Juggling Two Under Two? Advice from Mamas who have been in the Trenches...

Part I: My lessons So Far:

Note: I started this a few weeks ago, and in typical new mom fashion- never posted!!! Here is my advice, and below additional advice from friends!!  

I admit I am no expert in the #2under2 phenomena - but I will proudly admit that I am quickly learning two is a whole new ball game from one. It has only been a month of two under two in this household - with Emme coming home from the NICU at 2 months (turned 3 yesterday!) and Grace just making the 18 month mark later this week, but in this short timeframe I have already been a student of "the situation". Before I gave birth, a few friends had imparted wise words:

  • Tend to the Toddler first: buckle them into their carseat first so they don't run away; give them their snack so you can breastfeed in peace, change their diaper so they can move on when youre changing the newborns, etc.
  • Wear baby #2 - whether you are into the K'taan, Ergo Baby, Bjorn, Moby or whatever new fangled way you can attach the baby to yourself - do it. Invest in carriers - you need your hands free to prepare food/ change diapers / etc and you won't be leaving newborn #2 in baby swings to go cut carrots up because your toddler's fingers will be up the newborns nose...
  • Carve out special 1:1 time with the toddler each day - whether it be attending a music class or reading special books only for them - providing undivided attention goes a long long way
  • Have Dad get a bike trailer to get the toddler out of the house and on a father-toddler adventure every weekend for some 1:1 newborn time for momma
  • The days are long but the years are short-- get a good camera to capture them!
  • Get that birth control prescription at your 6 week post-partum appointment... even if you are breastfeeding...

Admittedly, I thought having two under two would be more difficult having read so many horror stories online-- and I have 7 more months until Grace turns 2! Moments are intense but in general, it has been a blessing seeing Grace blossom as a big sister and Emme make our family complete. That said, a few lessons learnt so far:

1. Accept help: With my first, I turned down offers of a meal train, having friends come help clean or hold the baby while I shower, etc. This time around I am begging for help from our siblings and each day I am absolutely thrilled to have meals dropped off via the meal train my friends set up on MealBaby. Its truly amazing as these are all busy busy moms who have been there, and they are willing to cook, drive and deliver meals for us-- because they've been through this story and know how much meals help!

2. Be Flexible: When it was just Grace - I ensured that she napped on schedule and ate organic. All of that has gone out the door - I am thrilled when she naps and if she is hungry, any of the healthy snacks I've stocked up on are up for grabs - between meals or really whenever. 

3. Double Stroller: I desperately want a double BOB (if you hear of anyone selling an almost new Dualie let me know!) We have the 2014 UppaBaby Vista model (now discontinued) - and purchased both the rumble seat and kickboard but man it is just so heavy and difficult to maneuver - even with my tiny preemie baby! I also hear good things about the new UppaBaby Vista model as well as the City Mini. 

4. Have Pets take a Break: My awesome brother Patrick and favorite-person-on-earth sister-in-law Simone took Kellydog when we brought Emme home. Having a few weeks to focus on the girls adjusting to each other was HUGE. (Thought Kdog did really well coming to visit!)

5. Get the toddler involved to help: I had absolutely no idea how mature and capable Grace was until we brought Emerson home and Grace began handing us wipes, throwing away diapers, and distributing Purell after each diaper change. It was mindblowing... thought it is important to remember that you should be challenging your toddler to do more, while also realizing they are still just babies themselves.

6. Keep the Pacifier: We had wanted to ditch Graceface's pacifier before the baby was born but between a month of bedrest and Emme being born three months early, mission failed. All that said, I am glad she still has it as a comfort object to rely on in this transitional period... and it keeps her from getting too many wet kisses/germs on the wee one. Of note, we used a different type of paci with Grace than we did with Emme to avoid confusion.

7. Designate a place for the toddler in every room: I never realized how much time Grace spent on our laps. Home alone with the new one in tow, I quickly found that making a special place for Gracen in every room proved huge - allowing me to have Emme on my lap and Grace beside me or in a special chair - from Emme's nursery to the family room - Grace has a go to spot that she can climb onto herself - alleviating an extra lift for this aching mama.

8. Lift weights: You will be carrying both at the same time, up and down the stairs. Grace has been a master of stairs for 6 months now, but demands to be carried. While I don't always want to give into the terrorist/toddlers demands - it does make everything easier at the end of the day when she goes to bed with a smile on her face.

