How to Be (Un) Prepared for Two Kids

So you have finally found your “groove”. Your only child is blossoming into a beautiful human being who says “please” and “thank you” and is totally into potty training and everything. People often congratulate you on your wonderful parenting and you walk with a little pep in your step. You got this. And then the inevitable happens: someone drops a little comment about how “great” it would be if you had another perfect angel. And then another person asks you when you are going to have another adorable munchkin. Hrmmm…now that is something to consider! It’s been smooth sailing lately, so why not add another one to the mix….it just means double the work right? RIGHT? (I can hear all you parents of two or more children laughing hysterically….or is that crying? It’s hard to tell sometimes…).

Here’s six things we did before and after our second child was born that was either a huge success or an epic fail:

Transition our firstborn to a big girl bed before the baby came so we could use her crib: FAIL

It was Christmas holidays, so both my husband and I had some time off work, and we figured our almost-2-year-old could just transition into her new room over the Christmas break and it would be a smooth transition for our newborn to move into her old room. Let me paint you a picture of how that went: we started with adding the low side rail to her crib and adding big girl sheets and a pillow, and we made a big deal about how she was abig girl now. We stuck with the same bedtime routine and everything was awesome….for about 2 nights. Then she began getting out of bed. every. single. night. Then we had to hold her hand until she slept and then we would carefully pry our fingers out of her death grip and tiptoe downstairs. She would then wake up and scream in her doorway (where we had installed a gate so she couldn’t fall down the stairs). This would happen over and over again; at times I was so exhausted from the pregnancy I would just try and lie on the floor beside her and sleep, but then she would want to sleep with me. By about a month and a half, we were desperate for our sleep, so we reluctantly put the crib back together. Boom! She instantly began sleeping through the night. Sound familiar, anyone? Anyway, we don’t even mention her other room, but she goes in to get her clothes and pick her books, etc. One day, about a month later, she informs us that she is going to “sleep in her big girl bed”. My husband and I silently exchange looks, holding our breath, afraid of jinxing it. She goes to bed in her big girl bed that night, and has never looked back. I guess those sleep experts were right after all: when kids are ready, they are ready. Who knew? Oh yeah, they did.

Invest in quality white noise machines: SUCCESS

We had been using a fan and/or a cool mist humidifier in our daughter’s room as white noise pretty consistently throughout her infancy, and when we travelled, we were using a Sleep Sheep, which shut off after 45 minutes or so. These all worked okay, but they weren’t the most effective when it came to drowning out a baby’s crying. Let me tell you how “fun” it was to try and feed your newborn and have your toddler lie on your lap, crying, because they woke up and want you to hold them….So I made the decision to find a good white noise machine. Fast forward almost a year, and we now have three of these beauties. Most of my friends have also bought them after my rave reviews…seriously, I can leave my daughter’s bedroom door open at night and she won’t wake up or hear her baby brother next door, so she sleeps soundly and I don’t have to bolt out of bed and dash into his room like a firefighter into a fire in fear of waking her up! There are many white noise machines out there, but I bought three of these Marpac Dohm white noise machines (one for each child’s room, and one in the hallway):
(Note: the “SS” or Single Speed one is totally adequate for most people, but I happened to buy the “DS” or Dual Speed as it was on sale at the time for around $50 CDN and it features two different speeds — and if you read my post about saving money, use Ebates when you shop on Amazon so you can get money back as well! Win-win!)

