I’m just going to throw this out there right off the bat: I have no idea what I’m doing. I have a toddler who will be turning 3 years old in a couple of months, and a 7-month-old baby, and I have no idea what I’m doing.
When I was pregnant with my second son, I had a lot of anxiety and fear about how to mother my children in very different ways, due to their different developmental stages. I wrote in a previous article:
…with two little ones at different points in their lives, you end up with an almost schizophrenic parenting approach: nurse the baby while chasing the toddler; watch that the little one who is learning to walk doesn’t take a bad tumble while the older one is trying to climb a jungle gym that looks far more advanced than he is ready for; when one is crying because he needs his milk, the other needs to go potty.
And this is all true. I run back and forth between the kids, apologizing to whomever is being ignored. It’s completely insane.
I thought that I would need just a few months to get the hang of being a mom to two kids, but I have to admit that the transition from one to two children was so much harder than I thought it would be. I ask myself every day if other parents have the same issues. Do they? I see them out and about, functioning like normal people, so how could they?
Only recently was I able to get both kids to the playground, at the same time, by myself. The baby was finally big enough to sit in the double stroller that we got, and the weather was finally nice, so I changed diapers, bundled everyone up, and negotiated what might as well be a tank along the uneven slate sidewalks of our town. After fifteen minutes of walking (and a lot of sweat and burned calories) we arrived. For the first time ever, my toddler was completely on his own at the playground. I had to stay with the little one while he napped in the stroller, and then I had to nurse him on the park bench. I lost sight of my older son a couple of times, leading me to jump off the bench, (heavy) baby attached to boob, and run around yelling his name until I had eyes on him. When it was time to head home again, I had to use a whole new set of negotiation skills to get the toddler into the stroller. Fifteen minutes or so later, we were home. I felt like I had climbed a mountain –not because of the physical exertion of it all (and there was a lot of physical exertion), but because of how the outing taxed me mentally. It was utterly exhausting.
Unable to imagine that parenting could possibly be so difficult for other people, I reached out to a friend. I was feeling depressed (maybe it was a little postpartum depression brought on by my nursing hormones?) and needed to find some coping skills. I didn’t want to dread leaving the house with my kids. I wanted to enjoy our time at the park. But the truth is that the juggle seemed far greater than I felt I could handle.
As I sobbed to my friend about my parenting fears, and how I just don’t know how to do this, she calmed me down with some much-needed information: “No one knows how to do this. What you’re feeling is completely normal,” she said. I told her about my epic trip to the playground with the toddler and infant, and she just shook her head at me. “You need to not go to the playground with both kids right now. There’s no reason to.” She went on to say that it does get easier, but with an infant and a toddler, I needed to go easier on myself. “Let the kids be bored. It’s ok,” she told me. “At the beginning of the day, see where everyone is at. Go from there. Shoot for 50%,” was her advice.
As someone who has never been happy with anything less than 100%, this was hard advice for me to take. But I needed to hear it. I needed to rethink how I approached parenting two little children in order to avoid meltdowns (theirs and my own).
I have learned to take advantage of the baby’s nap times. While he sleeps, my toddler and I get a lot of one-on-one playtime. When the baby wakes up, we don’t necessarily head to the park (yet). Instead, the baby rolls around our playroom floor with some teething toys while my older son plays with blocks and his trains. When I have a babysitter for the toddler, she takes him to the playground – this removes the baby from the equation and makes life easier for everyone. Sometimes I wear the baby in the carrier while my older son walks – but we don’t necessarily go far. We go to the bakery or the pharmacy – both destinations, I have learned, are still pretty exciting for a 2-year-old. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
And while before I would never turn on the TV as a crutch, I have learned to occasionally lean on Daniel Tiger to come to the rescue when I need to make dinner or just need to unwind for a few minutes.
While this new outlook has helped immensely, I do still wonder how other people do it. Moms who seem to be able to juggle everything with even the slightest bit of grace are my heroes. My goal is to leave the house with both kids without my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels. But until then, 50% it is.