9. Throw money at the problem: I know, I know, this is a terribly cliche thing to say - but in some instances you just have to. I needed my house cleaned and hiring Instamaids made EVERYONE much happier to set the tone for Emme's Welcome Home. On nights we don't have Mealbaby being dropped off, we order Munchery or DoorDash for hot meals. I can't imagine navigating Target with these two - so diapers and other essentials are delivered by Google Shopping Express and Amazon. We live in an incredible time of convenience, leverage it.

10. Technology is your friend. While the house seems chaotic with two under two, it can also be lonely. Facetime with friends. Get an Apple Watch so when your toddler puts your phone in the oven and you can't find it, you can still communicate via text with friends, keep time breastfeeding, etc. 

11. Find a new home for your furry friend (temporarily). Maybe the biggest help yet was my brother and sister-in-law taking Kellydog for the first few weeks while we adjusted. I love having her back, but it is like having yet another toddler to chase after, feed, clean up toys, bathe, etc. It was peaceful just focusing on the two littlest Allen gals.

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Part II: Lessons from Friends

A few weeks ago, I reached out to my various networks inquiring about advice for those of us enduring the blessing of having #2under2. Ranging from who to put in the carseat first to providing justification for running into the garage with a snickers bar just to scream and have some "me" time- the feedback was awesome! Huge thank you to all the great parents who participated - and best of luck to all of you fellow moms and dads dealing with two kiddos in diapers!

  • Take turns with 1 on 1 time- have special activities and times of the day you spend with each child. This is especially necessary for the toddler who is used to having your undivided attention.
  • Feed, Change Diapers and have the kiddos sleep at the same time if you can. They can be wet or dry, hungry or fed, tired or sleeping - just maintain a schedule if possible.
  • Wine!
  • Double Jogging Stroller - get out of the house!
  • Date Night is a Must - bi-weekly if possible. Get out of the house and talk about something other than your children. Movies are a great way to shut off and not have anyone asking anything from you. 
  • An abundance of patience and love. <3
  • Establish yourself as the leader - soon enough these two will band together - being mom first is important for setting boundaries. 
  • Routine. Like said above, giving children a framework for their day will help provide consistency and give mom sanity. 
  • Wake up extra early and go to the gym/journal/ have "me time" 
  • Get outside at least once a day. Everyone needs some fresh air - explore the park, your neighborhood, or even your backyard - but this is where the double jogging stroller comes in handy.
  • Get help! Schedule a house-cleaning service twice a month to deep clean the floors and get everything back in order. 
  • Babysitters! It can get expensive, but hire a nanny/babysitter/mothers helper/etc. Whether it be a high school student hanging at the house while the girls nap, aunts and uncles taking the older one out for adventures, or grandparents cuddling on the couch - you need a mental break -- and someone to watch the kids while you go grocery shopping.
  • Don't go grocery shopping with both. Just don't do it. Rely on services like Instacart and have your groceries delivered, your husband pick them up on his way home from work, or you go at weird hours like 11pm when there are no lines and you don't have two kiddos screaming and pulling things from the shelves.
  • Encourage dad/grandparents/other family members to set a weekly date with the older one.
  • Take tons of photos and videos - and get them printed through online apps!
  • Schedule "me time" in advance. Get your hair/nails/etc done. It may sound crazy since the only people seeing you are under two years old, but you'll feel like a woman again.
  • Keep everyone in their own dedicated spaces - have a special chair for the toddler, and explain that the bassinet is for the baby now. Setting boundaries- whether for sleeping at night or exploring during the day- keeps things smooth sailing. 
  • Lower your standards! (my personal favorite!) If your kid is happy, healthy and fed and generally meeting milestones? Awesome! Is the house a wreck and your covered in baby fluids? NBD.
  • Sleep when they sleep (I personally find this one impossible!)
  • Wear the littlest one! The best way to chase after the older child is to be wearing the little one. 
  • Savor toddler bathtime - nurse the baby while the toddler plays - even if its for an hour!
  • Coffee, lots and lots of coffee.
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Special thanks to: Jessica A, Stacey O, Jessica G, Lisa T, Windy S, Morgan B, Madhura S, Haley S, Susan B, Gina M, Theresa K, Katie F, Matt H, Caroline G, Elizabeth Thorp, Melissa R, Janis R, Tom D, Monique B, Carol I, Lisa M, Leigh M, Carl G, Michelle S, Ron I, Barbara B, Jacquelyn D, Krista L, Ashley P, Clare L, Stephanie R, Holly A, Liz D, Morgan M, Christine A, Jen M, Donnell B and everyone else who contributed!!