In response to Debbie’s plea for help yesterday in dealing with her daughter’s adjustment to being a big sister, Carla has some sage words of advice.
I was just trying to find the email I sent out a couple of years ago to all of my Mama friends with two kids–it was remarkably similar to yours. I’m certainly no expert, but now that my baby is almost 2 1/2, I’m a bit farther away from the shitshow that was our life for almost a year. (We’re still a mess on a far-too-regular basis, but it is SO much easier now.)
As you read this, keep in mind that my big girl was only 20 months old when the baby was born, and that she fractured her leg the day before I was due to give birth. Little sister was kind enough to show up five days late, which gave us some time to figure out life with a toddler in a hip-to-toe cast. So, if I seem a bit bitter or traumatized, well, I guess I was. But we’re better now.
Anyway, onto the important stuff. Here are my thoughts on adjusting to life with two little ones:
1. It SUCKS for everyone. (Except maybe Angelina Jolie, who probably just hands the kids off to any one of the multiple nannies she has. Oh, and if you can get multiple nannies, you should probably just do that, at which point you can ignore the rest of this email.) It is SO hard and so exhausting and it just sucks. So don’t fall prey to people on FB or Twitter who have two little ones and are constantly posting about how great life is. They’re liars. Or delusional. Or have way more money and help than any of us have.
2. It will get better–so much better–and the first time you see Mika and Romi playing together, it will make all of the fatigue and tears and frustration so worth it (especially when they start entertaining each other). Just keep reminding yourself of that.
3. Lower your expectations (for the entire family!) and don’t worry about getting it all right. Seriously. Let Mika watch an extra TV show. Feed her mac ‘n cheese four meals in a row (yep, been there). Let the house get messy. Don’t expect to be able to accomplish half of what you were able to do when you just had one. Assume that everything will take twice as long because of Mika’s tantrums or Romi’s blow-outs or whatever.
4. Get used to not having your shit together, and let it be OK. Before I had two kids, I was totally on top of things. I was rarely late, I didn’t cancel dates or appointments, and I always had what I needed in my neatly zipped up little purse. It started going seriously downhill with #1, and after I had #2, it all went to shit, literally and figuratively. I missed writing deadlines, I bailed on people left and right, and my diaper bag was always full of crap I didn’t need and contained nothing useful. My friends who had kids or were really good friends understood. The ones that couldn’t deal, well, they couldn’t deal and I couldn’t do anything about it.
5. Call in the troops whenever you can. If you can afford a mother’s helper to entertain Mika a few hours a week, or get a babysitter to help, or whatever–just do it. I would beg friends with kids the same age as my toddler for playdates, because then the older kids could play together, and I found that having another adult around made all the difference in terms of keeping me sane.
6. Take care of yourself. (Hi Kettle, I’m the pot. I’m terrible at this, which is probably why I’m heading into Day 23 of a wicked head and chest cold with a terrible cough.) I haven’t yet figured out how to effectively do this, so my advice will likely be less helpful, but sleep when you can, eat as well as you can, go for walks if you can, and let the laundry and dishes be damned.
7. Give Mika a little special Mommy time when you can. It will help. Also, let her help with Romi whenever you can. I used to let #1 help me with the baby’s bath time, and I’d let her pick out toys for the baby (even though she was way too little to need a toy), because it made her feel included.
8. Go easy on yourself. You’re not going to be the parent you want to be. I’m still working on it–I snap at the girls far too often, I get frustrated, I hide from them when I should be paying attention to them, and the list goes on. Let it be OK. We all do it, and the girls will be fine. Have a little compassion for yourself, and remind yourself of all the ways you are getting it right, and I’m sure there are a million little ways each day. If nothing else, you’re still hanging in there, every day and every night, through all of it. Don’t ever underestimate that.
9. The next time some kindly old woman tells you to “enjoy every moment,” resist the urge to kick her in the teeth.
10. Just keep reminding yourself–this too shall pass. You will all get used to being a family of four. You will figure our new routines. Mika will adjust, Romi will be less dependent, and you’ll get some sleep. It will get better. I promise.
I hope this helped. Or at least distracted you for a few moments.
Sending all of the extra love, patience, and energy I have -
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