When Zoe turned two, I was pretty excited. Finally, I didn’t have “two under two.” Everything would suddenly be easier…right? 🙂
A few days later, Zoe was turning heads across Trader Joe’s by screaming “NOOOOOOO!!!!!” at ear splitting volume because she couldn’t have another sample when it dawned on me: I have a two year old. You know, the age that is typically linked with the word “terrible.”
Suddenly, I felt like joining Zoe in her cry.
As evidenced by that anecdote, I’m not an expert on ANYTHING parenting related—but I thought would be fun to write a few posts about what having two under two was like (since I’m soooo far past that stage now). I will share some pros and cons of having two under two, a few tips I have picked up, and some perspectives that have helped me along the way.
Today: the pros and cons of two under two (at least in my experience!)
-Pro #1: You have two sweet babies to love and hug.
-Con #1: You have two babies, so you will have less time than you want to sit around loving and hugging them because you will be too busy meeting their other needs. You will remember what it felt like to sit and hold baby #1 for an hour, gazing into each other’s eyes—but you won’t be able to do it with baby #2 because of baby #1, and so your bonding experience feels different.
In all honesty, I struggled with crippling guilt in this area. I felt like I was giving Riley 50% of the parenting attention and focus that Zoe had experienced as a newborn, and that Zoe was getting 50% of the parenting that she was used to. I couldn’t do any better without cloning myself. It was so frustrating.
Over time, I have learned to deal better with this guilt and have begun to recognize some benefits of the girls having to “share.” I have also learned how to involve them in one another’s care and nurture (such as “hug circles” where we pass along a hug, or reading to the girls at the same time and having Zoe tell Riley about the pictures in the book,) but it’s still an area that I feel pretty vulnerable in.
-Pro #2: Let’s be real: with baby #1, boredom occasionally sank in (especially if you were used to a faster-paced lifestyle before baby). There are only so many things you can do with a newborn before you get stir crazy and wonder when things will get more fun.
Boredom will not be a problem with baby #2. Chances are high that you are already doing a lot of fun things with baby #1 because they are mobile and NEED those outings to the park, friends’ houses, etc. You will be so busy interacting with a toddler most of the day that you will cherish and appreciate any quiet moments that you get with baby #2.
-Con #2: You aren’t bored, but you’re stressed. When Zoe was in that “baby baby” stage and napped for a lot of the day, I had hours to kill each day. To fill our time, I would do things like make applesauce from scratch, organize closets in our house while I talked with her about my progress, meet friends for coffee, take walks, read her news stories out loud, etc. Sometimes I would just sit shirtless on the couch, hold her, watch an episode of Hart of Dixie, and count it as as “skin to skin bonding.” Although I wasn’t sleeping much and it wasn’t the most mentally engaging time of my life, my job was easy: meet one person’s needs. Figure out how to stay happy in the house while she napped again. Meet her needs again when she woke up.
With baby #2, these days of quiet simplicity are GONE. There will be no homemade applesauce—instead, you will struggle all day to clean up the breakfast dishes. There will be no “coffee talk” unless your friend comes to you and is willing to be interrupted. And skin to skin gets awkward REAL fast with a toddler running around.
Basically, you aren’t bored because you are living in barely controlled chaos. You wish you could be bored. You have fond memories of boredom.
A piece of encouragement, though: I found that by the time Riley was 3 months old, I was mostly used to the chaos. There are still some days when the craziness feels overwhelming, and in those instances I have learned to (literally) contain the chaos. I will pop the girls in the stroller and take them for a 45 minute walk, sit them in their carseats and drive through Starbucks, or wear Riley while I chase Zoe around the neighborhood. Containing even one of them helps diminish the chaos a lot.
Pro #3: With baby #1, everything is new. When you get to #2, though, you know what to do with a baby.
Con #3: You have no idea what to do with a baby AND a toddler. Whose needs should come first? How do you keep baby #1’s world remotely familiar when baby #2 has so many needs? How do you get their nap schedules to be somewhat complementary? How do you meet the toddler’s needs for novelty without overstimulating your baby? How do you logistically handle two kids at the playground, grocery store, church…?
My friend Becky said she had learned to “love the one who needs you most in that moment,” and so I just pray for wisdom that I can do that well in those moments of craziness. (In practice, I probably lean towards taking care of Zoe’s needs first, which is unfortunate for Riley…but Riley can’t hit anyone when she’s upset yet).
Pro #4: Being a mom is the best thing ever…and even if you sometimes feel like a stressed out, overwhelmed, guilty amateur with two kiddos, you still get these moments:
Coming up next: some of the most helpful and practical tips I’ve learned in my “2 under 2” journey.