Kept our daughter in daycare after our son was born: SUCCESS

So this is a very personal choice, obviously, but I had many people asking me if I was going to keep my daughter home from daycare while I was on maternity leave. For some reason, people looked at me strangely when I said emphatically that my daughter was going to keep going to daycare. While I did keep her home for a few days after the baby was born, my decision to send her to daycare was based on one important factor: her routine being the most important. Adjusting to a new sibling is no smooth sailing sometimes, and many kids struggle with understanding why they are no longer getting all the attention, all the time. A daily routine provides structure and is comforting to kids, and they know that not everything in their little world has changed. There were definitely days when Madison wanted to stay home (no doubt she thought she was missing out on the “tons of fun” we must be having at home), but as soon as she was dropped off, she had a blast playing with her friends and she had lots of activities to do. I felt it really wasn’t fair to keep her at home while I was feeding every hour (it seemed) and had no energy to much with her. Being on maternity leave did mean that I didn’t get her to daycare until almost 9am sometimes, and most days I picked her up a little early so I could spend some time with her. Kudos to all the parents who choose to keep their kids home (there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I applaud you for your bravery!) but in our family, routine was paramount to everyone’s sanity. Again, this is very dependent on your own situation!

Using the newborn as reasoning with our toddler: FAIL

So this was something I hadn’t even noticed doing until my doctor mentioned it to me in passing at an appointment. We were often telling our toddler to “be quiet” or to do this or that “because your brother is ____”. Obviously when she behaved and list ened to us, it made things a lot easier with our newborn son; putting him down for a nap or changing his diaper while she was screaming or having a tantrum was not exactly a dream of mine, so we often found ourselves constantly saying things like, “you have to be quiet so your brother can sleep!”, or “I am changing Chase; I can’t hold you right now!”, or “I have to go feed your brother, so I can’t read you a book yet!”….it may seem harmless enough, and all were true statements, but when you think about it, it’s really sending the message that everything is because of the baby and that can result in a bit of resentment towards them. We started catching ourselves whenever we were in a “toddler vs. baby” situation; instead we tried to calmly give directions and explanations without using the baby in our conversation. I would just say, for example, “I am going to finish what I am doing and then we can read a book; why don’t you pick one while you are waiting?”. The art of distraction is sure tricky, but age-appropriate wording and giving them tasks they can do independently go a long, long way when you are balancing two kids!

Carving out quality time for our firstborn: SUCCESS

  1. While it is certainly no easy task (especially in the first several months with a newborn), my husband and I made a unified effort to spend quality, focused time on our daughter before and after our son was born. I do NOT mean buying more stuff or spoiling a firstborn; I mean taking time each day to do something they want to do, whether that be reading a book or doing a craft. Getting down on their level, without the TV or your cell phone in hand, and letting them know that you are interested in them and love them. It seems almost absurd to see New Year’s resolutions posted on Facebook about making time to spend with your own children, but some days it really does take a huge effort to find 15 minutes that aren’t interrupted by another child or something else. And I should mention that this is equally important for Dads just as it is for Moms; “sharing the load” of parenting is paramount when you add another child to the mix, so plan to share the parenting even if it’s for 30 minutes in the evening so that your kids aren’t just dependent on one parent for everything! This helps build healthy relationships with both parents and definitely helps with the transition when you bring another baby into the family!

Adjust our expectations: SUCCESS & FAIL

So it’s obviously very difficult to anticipate every possible scenario in the future, good or bad, when you transition to more than one child in the house. There are some fantastic days, and there are some really, really miserable days. There are days when your kids seem to be totally in sync with their schedules and there is minimal crying or tantrums, and then there are days where it feels more like a war zone and you are just trying to minimize casualties. Believe me, we have all been there, and at the end of the day, when you are crying in a corner after all the madness of the day, know that it is some kind of horrible rite of passage that every parent seems to go through. Our daughter regressed in a few areas, like sleeping and eating habits for a while, and our son was a totally different sleeper and had a completely different temperament than our daughter so we had to totally revamp our previous approaches. It’s a learning process, and you will constantly be confused when you try and compare your kids to one another. We definitely hit bumps along the way, and we had some very unexpected successes as well. When we made a point of adjusting our expectations from perfection to “just going with it” on days that were tough, we were all the more happier for it.

I will admit that the transition from one to two children is a very huge leap, and some days we felt far from prepared (and maybe even wondered why we ever thought it was a good idea to procreate again…), but I can now say that we are a healthy, functioning family that is once again, finding it’s groove.
What are some ways you survived the transition?

Posted on March 2, 2016 and filed under Parenting.