starting to settle down a bit. My husband calls this "high intensity parenting" and he's right. It's a crazy, crazy insane time but we wouldn't change it for the world.

posted by Abbril at 7:25 AM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

I literally just found out yesterday, but we'd been trying for a few months so it wasn't a surprise. Babby's due date is Dec 25th (poor babby). They will be 23 months apart.

Somewhat tangential to your question, but I want to address this is a Boxing Day baby. Make sure you always celebrate the kid's birthday as a separate holiday, even if it's a bit before or after (I usually had a party with friends a few weeks before Christmas). Even as a grown-up, I (immature, I know) still feel a little sulky when I get double birthday/Christmas gifts.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:29 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

We are htinking about a second one but a lot of mums we know swear by the Buggy Board (google for local stockists) but allows a single buggy and the older one to stand/be carted around
posted by rus at 7:34 AM on April 22, 2010

Even as a grown-up, I (immature, I know) still feel a little sulky when I get double birthday/Christmas gifts.

Ah, but this can also work in one's favor - larger gifts become easier for folks to swallow when it's a combination birthday/Christmas (12/27 here). But these were always my doing, not some cheap-out on the part of the gift-givers.

But yes, seconding PhoB - if we traveled for the Christmas holidays, the 28th always seemed to be the day we'd be driving back home, which meant that birthday-evening festivities always had to be cut a little short due to the early start the following day. My folks did a pretty good job otherwise of keeping the 2 event separate. These days it means that there's always family around (for Christmas) to watch the brood for birthday date-night.
posted by jquinby at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2010

...and I forgot: Congratulations!
posted by jquinby at 7:43 AM on April 22, 2010

Babywearing. Get a sling, baby carrier, or a Mei Tai to use for the littlest and that will make your life so much easier. The hardest thing is when the baby doesn't want to be put down and the oldest needs something "NOW!". The first link is the kind I have, it is really versatile. I used it from newborn until my kids were just too heavy to carry. I also had a front carrier like the second link and a backpack carrier like the people take hiking. They didn't get used as much as the sling.

I definitely second padraigin, we got the double stroller but didn't use it very often. My younger ones always wanted to be carried or the older one wanted to walk (or push.) Unless you do a lot of walking around an umbrella stroller will be better. I got this one (actually a step up from an umbrella, but it reclines) and love it. My youngest is over two and I still use it all the time.

Do not underestimate how big of a help the older one can be. Bringing diapers, finding pacifiers, even bringing you a juice box to open for them. It made my oldest feel important to help me out with the baby (my oldest two are the same age difference that yours will be.) She also got a kick out of picking out clothes for the baby to wear. She also really liked holding the bottle up for the baby to drink out of, but usually lost interest after about a minute. Just make sure you keep things down where they can get to them. I was on bedrest with my second and the oldest was very helpful and she was under two years old. I kept the diapers and wipes down where she could reach them so she could just come to me to be changed, I kept granola bars in a basket on a lower shelf, and put sippy cups on the bottom shelf in the fridge.

My third came five years after my second, and I think in some ways it was harder. When both kids are little they'll both still take naps and that is a beautiful thing! That means you can either sleep too (and don't' you dare feel guilty about getting sleep when you can!) or you can take that time to get stuff done. When my youngest naps I still have older kids to take care of (although when I'm sick they have 'quiet time' so I can rest.)

If there is anything belonging to the oldest that you want to use for the new baby I'd recommend transitioning now. As soon as we found out that we were pregnant we switched the crib into a toddler bed. Then a few months later we moved her to her own bed and put the crib away. We put it back up right before the baby came and didn't have any problems, it wasn't her crib anymore.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:46 AM on April 22, 2010

Congratulations! I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 yr old-they are almost exactly 18 months apart. As I write this, they are playing together for a rare moment of peace and quiet in the house.

Tips and tricks-make the older one an active part of the younger one's care. Let her go get diapers and do other small easy errands for you so that the baby will be a shared baby, makes them get along a little better in my experience. Also, I used and continue to use my double stroller every day. But I live in a suburban area where we walk a lot and go to the mall and that kind of thing. Also, both my children were chubby little girls, a sling would have had me in traction by the time they were five months old. :)

My best tip-get organized now and stay that way. I keep the diaper bag and the snack bag (a soft sided lunch bag cooler full of granola bars, juice boxes, that kind of thing) stocked all the time with labeled ziplocks for each kid so I can grab them and go. I have them both on a strict and absolute schedule and always have-naps and bedtimes and meals are as regular as possible. To the point that my 2 year old comes and gets my husband at 8 to let him know it's her bedtime. So whatever habits you want to have to make your life easier when the new baby comes, start them now-with two small kids you cannot afford to fly by the seat of your pants.

People thought I was crazy when I announced we were expecting #2. But truly, I am painfully organized and very patient, it has not been as bad as I thought it would be. And the best part is that on the occasions where you split them up-say you take one, hubby takes the other, it will seem so EASY that you will laugh at people with one child who complain about how much hassle it is.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:04 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! My niece and nephew are 23 months apart, and while the first year was tough, it got a lot easier after that. They play together really well, and being close in age helps that.

Thirding PhoBWanKenobi on not celebrating birthday+Christmas at the same time, or with the same gifts. My mother was born on Dec. 25 and making a big deal out of birthdays is still a big deal for her. Also, for god's sake no cutesy themed naming: her name is "Carol" (she's a Christmas Carol! har, har) and at 75 she is still furious with her parents about that. So don't go there. You probably wouldn't anyway but I'm just putting it out there.
posted by ambrosia at 9:34 AM on April 22, 2010

Re: Slings, X brand was recently recalled because some kids suffocated in them. You can google it... Might be hysteria about that brand only. If a baby is too young to turn their head they can get pushed up against the wearer's chest and suffocate. Do your research about brands, be vigilent or just use a sling when the baby's older.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:54 AM on April 22, 2010

Thanks so much, guys!

A note to all the people who commented about the birthday thing: My birthday is 12/17, so I know how that goes. It was good because I did get big presents meant for both, and my family always remembered!
posted by kpht at 3:57 PM on April 22, 2010

posted by namesarehard at 11:17 AM on May 3, 2010

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